“When you operate in national parks – some of the most beautiful places in the world – there has to be an environmental ethics,” says Chris Lane, director of environmental affairs, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Denver. Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates lodges and restaurants in national parks, from the Everglades to Yellowstone. The company has always had an interest in sustainable design and formalized these environmental programs in 1999. Adds Lane, “In the last four years, we put our program on steroids.”
The first thing the company did was to instruct all of its properties to seek out the low-hanging energy fruit by performing energy audits. After using consultants and in-house auditing, Xanterra focused on energy-efficient lighting. Starting in Death Valley, Xanterra partnered with GE, Fairfield, CT, and Southern California Edison in retrofitting its facilities with compact fluorescents. “In Death Valley where the temperature gets up to 128 degrees F., what you can save on heat generated from lamps you are also saving on your air-conditioning load, too,” says Lane.
From that auspicious beginning, the company has continued its lighting retrofits, replacing 23,000 lamps across the country. The company works with GE software to calculate its return on investment. Xanterra is estimating saving 1.5 million kilowatt-hours a year. “[The software] is tremendous. It includes labor savings, disposal costs, replacement savings, and energy savings. It is really sophisticated and simple at the same time,” adds Lane.
Inspired by the rapid return on its investment in lighting, Xanterra has embraced natural capitalism, running the organization in a manner that is good for the environment and its bottom line. “We are protecting the natural capital of the earth by using resources more efficiently,” says Lane.
Xanterra has an ongoing, aggressive environmental initiative at Mount Rushmore, including: programs to protect water quality and conserve water and energy; environmental education programs targeting employees and visitors; and the establishment of specific environmental responsibilities for each employee. At its facilities in the Grand Canyon National Park, the company is expanding its recycling program, increasing the number of alternative fuel vehicles, and using programmable thermostats at a lodge in a pilot program.
The company is one of the first hospitality companies to receive the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Standard Certification. The goal of ISO 14001 is to support environmental protection and pollution prevention. Other Xanterra national park operations are expected to receive certification shortly. The organization has also been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior, and the Travel Industry Association for its environmental programs.
Xanterra has evaluated the lighting throughout its facilities; for example, lowering lumen levels in back-of-house areas has lead to significant energy savings. “A lot of times you hear you can’t change lighting in a retail situations because lighting sells, but we partnered with Technical Consumer Products and now we are using these compact fluorescents,” says Lane, who is impressed with Aurora, OH-based Technical Consumer Products’ lamps.
Overall, Xanterra’s experiences with sustainability have been an overwhelming success and a shining example of how green design equals good business.