Being Green on Fort Myers Beach
Green, green, green - it's all the rage these days, which is great because it means more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of protecting our natural resources, but what does it actually mean to be green? For some, it may mean simply tossing their beer cans into the recycling bin instead of the garbage. Others go a bit further - they replace their light bulbs with more energy-efficient ones, install low-flow toilets and drive hybrid cars. But what does it mean for a business to go green? How about a hotel with new guests every day? For those folks, going green means making a serious commitment.
In 2004, the state of Florida launched the Florida Green Lodging Program to encourage and recognize hotels, resorts and lodges who make a commitment to sustainable practices and to protecting Florida's natural resources. To qualify, each establishment must meet and continue to practice a number of criteria in five areas of sustainable operations: communication and education, waste reduction, reuse and recycling, water conservation, energy efficiency and indoor air quality. We are proud to report that Fort Myers Beach has three resorts that have earned the Green Lodging designation: Diamondhead, Mango Street Inn and Pink Shell.
"We qualified for our designation back in 2006/2007,” said Diamondhead Beach Resort General Manager Neil Hopgood. "We went through the criteria and began implementing a number of sustainable practices - we provide blue recycle bins in all of our rooms, we are installing low flush toilets and we give our guests the option of not having to have all their towels and linens washed every day. We also have an electric car fueling station and use microbes and bacteria to clean our drains so our grease doesn't have to be pumped out.”
Hopgood says his resort continues to look for ways to improve each year, and that he is happy to see others taking up the challenge to be more green.
"We're not anywhere near Europe yet, but we are making leaps and bounds,” he said.
Being green is a natural thing for Mango Street Inn owner Dan Andre. With his background in environmental biology and commitment to the protection of our natural resources (when serving as Vice-Chair of the Marine Resources Task Force, he worked hard to get the Town's Mandatory Recycling for Businesses ordinance passed), the decision to make his Inn a Green Lodge was a no-brainer. In fact, after he and his wife, Tree, bought the property they purposely rebuilt it with green practices in mind.
"We wanted to reduce our footprint as much as possible,” Andre told us. "We became aware of the state's program when we were rebuilding the property into the Mango Street Inn and carefully followed all the criteria they listed.”
As a result, the Inn became designated a Green Lodge as soon as it opened in 2009.
"All of our appliances are energy efficient, all our rooms have low-flow toilets and recycling bins, we installed extra insulation and all our cleaning products are green,” Dan continued. "We also have rain barrels on our property to capture the water we use for gardening.”
The Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa was the first resort on Fort Myers Beach and neighboring Sanibel Island to earn the Green Lodge designation, and Marketing Director Ellis Etter told us that it was the employees' idea.
"We started out by recycling in our offices, separating things like paper, glass and cans,” Ellis said. "We also put bins in all the rooms, and provide our guests with recycling bags they can take with them to the beach.”
Etter says that Pink Shell then built their own recycling center on the property so they could handle all the material.
"We've also completely converted to energy-efficient light bulbs, are in the process of replacing all our appliances and updated the pump systems for our pools,” he continued. "We have low flow toilets, faucets and shower heads and have gone to every-three-day housekeeping unless the guest requests otherwise. And we had the first electric car charging station.”
Ellis says that the resort is always looking for ways to be ‘greener’, and is incorporating some new ideas into next year's budget.
While not a resort, any conversation about green commercial buildings on the beach must include the Beach Library. Many of our readers may not be aware of the vast efforts the Library Board and Director Dr. Leroy Hommerding put into make the new building as green as it could possibly be - from their state of the art air conditioning system to their rooftop solar panels to their parking lot, where up to 7 inches of rainwater can filter through grassy swale and paving tiles, be channeled into filters and reservoirs, before being released into Matanzas Pass. Rainwater from the rooftop is even stored and then used to flush toilets.
To check out all the establishments that have been designated Green Lodges in the state of Florida, go to the program's website at dep.state.fl.us/greenlodging, and choose a region (note, Fort Myers Beach is in the 'South' region, as is Naples and the Florida Keys). Though not located on the island, Hampton Inn & Suites in Summerlin Square is also listed as a Green Lodge.
Keri Hendry Weeg