Being green and environmentally conscious is as much a part of the guest experience at Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort as any of the varied amenities offered in the Oro Valley establishment.
From low-flow showerheads, compact fluorescent bulbs and time-sensitive irrigation to a chef's herb garden, recycling green waste and composting, the El Conquistador has taken major steps to make its facilities as green as possible.
Earlier this year, the hotel received a "certified green" stamp of approval from the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association.
Tom Kibler, director of property operations, said while it's difficult to retrofit a 27-year-old property in green fashion, the task isn't impossible.
The hotel recently completed a $2 million renovation to its primary meeting space and also renovated 51 casitas. The meeting spaces have been fitted with custom-made recycling bins, while all guest rooms in the hotel have been upgraded to have low-flow showerheads, compact fluorescent light bulbs, 42-inch flat screen television and armoires.
"With the compact fluorescent bulbs, we recycle them to recover the mercury so they don't end up in a landfill," Kibler noted. "We also provide a paper bag in each guest room for recyclables that is picked up daily by housekeeping, which our surveys tell us is a service that's been very well received by guests."
In 2009, the hotel recycled more than 90 tons of green waste, which Kibler characterized as "plastics, newspapers, tree limbs and grass cuttings."
Some of the hotel's rooms have been renovated with low-flow toilets, Kibler pointed out, and the hotel staff is testing an add-on device that would convert the rest of the property's standard-flow toilets to the low-flow variety.
Kibler noted the hotel staff is in the process of constructing a chef's herb garden, which will be fertilized by compost materials prepared on-site. The hotel has been composting materials in a half dozen active compost piles for more than a year and Kibler said it currently has three tons of compost material ready to use.
With such a large facility, there regularly is a lot of painting going on, Kibler added.
"With a big place like this, we sometimes get overwhelmed with extra paint because we have about 40 different colors we use," he noted. "All our surplus paint gets donated to an area church."
Sports even get into the recycling act at the hotel, Kibler said, with used tennis balls being donated to area schools and the tennis ball cans being recycled.
Other green strategies include having frequency drive motors on condenser pumps to reduce electricity usage, donating cooking oil and grease for use as bio-diesel fuel, and donating unused food weekly to a charity designated by the Community Food Bank.
The El Conquistador has all its irrigation operated by time clocks to minimize water use and waste, but Kibler noted he is considering an irrigation control system linked into a satellite that takes into account relative humidity and the dew point.
"Those are the two main weather factors that tie into the rain forecast," he said. "You don't want your sprinklers on when it's going to rain, so this system regulates irrigation when the dew point and humidity are high enough."
On the drawing board for the hotel is a solar energy plant that could be used in the golf cart garage to recharge the hotel's 40 electric golf carts. Another area under study, Kibler said, is a solar hot water heating system, but the hotel isn't ready to commit to one yet.