TripAdvisor GreenLeader Audit of Beechwood Inn

TripAdvisor GreenLeader Audit of Beechwood Inn: Beechwood Inn Named TripAdvisor GreenLeader Gold Level. TripAdvisor GreenLeaders have met a set of environmental standards developed by TripAdvisor. The more green practices a hotel has in place, the higher its GreenLeader level.

TripAdvisor GreenLeader Audit of Beechwood Inn

Beechwood Inn Designated a Georgia Eco-Friendly Inn (an Environmentally friendly inn in North Georgia) by TripAdvisors GreenLeader Program at the Gold Level

Our Environmental Commitment:

It is our mission to be the best bed and breakfast in Georgia, providing the highest level of hospitality and guest experience while preserving and promoting the unique historical and environmentally sensitive nature of our property and the area; we are committed to sustainability in all practices. https://beechwoodinn.ws/eco-commitment-and-food.html 

At the Beechwood Inn, we have attempted to use this philosophy in our analysis of the many long and short term decisions we make regarding the way we do business. Our goal is to minimize our use of natural resources while still providing a magnificent guest experience. The Inn is user-friendly, and we welcome guest suggestions and contributions on how to reduce the inn’s impact on our environment.

To provide assurance to our guests and customers that our practices are legitimate and that they do make a difference we applied for TripAdvisors Green Leader program. It was our intent to permit their process to help determine the validity and integrity of our practices.  The TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program was developed in partnership with the U.S. E.P.A’s ENERGY STAR® program, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the United Nations Environment Programme. For more information, please visit http://www.tripadvisor.com/GreenLeaders.  TripAdvisor GreenLeaders have met a set of environmental standards developed for TripAdvisor by a leading environmental consulting firm, with input from expert partners. The more green practices a hotel has in place, the higher its GreenLeader level.

After we applied and filled out their application and provided requested information about our practices Beechwood Inn was notified that it would be audited. Here is an extract from TripAdvisor’s email:

  • 8/14/2013 Email from TripAdvisor: To ensure the integrity of the TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program and its participating hotels and B&Bs, we periodically conduct environmental audits of TripAdvisor GreenLeaders properties.  In our current round of audits, we’ve chosen to audit Beechwood Inn.

Over the next two weeks Beechwood Inn was requested to supply much more information and to permit an audit by CadmusGroup, TripAdvisor’s partner for environmental audits. After the audit and analyses the information by CadmusGroup, TripAdvisor notified us by Email of 9/16/2013:

  • Thank you for participating in the TripAdvisor GreenLeaders Program and for completing the recent audit for Beechwood Inn. We are pleased to inform you that you have met the requirements of the TripAdvisor GreenLeaders Program and have passed the environmental audit process. You will be listed as a TripAdvisor GreenLeader Gold level. 

As owners and operators of Beechwood Inn Gayle and I are pleased that our efforts to reduce the inn’s carbon footprint, to educate our guests about the benefits of eco-friendly practices and to use largely organic foods from nearby sustainable farms, have been independently validated and rated.

Our hope is that the traveling public will use this information to help plan greener trips by identifying environmentally-friendly accommodations across the U.S.  Here is much of the information we shared with TripAdvisor to assist them in the Audit process:

Requirement 1:  Energy Tracking. 

?         A summary of your energy consumption tracking for your property, for the most recent twelve-month period. If you use ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager as your energy tracking software, please send a .pdf that contains your Statement of Energy Performance (SEP).

Beechwood Inn has a rich history in the North Georgia Mountains. It was built in 1916 as a private residence before electric power reached this area. In 1922 it became a guest house for summer residents escaping the heat and mosquitoes of Savannah, Charleston, and Atlanta. It was built on the side of a steep hillside with terraced gardens filled with daylilies, daffodils and natural plantings. We purchased Beechwood Inn 14 years ago and have used it as an inn ever since.

We invested significant funds into updating electrical, plumbing, windows, HVAC, kitchen – pretty much everything. Over the last three years we are now on our second round of remodeling, replacing old commodes, tiling showers, new vanities and sinks, new lighting and just general updating to keep the place fresh but still with historic character. We recently received bids to install in each guest room highly efficient split-mini-systems.  Guests want total control of their room’s temperature. We have looked at ways to politely turn the units off or on idle when guests are away, but this is not popular with the American traveling public. I have traveled to Europe and in most guest rooms a motion sensor will turn everything off – lights and heating, when the room is not occupied. This installation of split mini-systems will be a phased approach as we intend to do it as we have with all our improvements – out of revenues from the inn.

