Robbinsville, NJ (PressExposure) June 16, 2009 -- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Scott Parisi EcoGreenHotel.com sparisi@EcoGreenHotel.com (888)229-0213 Ext.801
A few weeks ago in a blog post, I sang the praises of Floridaâs outstanding Green Lodging program (FGLP). Established in 2004 by Floridaâs Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), FGLP's small but dedicated staff has helped hundreds of properties statewide implement meaningful green initiatives, and has made their program a model for the country.
Thatâs why I was so saddened to learn that due to drastic budget cuts, the FGLP as we know it will cease to exist on July 1st. According to a recent article in the Orlando Business Journal, the programâs budget of $337,000 was slashed to $63,000, and three of its four staff positions were eliminated.
You read that correctly â one employee and $63,000 to support the current stable of over 500 designated green properties, in addition to handling hundreds more that have filed their applications and are on the waiting list for FGLP approval.
Beginning July 1, initial site visits to determine compliance with program standards will become a thing of the past. Annual recertification will fall by the wayside, too, as will easily accessible expert advice from live DEP staff.
Instead, there will be occasional webinars, an online application process that will allow a property to assert that it has implemented its green initiative â and be approved â sight unseen, and a watered down renewal process.
FGLPâs official web site optimistically calls the changes âprogram improvementsâ and attempts to calm fears that the model project will become nothing more than a rubber stamping mechanism that allows undeserving properties to falsely bill themselves as environmentally responsible. In part, the web site states:
Maintaining environmental excellence in the program is of utmost importance to DEP. While the program will now be administered primarily online, it will not be a self-certification program.
I did not add the bold print in the statement above; DEP did. Publicly declaring that the FGLP will not be a self-certification program sounds brave and decisive, but unfortunately it also sounds like wishful thinking.
The stakes are extremely high for hoteliers in Florida, where approximately half of all the stateâs visitors (many of whom are eco-conscious travelers) stay in lodging facilities, and where the Governor has mandated that all state-related conferences and meetings be held in certified green lodges whenever possible.
Yes, thereâs big money to be made from earning FGLPâs green certification. Since the program has been so skillfully administered thus far, green certification truly meant something in Florida. The properties that earned it had every reason to be proud, and the ones on the waiting list knew theyâd have to tow the line to get certified.
There is now a realistic fear that green lodging designation in Florida will be as easy to come by as a bad sunburn.
I understand that times are hard. Every line item in every stateâs budget is on the chopping block, so the gutting of FGLP is not a huge surprise. But it is a huge disappointment, and I sincerely hope that Florida will find a way to restore the program to its previous funding levels â and high standards â post-haste.
Has your cityâs or stateâs green lodging program also taken a funding hit? Tell us about it at email@example.com.
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