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The Gale River Motel & Cottages is The First Motel Certified as Environmental Champion under the New Partnership with The NHLRA and NHDES

DATE: December 8, 2009
CONTACT: Tara Mae Albert, NHDES

The Gale River Motel & Cottages is The First Motel Certified as Environmental Champion under the New Partnership with The NHLRA and NHDES

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and the N.H. Lodging and Restaurant Association announced today that the Gale River Motel & Cottages in Franconia is the first motel labeled as an Environmental Champion under a new program coordinated between the two organizations.

In November, NHLRA kicked off their redesigned green certification program for restaurants and lodging facilities to make them more accountable for keeping up their green practices and also offers a tool to educate hotels and restaurants on making their businesses more sustainable. Michele Veasey of the NHLRA’s Sustainability Program and Tara Mae Albert of the DES’s Pollution Prevention Program (NHPPP) completed a site assessment of the Gale River Motel & Cottages in Franconia, which was the final step for certifying the motel.

The recently revised certification manual now consists of a point award system that allows a facility to choose projects that best apply to them. The point system gives accountability for all projects implemented but awards a higher point value for the more environmentally sustainable items on the list. To be considered an “Environmental Champion” a facility must receive 175 points or more out of a possible 316. Once the application is complete, a site assessment must be completed to verify their self-certification.

The Gale River Motel and Cottages (GRM&C), a year round family-oriented getaway, scored 251 points on their application. Motel owner, Kevin Johnson, stated, “As one of the smallest lodging properties in the state of New Hampshire, it has been a challenge to pursue the ideals of eco-friendly business practices, but it is an effort which has yielded significant cost-savings and beneficial public relations.”

The most notable project described in GRM&C’s application is their solar hot water system, the first in the state for a motel. To justify the installation, Johnson used electric bills and spreadsheets to conduct surveys calculating their emissions savings, which tie directly to their carbon footprint. If any business owner has questions on the system, Johnson “welcomes them to visit the Gale River Motel for a tour”. In addition, the motel has changed to energy efficient lighting in 95% of their guest rooms; 100% of their exterior lighting is energy-efficient; and they replaced the boiler system in 2008 with a more sustainable model. The GRM&C has also focused on water conservation by changing to 100% low flow showerheads, faucets and toilets to low flow models and they also have built their own “irrigation” system for a small garden using a homemade rain barrel and a system of buried soaker hoses. Additionally, they limit landscape watering by only watering when necessary and they have added moisture sensors to the automated systems.

To involve guests in their sustainability efforts, the GRM&C has developed room signs for the guest rooms informing them about their initiatives. They have set up a towel program and do not launder the sheets until the second guest day unless asked to. In addition, there are informational signs indicating what items the hotel will recycle and asking guests to either use the bags provided for recycling or to leave the items on the table for the cleaning staff to take care of. This initiative alone has lead to 4,743 pounds of waste not sent to landfill.

After receiving the certification Kevin remarked, “Certification under the NH Sustainable Lodging and Restaurant Program provides an objective and standardized evaluation utilizing a uniform criteria for recognition as an eco-friendly business. I have used these guidelines as a roadmap for developing policies and practices designed to positively impact the environment and operate more efficiently as a business owner.”

In addition to these projects, the GRM&C set up a strategic plan for their future environmental goals. These commitments to obtaining future savings have lead to their induction, in November, into the DES Aspiring Leaders Program. That program gives recognition to companies that go above and beyond the legal requirements for environmental and economic benefit. Bob Minicucci, program manager for Aspiring Leaders, said he was very impressed with the projects GRM&C has taken on and the way their management is tracking progress and continuing to try new ways to do better improve operations.

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