I am including a print out of our most recent 12 months of energy usage. This information, however, while having great value does not show the whole story.  Here is the important part of our energy management program at Beechwood Inn. The following is our total utility bill for each year (includes not only power, gas, water and oil but also telephone, pest control, security monitoring, cable, internet, etc):

2012:             $18,626

2011:             $18,459

2010:             $18,023

2009:             $18,630

2008:             $17,791

2007:             $17,520

Over this same period the inn’s square footage (footprint) has increased by 30%, the occupancy rate has increased significantly, the number of guest rooms has increased, the number of activities on the property has increased (dining, cooking classes, parties, weddings) and general revenue has increased by __% (Proprietary). In other words, the utility usage has stayed relatively flat while operations have dramatically increased.

The detailed analyses of our utility bills shows an actual decline in electricity, water and natural gas usage, but an increase in telephone service charges and the provision of Internet and WiFi. We attribute the energy usage success to our programs to reduce energy consumption. All appliances that we replace are more efficient. We have installed lots of insulation, new windows, wrapped pipes, trained our employees and guests on energy efficiency, installed new commodes and water restriction on showers and faucets, eliminated city water for irrigation (we have a well).  85% of our light bulbs are now energy efficient (and the remaining incandescent bulbs are low wattage candle-lights). Every day we make decisions not to buy the cheapest product/appliance but to seek the one with the highest energy efficiency. The provision of broadband WiFi throughout the inn remains a major expense but necessary to ensure access in all guest rooms, cabins and porches.

In conclusion, over the last 6 years all revenue streams have increased , we have added guest rooms, room occupancy has increased dramatically, all the while use of electricity, water and natural gas has decreased.  We consider this a stunning success based on the age of our building (built in 1916).

Requirements 2 & 3:  Towel and Linen Re-use. 

?         An excerpt from your property’s housekeeping training documents explaining how (1) your property’s towel re-use policy and (2) your property’s linen reuse policy are implemented, OR a brief description of how owners/employees are trained to implement  the reuse policies.

?         Date-stamped photographs, with locations noted and with your property’s logo visible, of the following:

−        The signage used to communicate towel reuse policies in guestrooms.

I am including a digital photo of the signage placed in each guest room notifying the guest of our towel and linen reuse policy. Our inn is small and we have only one house-keeper besides my wife and I. She has been with us for 12 years so she is fully aware of our linen towel and reuse policy.

The policy says “Please help up conserve water and energy. Towels on the bathroom floor means “please change towels,” towel hung back on the peg means “I will use this towel on more time for the sake of the environment. Unless you request otherwise, bed linens will be changed for stays of three days or more.

−        The signage used to communicate linen reuse policies in guestrooms.

Same sign, see above.

Requirement 4: Recycling. 

?         Documentation of recycling practices:

−        If sorting of recyclables occurs off-site, provide a copy of a contract or letter from waste hauler confirming that at least two of the following materials are recycled off-site:

? paper  ? glass  ? cardboard  ? plastics ? metals

−        If sorting of recyclables occurs onsite (in guest rooms, housekeeping carts, or back of house), provide date-stamped photographs, with locations noted and with your property’s logo visible, showing recycling bins.

We have a large re-cycling center on our inn’s front porch. As each guest checks-in we walk them around the inn to introduce them to our amenities. We show them the location of the public restrooms, coffee service, emergency information, guest refrigerator and we also introduce them to our environmental practices. We walk every guest past the recycling center and invite them to deposit their recyclables there. For safety concerns we have instructed our house-keeper not to put her hands in guest waste baskets to “search for recyclables. ”  We have had a number of close calls when we made it a practice to sort through guestroom waste baskets. Specifically, we found medical needles that were improperly disposed of in open waste containers.  We instruct ourselves and our house-keeper, if you can safely retrieve a wine bottle or drink can, please do so, but do not insert you hand, even a gloved-hand into guest trash. It’s just not safe.

In our kitchen and in other behind the front of the house areas we sort our trash and use the inn’s recycling center for all recyclables.

I am including a photo of our large recycling center.

Requirement 5: Staff Training. 

?         A copy of the training materials used to train or educate employees about the green practices employed at the property, OR a brief description of how owners/employees are made aware of, and trained to implement, green practices.

I am including copies of two documents. The first is our Eco-commitment and Foods. This information can be found in several places around the inn and on our website athttps://beechwoodinn.ws/eco-commitment-and-food.html  The other document is titled Beechwood Inn Green Policies. We use this document as an outline to instruct any new employees. Currently the inn has only two part time employees. Our house-keeper and our Assistant  Innkeeper. You should also know that I was an environmental attorney for the U.S. Department of Energy and for the U.S. Air Force for 30 years. In that capacity I learned much about environmental laws and their compliance.

