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Environmental Issues in the Hospitality Industry

Control of Pesticides, Fertilizers, Cleaners, Wastewater, Sewage

The world and the people, in general, are increasingly becoming conscious of the impacts that their activities have on the environment. The environment is now a contemporary question in various spheres of human life. Traditionally, the impact on the environment was concentrated on the industries, but modern-day researchers and scholars are looking at many other areas. One of these areas is the hospitality industry. The hospitality industry is broad and offers a variety of services.

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Some offer sports services such as a golf course and swimming pools while others like resorts offer leisure activities such as skiing and boating. Researchers have found that there is a huge negative impact that the hospitality industry has on the environment. As such, environmental activists have lobbied for legislation of laws that seek to control the negative impact and ensure mitigation of the environmental hazards caused by the hospitality industry (Albo, 2002).

In dealing with the hospitality industry, one needs to look at the activities that most likely contribute negatively to the environment. The golf industry is one of the most popular sports activities that fall under the hospitality industry. Another critical sporting activity is skiing, which is mainly offered in resorts. Golfing activities are often undertaken in golf courses. However, the establishment of such courses often requires the use of pesticides to ensure that they are well manicured. The use of these pesticides raises issues on the impact they have on the environment. Given the level of concern that activists in the environmental sector have shown, this issue cannot be taken lightly (Ali & Rafiqul, 2008).

Another area of concern is in the construction of golf courses. The mention of a golf course often evokes the sight of a green and beautiful landscape. However, the construction of a golf course is not as rosy as one may imagine. This involves heavy earth moving equipment, and the landscape is mainly bare soil. Environmental researchers have often said that natural ecosystems become vulnerable whenever they are disturbed.

Although the effects of construction are temporary, it is possible that whenever these areas undergo construction, their capacity to recover will probably be destroyed. It is prudent that before construction is done, the effect that the construction will have on the environment should be identified. In addition, the evaluation of the effects of the construction and the operations should be done (Anguita, Alonso, & Martín 2008).

The construction of a golf course is often a two-sided sword. While the result is what many consider scenic and natural sites, the construction process is the exact opposite. Golf courses are normally constructed in the most natural and scenic sites. Some of the most popular sites are areas that have rivers, lakes, and oceans, the areas close to forests, and even at the foot of mountains. This involves the clearing of natural vegetation whereby natural landscapes are deconstructed. The habitats are also changing with the clearing of natural vegetation and change of topography. This clearing of vegetation has a direct effect on increasing soil erosion.

Soil erosion subsequently increases the amount of soil that goes to the water bodies. There is also the chance of increasing the ions in areas near the rivers, which causes unwanted nutrient enrichment. This was the case during the construction of Meadow Springs, a golf course located in Jefferson within Wisconsin state. The management of the golf course did not bother to obtain a permit to discharge the water that would flow from their construction site. The management did not consider a plan to control erosion before proceeding with the construction (Hudson & Miller 2005). Furthermore, golf courses have a selected species of grass, which is often foreign to the habitat of the golf course; this means the grass will require more fertilizer.

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Another area that is hazardous to the environment is in the operations of a golf course: to ensure there is green vegetation in such extensive lands, some golf courses use fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides in large proportions. The large scale use of these chemicals has tremendous negative effects on the environment. Organisms that come into contact with these chemicals will be damaged. Environmental activists have found out that a huge number of golf courses in the US apply different chemicals on a large scale.

According to Scott and Becken (2010), an average of 1500kg of Agrochemicals is used in golf courses within one year. Some of these Agrochemicals are well known to be carcinogenic. The study also found that 90% of chemicals that are sprayed on golf courses finally end up in the air. Thus, when compared to the amount used in large-scale agriculture, it was found to be severe.

Golf courses have also been found to be notorious for impacting negatively on wildlife. Exposure to chemicals is often lethal to wildlife. For example, Young (2000) reported that the management at Sapporo Kokusai country club, which is located in Hiroshima, Japan, used organic copper compounds on the grass to prevent rotting during the winter seasons. However, once it rained, the chemicals were washed and flowed to into the water system, where it found its way into a nearby aquaculture project. The effect was that 90000 fish in the project died from the compound-contaminated water.

Golf courses bring with them other developments. Houses, entertainment houses, resorts, and hotels tend to be attracted to areas that have golf courses. All these developments require space. As such, there is further deforestation and clearing of forests to pave the way for this infrastructure. In this case, the establishment of a golf course has some indirect negative impact on the environment. Another negative effect associated with golf courses is water consumption.

