The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain has shown its commitment to environmental responsibility through its Grande Lakes hotel in Orlando, Florida. Built in 2003, the Grande Lakes Ritz-Carlton has recently earned a “Green Lodging” certification from the Florida Green Lodging Program, an initiative by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes provides the utmost in luxury that Ritz-Carlton guests are used to: private balconies in all of the guest rooms, 11 restaurants located on-site, maid service twice a day, and more. The grounds are dotted with eco-friendly outdoor amenities to provide habitat for animals, such as butterfly gardens, birdhouses, and birds of prey nesting areas. The on-site activities include a 40,000 square-foot spa, a Greg Norman signature golf course, a fly-fishing school, and an eco-tour program.
As one of its hallmark activities, the Grande Lakes Ritz-Carlton offers eco tours on the nearby Shingle Creek, the northernmost headwaters of the Florida Everglades. The protected creek is a habitat for alligators, bald eagles, ospreys, and wood storks. Visitors are led through a guided tour of the creek in kayaks or canoes. The guides share the history of the creek and the surrounding forest, and introduce visitors to native species, combining environmental education with excitement and beautiful scenery.
According to Jason Coletta, spokesman for the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes, the guests love it. He says the eco-tours “are very well received because they bring the guests closer to nature. Families in particular enjoy the experiences” because of the educational opportunities they provide.
Another exciting development is the Ritz Carlton’s recent attainment of “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” status for its golf course. The building and maintaining of golf courses can be hugely damaging to the environment, and it’s refreshing to see a course working with a conservation agency such as Audubon International, especially with the precious Everglades nearby.
Audubon International awards their Certification to golf courses that take steps to meet requirements in several areas, from wildlife and habitat management to water conservation. To meet these requirements, the Ritz-Carlton has protected the threatened and endangered species on the property by returning over 40 acres of the golf course to their natural state. They have also removed exotic and invasive plant species from the course, and have taken steps to educate the golfers about the importance of its natural areas and the wildlife they contain. They have even provided undisturbed access to Shingle Creek for some of the threatened species on the course, a crosswalk of sorts for the creatures who share the course with the golfers.
The hotel follows the best management practices set forth by the Florida Green Lodging program to minimize environmental damage. These include water conservation efforts such as water saving appliances, daily meter readings to identify and fix leaks or broken water lines, and irrigation using captured storm water. They have fitted their rooms and corridors with compact florescent light to cut down on energy consumption. To encourage recycling, the hotel has placed recycling cans throughout the hotel to help their guests recycle, and has implemented a recycling training program for its staff.
The education the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes provides for its staff is also part of the exciting next step in broadening the hotel’s green philosophy. Coletta says the Ritz-Carlton hopes to change its employees’ outlook on the environment through the programs and training it offers at the hotel. According to Coletta, the hotel hopes “the knowledge gained on property will influence and inspire green consciousness in every day life” so they can make green choices at work and at home as well.
Kudos to the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Hotel for demonstrating that indulging in luxury doesn’t always mean making nature pay for the indulgence!
By David Kierski