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Largest Los Angeles Hotel Goes 'Green'

Many hotels around the United States are going green by recycling their waste, and conserving water, power and other resources. The largest hotel in Los Angeles, the Westin Bonaventure, was recently certified as green by the environmental group Green Seal. Hotel managers say the change will help the environment, and is also good for business.

The Bonaventure is a 37-story tower with more than 1,300 guest rooms in the heart of Los Angeles.

LA officials, including the city's mayor, announced that the hotel has qualified for certification by Green Seal, a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable products and practices. It is the first hotel in the city to get the group's stamp of approval.

Green Seal's Gary Petersen says the organization works with hotels in every area of their operations. "We come in and survey and take a look at the hotel, all the different things from room service to towels to the paper they use, the recycling, the food waste," he says.

And the hotel makes changes. Organic waste in the kitchen is separated for composting and low-energy light fixtures are installed to reduce power use. Some trash is recycled and laundry is cleaned with biodegradable detergent. Non-toxic cleaners are used in the rooms.

Michael Czarcinski, the Bonaventure's managing director, says some staff members requested the changes. He says that with training, others got on board, but that going green requires a change in culture. "It may sound simple - separating your food waste from one garbage pail to three garbage pails, but when you've been doing it the same way for 30 years…. We actually had signage, training in the cafeteria, and successfully now, everything in our cafeteria is separated for recycling. The food waste goes to composting, and barely one quarter of the weight now goes into the landfills," he says.

He says the new green certification will be used to market the hotel to environmentally conscious customers. "From a marketing standpoint, yes, that's a great story, but the bottom line is, we're being great to our local economy, to the environment, and really reducing the use of toxic chemicals, paper products, and making sure that we're composting all of our food waste," he says.

Many hotels around the United States are taking steps to reduce their environmental footprint, often without making the comprehensive changes required for certification from a group like Green Seal. Gary Petersen says it is important that a hotel the size of the Bonaventure is taking that step. "There are other hotels that have done this, and done quite a good job. But I think that when you start seeing the big guys get together and start to do this, then everybody's going to start doing it," he says.

Hotel managers say going green will save money. It cost about $20,000 to change hotel practices and educate the staff on the changes. Recycling and other so-called green practices are expected to bring more than $300,000 a year in savings, while reducing the hotel's impact on the environment.