Florida's Green Lodging Program - Only The Good Die Young

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 Florida’s outstanding Green Lodging program (FGLP). Established in 2004 by Florida’s 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.

That’s 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 program’s budget of $337,000 was slashed to $63,000, and three of its four staff positions were eliminated.

You read that correctly – 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 – and be approved – sight unseen, and a watered down renewal process.

FGLP’s official web site optimistically calls the changes “program improvements” 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 state’s 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, there’s big money to be made from earning FGLP’s 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 they’d 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 state’s 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 – and high standards – post-haste.

Has your city’s or state’s green lodging program also taken a funding hit? Tell us about it at info@ecogreenhotel.com.

About EcoGreenHotel A valuable resource for green hotels, EcoGreenHotel is dedicated to helping lodging facilities address environmental issues and implement environmentally sound initiatives. The company’s online presence at http://www.EcoGreenHotel.com offers a marketplace for green hotel products and services and provides a one- stop venue for green hospitality industry news, basic environmental overviews and other tools like green hotel checklists, project ideas, book lists, and valuable links designed to promote a more sustainable hospitality industry.

EcoGreenHotel’s green hotel consulting services guide owners, operators and developers through the journey of developing and/or maintaining a sustainable operation or project.

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For more information about EcoGreenHotel, please visit http://www.EcoGreenHotel.com or send an email me Scott Parisi at sparisi@EcoGreenHotel.com

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Press Release Submitted On: June 16, 2009 at 4:13 am
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