Requirement 6: Guest Education. 

?         Copies of educational reference materials on your property’s green practices that are placed in the guestrooms OR the URL of the website that is used to educate guests and visitors about the property’s green practices.

I am including copies of two documents. The first is our Eco-commitment and Foods. This information can be found in several places around the inn and on our website athttps://beechwoodinn.ws/eco-commitment-and-food.html  This information is also printed and found in each guest room in our “In Room Guest Information Book.” This book contains useful information for each guest such as our WIfI Password, safety information, breakfast times, wine-thirty, places to go and things to see.

Beechwood Inn also operates a small organic farm where a portion of the food is grown for the Inn’s meals. We use our gardens to help educate our lodging and dining guests about organic and sustainable practices. As they visit our gardens they are encouraged “if you see a bug, smoosh it, as that is totally organic.”  During our breakfasts and farm to table dinners our chefs visit with the guests to talk about the sources of our local foods, wine and culinary herbs. You will see the confirmation of this education in the reviews of Beechwood Inn on the TripAdvisor Website.

Beechwood Inn’s Blog is filled with short articles chronicling all aspects of food, the environment and sustainable practices. https://beechwoodinn.ws/blog

Requirement 7: Energy-Efficient Lighting. 

?         Provide a summary of the lighting inventory that includes the total number of installed light bulbs (conventional + energy-efficient) in your property and the total number of energy-efficient bulbs.

I have inventoried the installed bulbs at Beechwood Inn. We have a number of “Historic Legacy” chandeliers that have incandescent flame shaped bulbs installed. They are mostly low wattage (25 watts). They will remain with incandescent bulbs for the time as my wife, the decorator, is not satisfied with CPF or LED for these lights at the present time.  Here is the total:

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs 132

Incandescent: 28

LED: 17

Total Light bulbs and lighting strips = 177

Energy Question #11: Energy Audit.

?         A copy of an energy audit report for your property within the last five years.

We have consulted with Georgia Power Company a number of times through the years for energy audits. Georgia Power Company now offers and recommends for small businesses like Beechwood Inn to avail ourselves of their online Energy Audit Program. We have had energy audits in the past but now we use this online service to improve the inn’s energy efficiency. This audit program is available online at http://residential.georgiapower.com/products-programs/energy-audit/

We find this online service valuable and useful as Georgia Power Company continues to make upgrades and updates to that audit program. We can use this on a real time basis to see what other improvements can be made. If you view their website you can see the process we use to self assess and self-improve Beechwood Inn’s efficiency.

Site Question #5: Reduce Stormwater Runoff.

?         A narrative providing a description of the best practices employed to reduce stormwater runoff and photographs showing each measure (i.e. rainwater collection, swales, raingardens, pervious pavement).

We have resisted paving our parking lots despite the high level of maintenance associated with pervious pavements. I am including photos of our three parking lots and our overflow parking meadow.  Each of the parking areas is backed by swales and contours designed to absorb and/or spread out any rain water runoff.

Beechwood Inn is perched on the side of a steep hill, and we are located in Rabun County, Georgia, which enjoys the highest rainfall in Georgia. The grounds have been naturalized and partly left wild which is designed to absorb as much water as possible. But due to our huge annual rainfall and the volume of water deposited by thunderstorms we have designed swales, hollows, contours and naturalized channels with native plantings to help prevent storm-water damage and to try and slow its run-off. Many of these swales we have allowed to become over grown, which only adds to their ability to slow the run-off. Preventing all run-off is impossible. In the heaviest of down-pours we can only hope to slow it down.   I am including a number of photos of these swales, contours, plantings of ground-covers, the extensive use of mulch and naturalized run-off channels that will evidence our effort to manage rain water run-off.

Innovation & Education Question #6: Electric Vehicle Charging Stations.

?         A digital photograph showing installed electric vehicle charging stations.

Beechwood Inn’s charging station is on the Blink Network and can be viewed at http://www.blinknetwork.com/blinkMap.html Just go to the map andenter Beechwood Inn, Clayton Georgia, and the Charging Station can be confirmed. I have also included a photo, at your request. It is also mentioned on our website at https://beechwoodinn.ws/ev-charging-station-georgia-at-beechwood-inn.html  As an eco-incentive Beechwood Inn guests are provided a free charge with their overnight lodging or dinner reservation.

Please call me at (706) 782-5485 if you have any questions.

David G. Darugh

Chef/Owner

Beechwood Inn – Georgia’s Premier Wine Country Inn

Beechwood Inn Designated and Confirmed a Georgia Eco-Friendly Inn (an Environmentally friendly inn in North Georgia) by TripAdvisor’s GreenLeader Program at the Gold Level