How Wyndham Destinations Saves Water and Energy: Q&A with John Hodges

How Wyndham Destinations Saves Water and Energy: Q&A with John HodgesFor Wyndham Destinations, the world’s largest vacation ownership company, a conversation about energy management quickly leads to one about environmental strategy.

The two are interconnected. In 2018, the company’s physical footprint changed when Wyndham Worldwide spun off their hotels and resorts business and became Wyndham Destinations. Their current portfolio currently includes more than 220 vacation ownership resorts and 4,300 affiliated exchange properties.

“We stay up-to-date on what the science community is telling us, and we are aware we may need to set more aggressive goals,” says John Hodges, sustainability manager for Wyndham Destinations. He added that 65% of their locations are TripAdvisor GreenLeader certified at bronze or above, meaning they are committed to sustainability practices like recycling, local and organic food, and electric car charging stations.

Hodges will be speaking about going deeper with energy savings at the 2019 Environmental Leader and Energy Manager Conference in May. We caught up with him to find out how the company’s energy strategy connects with broader environmental goals like water savings.

What are Wyndham Destinations’ environmental goals and how does energy fit in?

We want to help improve the environment and make sure that our carbon footprint gets lower and lower as time goes on. We stick to the Science Based Targets for our sector. As Worldwide, we set the goal for our carbon intensity to be down 40% by 2025.

Energy obviously plays a huge role in that. We can’t get that down unless we’re efficiently managing our energy and figuring out alternative sources as well as different voluntary carbon offsets (VCOs) to hit the numbers that are important.

How does the company approach these goals?

One method is an internal certification program we created for our locations based on our managed location portfolio, which is a little more than 200 properties. The certification program is something we worked on with our QA team that visits the property once a year to give us an idea of what these properties are doing.

We can’t correct what we don’t know. The certification program is helping us drive standards within the organization. Through our program, we did an internal calculator to show locations what their ROI would be for different projects. Incandescent to LED is one of the larger savings, which we’ve done across almost every single one of our properties. It’s contributed to a 20 to 30% reduction in our carbon intensity compared to a 2010 baseline.

What about renewables?

Right now we have about 16 properties we’ve converted to solar. In 2018, we’ve seen 6.5 million kilowatt hours of energy produced. We definitely want to push that more. Our WorldMark by Wyndham vacation club resorts have really taken to solar.

We can only do it in locations where it makes sense, but in 2018 alone we installed two new locations. From 2016 to 2018, we’ve seen about a 150% increase in energy usage from renewables, and that’s all due to solar. We’re starting to see a high return on solar, which is great. It’s a start.

Is there a specific example involving solar?

We have a property in California, the WorldMark Big Bear, that has done a lot with energy and water together. About 90% of their electrical output per year comes from solar. They really took this and flew with it.

Water-wise, they replaced a lot of the grass with a special turf that saved tons of money on landscaping and watering the grass. This helped on the energy side, too. The sprinkler systems that were removed, a good amount of energy was saved from that. You’re saving on the maintenance and the upkeep. The City of Big Bear recognized them during the drought for reducing their water usage.

WorldMark Big Bear is Green Key certified and TripAdvisor GreenLeaders silver. They also reduced their overall energy usage intensity (EUI) by about 15% year-over-year. And we’re just getting started with energy audits at the property.

What is the biggest hurdle for making these changes, and how do you address it?

For a property trying to manage their P&L, money is a huge factor. Change is very hard for everybody, but convincing them to put the capital down is the hardest hurdle that we have to get over.

There are tools and resources that show the opportunity. With lighting, for example, a simple calculator helped people see that, yes, you have to buy all new light bulbs, but the difference in wattage equals this savings on your bill. Let’s say you’re putting $50,000 down, but you’re going to save $60,000 in the first year and then every year after that. They really need to see the ROI.

Did changing to Wyndham Destinations affect your goals?

We’ve been working with the DOE on the Better Buildings Challenge to reduce energy usage for 10 million square feet through the EPA’s platform. Wyndham Worldwide used to have a 20% reduction in energy intensity by 2020 goal. Now that our footprint has changed and half of those locations are no longer in our portfolio, we’re going to be setting a new goal with them.

That partnership is great. As a company, it keeps us in line. They’re not holding our feet to the fire, but it’s showing that we’re moving forward to lower our EUI.

John Hodges will be speaking at the 4th Annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference (ELEMCON) May 13 – 15, 2019 in Denver.

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