Pa. ski resorts attempt to go green

June 29, 2009 1:36:11 PM PDT
Three Poconos resorts are acting on the trend of going "green."The "Queen of Green" Lisa Alexander, a recognized environmental expert, spoke at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort in Shawnee on Delaware during "Pocono Mountains Tourism Day" in May. "Kermit had it right. It isn't easy being green," Alexander said. "Green means true, honest and sincere efforts to be environmentally and socially responsible."

So what are area tourism businesses doing to become a greener tourist attraction?

Jeanne Genzlinger, owner of Settlers Inn in Hawley, is committed to running a green business.

"Being green is like learning about wine: The more you learn, the more you realize you don't know anything," Genzlinger said. "It's all about the little things."

Settlers Inn has plenty of onsite gardens to grow herbs and edible flowers. The operators use reusable shopping bags whenever they make a trip to the grocery store.

"The fish we use is raised in Blooming Grove with a healthy diet that doesn't include plastic," she said. "And our in-house pastry chef uses organic flour."

Saving energy is at the top of the list for most, because it also helps save money. The resort found a way to save a lot of energy and acted on it.

"Last year, we found 150 lights that could be turned off," Genzlinger said. "And we received a grant from the state of Pennsylvania to replace furnaces, heating and air conditioning units with energy-saving units."

You won't find any plastic water bottles there. Now they offer water stations and glass carafes. Recycling is also a big thing for the resort.

"We have an active recycling program and have recycling containers in guest rooms," she said.

Composting is another green initiative the resort uses. "Twenty tons of food waste is put back into the ground each year," she said. "This is huge when you think about the methane in the landfills. Our compost goes to our farmers. It is quite a cycle of reuse."

The resort also uses all green cleaning products, and the garden is all organic.

"Room 204 is our organic room - from the cork floors to the bamboo furniture to the low-VOC paint and other organic materials," Genzlinger said. "The Settlers Inn is devoted to purchasing from regional and local sources."

The business won the 2008 Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau Green Award, as well as being listed as one of Pocono Business Journal's Top Ten Green Businesses in 2008.

Camelback is also changing some major things to green. "Ski areas might not be the greenest businesses around," said Ricky Durst, media relations and public relations manager. "One opportunity ski areas have to become greener is with the snowmaking."

Camelback reduced 50,000 gallons of fossil fuels usage just this past season, and it has hopes to increase that number in upcoming seasons.

"We upgraded the snowmaking system, and the change is permanent," Durst said. "We got new snow guns that use compressed air and water to make snow."

The ski resort also began what it calls "Pure Action Project," an employee-led program that includes recycling and finding other sustainable ways of doing business.

"We diverted more than 12 tons of waste from landfills," he said. "Each department finds ways to be sustainable. We've gotten great support from our employees."

This past Earth Day, the resort gathered all of its full-time staff and spent four hours picking up debris.

"We hauled away more than 150 bags of trash off of the resort. We made it fun and did a scavenger hunt, and found some crazy things," he said. "One person found an eight-track tape. It was a great team-building experience for the staff."

Camelback is looking for alternative ways to heat the water in its Camelbeach waterpark.

"Green is gold with the media," Durst said. "You need to have courage and invest a few dollars, and trust that your customer base will appreciate what you are doing."

Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort is no stranger to turning green. "Green is a constant process. We learn new things every day," said Rob Howell, general manager. "It's all about making commitments."

Howell suggested making a list of 50 things to change, and then prioritize it.

"There is a lot of research required. Procedures need to be developed and implemented to make it work," he said. "Choose five items and set a deadline."

Shawnee Inn has a "green team" to monitor accomplishments and assist in implementing procedures.

"We encourage our staff and guests to recycle, and we are trying to diminish the use of plastic water bottles in meeting areas and other areas of the resort," Howell said. "We are trying to make the commitment and hoping that others do, too."

The resort has a linen reuse program, and uses all-natural and chemical-free soaps, shampoos, lotions and cleaners.

"We commit to organic products and buying locally, and we just broke ground on our own garden to grow herbs and vegetables," Howell said.

The green process doesn't end on the inside of the resort. "We are participating with the Audubon Society on our golf course, and using some recycled water to irrigate the course," Howell said. "We are beginning to make the golf course more eco-friendly."

These three area resorts are trying to become a model for other resorts and businesses in the Poconos. Many others are doing their part to become a greener business.

Alexander said, "The triple bottom line is people, planet and profit. Environmental consciousness is the future."