DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - A person doesn’t have to walk far in the Westin Bonaventure Hotel to find an environmentally friendly way to dispose of a newspaper, can or bottle. Recycling stations are located throughout the Figueroa Street hotel, in public areas as well as guestrooms.

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When it comes to thinking green, for both operations and customers, that is just the tip of the iceberg, said Michael Czarcinski, managing director for the hotel, which with more than 1,300 rooms is the largest in Los Angeles.

The Bonaventure has environmental credibility — it is approaching its fifth year as a Green Seal Property, a designation from a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that certifies businesses for operating in an environmentally responsible or sustainable manner. The City of Los Angeles Green Lodging Program, part of the City’s Green Business Certification Program, also lists the Bonaventure as one of seven hotels in the city — and the only one in Downtown — to have earned the distinction. 

With Earth Day arriving on April 22, Czarcinski spoke with Los Angeles Downtown News about the day-to-operations at the hotel, and why something unexpected may happen with those room service pancakes you don’t finish. 

Los Angeles Downtown News: How green are you?

Michael Czarcinski: We have diverted 600 tons of solid waste from the landfill by composting wet waste liquids and food scraps in our kitchens. Anything that can be composted — vegetables, half-eaten foods that come back from room service, banquets, the dining room — it’s all thrown into a separate green container instead of the landfill. 

Q: How else do you reduce and reuse?

A: Cardboard from packaging materials and the like, items that used to go right into the trash, we recycled 117 tons last year. Cans and bottles — we kept 353,000 pounds, or 176 tons from going into the landfill. 

Q: What about in the guest rooms? 

A: In 2010 we changed the showerheads in all the guest bathrooms from ones that permitted [allowed to flow] five gallons per minute to ones that permitted 2.5 gallons per minute. That’s a savings of 10 million gallons a year. 

Q: Was it difficult to change people’s behavior toward operating and living sustainably? 

A: It took a little time, but the staff really caught on. It was a cultural change throughout the property. You’re used to throwing those [egg shells or apple core] into the regular trash, and now it’s a different container. The laundry detergent has changed. We only use sulfate-free. In the end, we’ve reduced our total carbon footprint by 1,000 tons of waste a year. It is a better experience for the employees and the guests. 

Q: You have Green Seal certification, which is not as well-known as having a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designation. Is LEED something you aspire to? 

A: Green Seal designates that the day-to-day work habits, the functional business, is performing sustainably. We meet the gold certification for Green Seal. But, yes, we would like to go for LEED in the future. 

Q: Do you recycle at home?

A: Our family moved to Los Angeles from New Hampshire, where we didn’t use paper towels, we used cloth napkins. We recycled everything we could. It seemed like, once in L.A., our bins were more full than others on the street. My family has always had green practices, so to have the ability to do this with a business this large is fantastic. 

Q: How do you feel about those landfill stats you touted? 

A: Great! It’s amazing to think that all those tons of waste could have gone into the landfill. We want to keep it up and focus on being a good corporate citizen.

donna@downtownnews.com

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2014

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