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Area inns undergoing checkups for best practices

Program aims to reduce waste, energy consumption

The Best Western PepperTree Airport Inn has become a laboratory for the Washington Lodging Association and Washington Department of Ecology, which are looking for ways to improve the industry’s environmental practices.

Auditors from Cascadia Consulting Group walked through the 100-room inn at the Interstate 90 Geiger Exit Tuesday, testing water tap and shower flows, checking lighting, and getting briefed on heat-pump heating and cooling units that will increase guest comfort.

In return for the checkups funded by DOE, PepperTree owner Rita Santillanes has agreed to adopt three technologies or policies that further reduce waste and energy consumption at inns in Spokane, Liberty Lake, Omak and Auburn. Three in Snoqualmie and Seattle owned by Columbia Hospitality also were selected for the Greening Washington’s Lodging Industry Program, said Lodging Association President Jan Simon Aridj.

The owners will also host seminars and conduct tours, she said, and the association will make the information about best practices available on its website.

Cascadia auditor Amity Lumper said PepperTree is already ahead of the industry curve.

Most lighting is compact fluorescent or LED, she noted, rooms have recycling containers, and soap and shampoo are available in bulk dispensers instead of the mini-plastic bottles common to most hotels.

Dehumidifiers over the pool not only remove moist, hot air, they contain heat-transfer coils that help warm water cycled through from the pool.

Chase Santillanes, PepperTree’s revenue manager, said the family started by taking advantage of incentives for more efficient lighting. Energy savings quickly recouped the $30,000 investment, so PepperTree went looking for other ways to save, he said.

In Spokane, Inland Power & Light Co. is participating by installing heat-pump units, some to be coupled with motion sensors that reduce electricity use compared with conventional heating and cooling equipment, said Dan Villalobos, Inland energy services specialist.

“This is what we consider an emerging technology project,” he said.

Rita Santillanes said younger family and staff members encouraged her to get PepperTree involved in green practices, and younger guests appreciate the effort. The company is working on ways to explain to all guests how the changes are beneficial, she said.

Santillanes also sits on the Best Western national design board, where she said she hopes to explain the economies of environment-minded changes.

“The hotel owners do not always understand the savings,” she said.