Xanterra Parks and Resorts at Yellowstone
Mammoth Dining Room Green Restaurant Certification and Remodel, National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
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Xanterra received Green Restaurant Association certification for the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room (pictured right). The Dining Room is Xanterra's first certified green restaurant, and is the first 3-Star certified restaurant in Wyoming and one of only 71 in the country. In-house staff designed a boiler system to burn waste vegetable. The restaurant diverts 73% of its waste through recycling and composting. Building materials include sustainable PaperStone® made from 100% recycled paper and less-toxic resins and pigments. It also implemented energy and water conservation measures through a lighting retrofit and the installation of ENERGY STAR qualified low-e windows and water-efficient plumbing fixtures. Mammoth Hotel Dining Room also features sustainable cuisine by providing local, organic, vegetarian, and third-party certified menu items.
The Green Restaurant Association (GRA) is a nationally-recognized non-profit organization that provides a cost-effective way for restaurants to demonstrate their commitment to environmental sustainability. To achieve certification, restaurants must meet criteria in seven categories: Disposables, Energy, Food, Furnishings and Building Materials, Pollution and Chemical Reduction, Waste, and Water. Their rigorous certification system of evaluation, documentation, and verification seemed a natural match for Xanterra's needs. The certification process began to take shape in August 2010, when the Environmental Affairs office started identifying key players and engaged the Engineering and Food and Beverage departments to begin scoping existing efforts, identifying improvements, and addressing budget considerations to finance the projects. This initial collaborative step was critical in understanding what we had done, what we intended to do, who would be responsible for the individual pieces, and how we would fund the work.
In November 2010, Xanterra contacted GRA to negotiate a contract, begin working with the GRA environmental consultant, and outline a general certification timeline. During early 2011, Environmental Affairs made the first attempt at quantifying points toward certification by working with key players in FB, maintenance, and purchasing to complete the initial assessment, submit utility data, and organize necessary documentation for existing programs and new initiatives to be submitted to GRA for baseline scoring. After Xanterra received an initial score of 157.27 (more than necessary for certification, but short of the 175 needed for 3 stars), we worked with GRA to identify several additional strategies that could improve the score. On August 16th, 2011, after the submittal of final documentation and verification of the 60 individual steps taken, Xanterra was notified of the final score, 182.66 points (more than enough for 3-star certification). To achieve these points, Xanterra focused on energy use reduction, sustainable food, waste management and disposables, cleaning products, and green building techniques.
Energy points were achieved for the development of a system to offset diesel use in our boilers by burning waste vegetable oil (the entire system, pictured left, was designed and completed by our in-house boiler maintenance staff), a lighting retrofit including re-lamping existing incandescent bulbs in the seating area of the dining room with over 300 energy efficient LED lamps, installation of ENERGY STAR qualified low-e windows, and 100% renewable energy offsets (through Renewable Choice Energy). Xanterra's sustainable cuisine program focuses on the purchase of local, organic, vegetarian, and third-party certified items (such as our Marine Stewardship Council certified salmon, pictured right), and these menu offerings were crucial in achieving certification. Significant points were achieved for our recycling and composting programs, which currently divert 73% of Xanterra's waste from entering landfills, coupled with a focus on 100% recycled content paper (much of which is 100% post- consumer), and compostable to go ware when necessary. Lastly, we remodeled the restrooms in the dining room using the latest in green building techniques: restroom partitions and doors made from sustainable Paperstone that uses 100% post-consumer recycled paper and environmentally friendly resins and pigments, water-saving fixtures including dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals, touchless hydro-powered faucets, and efficient dishwashing spray valves, and energy efficient and waste-free Dyson Airblade hand dryers.
Results and Achievements
The results of Xanterra's certification are fourfold: improved sustainable cuisine programs, efficient use of resources, waste minimization, and enhanced employee and guest awareness. Xanterra is committed to providing our guests high quality, healthy food choices and has set a goal to purchase a minimum of 50% sustainable food items by 2016. Sustainable cuisine involves using products that are grown, harvested, processed, packaged, and distributed with the least possible environmental impact. At Xanterra, we strive to find products that are locally sourced, organically grown, sustainably harvested, or third-party verified as having a reduced impact. In 2011, Yellowstone is leading the way in sustainable cuisine with 31% sustainable food purchases and offerings including local lamb from Pray, local and organic goat cheese from Belgrade, and delicious chocolate truffles from Bozeman MT.
Although resource consumption programs were in place prior to the certification effort, the push to be on the forefront of restaurant operations provided a springboard for several new programs. The lighting in the dining room offered an opportunity for improvement by replacing 300 60-watt incandescent lamps with highly efficient LEDs that use only 7 watts each. On an average day, this equals 254 kWh of savings, which is expected to contribute to a payback of less than three years. Additionally, by using dishwashing spray valves and touchless hand-washing sinks that use less than one gallon per minute, 1.6 per 1.0 g dual-flush toilets, and waterless urinals, Xanterra is saving significant energy and resources in our operations. Although these products require higher up-front investment, we know that our guests will be using them and saving valuable resources long into the future, thus justifying the investment.
Through comprehensive recycling and compost programs, Yellowstone was able to divert 73% of our waste from entering the landfill in 2011. In addition to standard recyclables (cans, bottles, paper, etc.), Xanterra recycles used oil, tires, linens, electronics, batteries, manure, and more. In 2011, Xanterra recycled over 4 million pounds of material, over 2 million of which went to our compost facility in West Yellowstone. At the Mammoth Dining Room, Xanterra received points for bio-based cutlery, hot and cold cups, take out containers, and straws. Additionally, all of our bath and facial tissue, napkins, office paper, and paper towels are made from 100% recycled content.
Xanterra at Yellowstone believes that sustainability is not just good business, but that it is the right thing to do. We would focus on quality environmental programs even if we did not have an audience, but, with 3,500 employees and over 3 million visitors annually, we have an invaluable opportunity to educate our employees and guests not only on what we do, but lessons they can take home to their daily lives. By messaging on our menus, marketing materials, and social and digital media (we have even added a QR code to our menu that a guest can scan and be sent directly to our GRA landing page to learn more about our certification) we hope to engage our guests in a manner that works best for their individual needs.
Xanterra manages operations in eight national parks, employs 7,400 employees, serves 7 million meals, conducts 3 million retail transactions, and lodges 1.9 million guests annually. The company purchases over 50 million in food and 2 million in chemical products per year. The Mammoth Dining Room is only one of 68 restaurants company-wide, and the success of its certification has tremendous potential for duplication not only within Xanterra's operations, but throughout the park system and food and beverage operations around the country.
A key component of the GRA certification is not only ongoing improvement and verification, but education and training. Xanterra is incorporating the message of our restaurant certification into menus, web content, newsletters, and press releases. Additionally, employee understanding and compliance with our certification is critical to the program's success. Xanterra has updated 2012 training modules to highlight the GRA certification, and is working with existing and newly created multimedia outlets to push out our message to our employees (who impact our ability to educate our guests). Creative new media, like SustainaBits (our weekly environmental dispatch) and Ecologix Mondays (on our Facebook page), ensures that our message reaches the widest audience possible. Xanterra fully understands that the path to sustainability must consist not only of quality internal environmental programs, but must also inspire our guests, National Park Service partners, and fellow concessionaires to join us in our goal to protect the world's first national park.
The exterior of the historic Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.