Intercontinental San Francisco – Recycling to Reduce Costs & Bring in New Business

Opened in February 2008, the Intercontinental in San Francisco, has embarked on the ‘green triple bottom line of Social Responsibility, Eco Responsibility, and Fiscal Responsibility.

According to Harry Hobbs, Director of Engineering, recycling was the first step. They worked with their waste hauler to bring in a compactor and blue cardboard recycling containers.

They originally budgeted $264,000 annually for waste removal fees based on zero recycling.

Once the recycling program was implemented, they saved over $120,000 annually in waste removal fees.

How was this done?

• Teaming with City of San Francisco and their incentives for recycling and composting.

• Linking their recycling efforts with their waste hauler.

• Adding the 2 and 3 stream Metro recycling receptacles by T2 Site Amenities for their publics spaces (trash, co-mingled recycling and composting streams). See photo above. Casters were included with the Metro’s for great ease of moving within meeting spaces.

• Adding the Treela Guest Room Recycling wastebaskets (by T2 Site Amenities).

Compost to wine? The Intercontinental donated their compost to Napa Valley for fertilizer. A very smart and creative move.

And consider….San Francisco has a goal of 75% diversion rate from the landfill by 2015. Already, IHG (Intercontinental) San Francisco is at 65% and rapidly making progress to reach and exceed the 75% diversion rate.

Harry Hobbs (Director of Engineering) says ‘the light bulb really went off when I received a guest letter stating they couldn’t believe a new hotel in San Francisco in 2009 could open its doors without recycling bins in the guest rooms. Our housekeeping staff was picking up recyclables in the rooms but this was invisible to the guests. The guests needed to see what we were doing. That was the turning point.’

Hobbs said he’s amazed about the popularity of the Metro recyclers. ‘They are in very public areas and look terrific. We have 5 units that get constant use and we even do composting in them. Plus, the Metro Recyclers have been a big part in winning the ‘Green Meeting’ business for our property. When meeting planners ask about recycling we have no issues meeting their needs.’

When asked about his properties other green initiatives, Hobbs mentioned:

• They joined the LEED process (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) 6 months after opening.

• Going for LEED Gold. They’ve already achieved 50 to 60 credits of the 100 credits needed.

• Going for LEED Private Sector Existing Hotel Initiative.

• Became a member of the USGBC (US Green Building Council)

• Attended IFM Certified Facility Management classes on LEED.

• Signed up with 50 other hotels to work through the USGBC LEED Private Sector for Existing Hotels initiative. This included 20 weeks of WebEx seminars at 2 hours per week.

• Low flow toilets and aerators on the faucets.

One of the keys of implementing a successful green strategy is understanding and using your resources. For IHG this has meant:

• Working with Pacific Gas & Electric and Intergy to make efficiency improvements in their kitchens and other areas along with indentifying rebates and incentives.

• The San Francisco Department of Environment has provided training and support for water conservation and aerators.

• Developing a green strategy with the assistance of the University of California (Berkeley) sustainability team. This team referred Hobbs to a LEED AP consultant.

Hobbs stressed the importance of employees from housekeeping to F&B, to understand management’s commitment to recycling.

Both Peter Kokhler (General Manager) of the Intercontinental and Harry Hobbs are committed to green practices that are real, quantifiable and verifiable. ‘Greenwashing’ (green practices based on image rather than reality) are not an option.

Lori Tilkin, President of T2 Site Amenities, stated that ‘recycling in public spaces is one of the best and most cost efficient ways for a property to demonstrate their green credentials to their guests. Moreover, recycling in public spaces can be a means to win new business in meetings and conventions.’

For additional information about recycling options, contact Lori Tilkin at 847-579-9003 or