A golf course of 18 holes will, on a rough estimate, consume between three thousand and five thousand cubic meters of water on a daily basis. This amount of water could have otherwise been used in meeting the daily water needs of two thousand families. Given that most of the golf courses are located in areas that suffer from the scarcity of water, water wastage is also an environmental concern.

Ski resorts are largely dependent on stable and favorable environmental conditions. Therefore, it means that the ski industry has an important role in ensuring that the environment is safe. The ski industry cannot be eliminated. The industry is a favorite recreational activity for many people. Furthermore, the industry continues to reap economic benefits. Therefore, the solution is to put in place mitigation measures that ensure there are minimal negative impacts on the environment. These negative effects that are a result of ski resorts include wastage of water, as mentioned earlier, clearing of land for the resorts and hotels that come to supplement the resort.

Skiing is a sporting activity that is mainly undertaken in the most natural habitats such as mountain tops. However, the flip side is that these ecosystems are the most vulnerable. Good environmental practices, which are initiated by both the management of resorts and the local and federal government, aimed at reducing the impact of these activities on the environment

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Swimming pools have also been found to lead to the wastage of water, especially in areas where recycling is not done. If the water in a swimming pool was to be wasted on a daily basis, water wastage occurs since there are families in the US who suffer constant water shortages. This water would go a long way in meeting their needs.

Golf is not the only activity in the hospitality industry that has a negative impact on the environment. The ski industry has often been dismissed when looking at the environmental impact of various industries. However, while the impact may be perceived to be low, environmental activists are now putting pressure on the stakeholders in this industry to ensure that the environment is protected. The vulnerable area that needs to be looked at in skiing includes the planning, design, and construction; energy conservation and clean energy; waste disposal; safety of aqua life; vegetative management; the quality of air, visual quality, as well as education and outreach (Barrett, 2003).

Several of the activities that are done during skiing have a significant effect on the environment. From the beginning of the journey, say to the Alps, there is the use of carbon dioxide as one uses a plane to reach his or her favorite skiing destination. After reaching the destination, one may have to use other fuel consuming machines to get to the peak. At the peak, skiing is done on artificial snow. This snow is made by machines that are energy-intensive. This is especially the case in areas where skiing is done indoors, and the temperatures are extremely high such as the Middle East. In such a warming world, the effects of snow-making are many. Snow-making requires a heavy amount of water. The excess use and wastage of water often lead to the drying of rivers.

Snow-making may be perceived to be an innocent commercial activity. However, the continued operation of ski resorts through the use of artificial snow has a negative impact on our environment. Firstly, the activity is water-intensive, which means it results in the wastage of water. Secondly, the artificial snow is spread in the resorts through the use of machines that are energy-intensive. The water consumed in ski resorts is a lot; about 75,000 gallons of water are required to cover a 40,000 square foot area. This compares to less than an acre with six inches of snow (Agrawala & Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development 2007). Furthermore, skiing is mainly done during the winter. As such, most of the snow-making is done during this season. However, the levels of natural water are at their lowest during the winter. This means the process of snow-making will strain the aqua ecosystem. Thirdly, chemical scientists have found out that artificial snow takes much longer to melt than natural snow. This means that once the snow is applied and distributed in the resort during the winter season, the snow will mean much later in the spring. The flip side is that the snow will cause erosion as it will be finding its way into the nearby water systems. Further, the flowing snow tends to disrupt the wildlife during the spring.

Snow-making is also a tricky activity in areas that were regarded as mining zones. Abandoned quarries contain acid-mine drainage. This drainage will pollute the water supplies that are located in the area. The ski resorts have no way of finding out that the water systems that they use in snow-making are contaminated, which means they will use this contaminated water in making the artificial snow. EPA has not set the standards for the quality of snow that should be used in making artificial snow. The heavy metals that are contained in this contaminated water have a lethal effect on the aqua species when they finally flow to the water bodies.

The other major issue with snow-making is that there are high amounts of energy needed for the whole process to occur. The snow-making equipment manufactures snow that is unevenly distributed. As such, there is normally a process where the snow is grinned using heavy equipment. This heavy equipment pollutes the air through the emission of carbon monoxide and oil leaks.

Cases – Federal/States

There is an incident in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where local groups had tried with no success to stop the construction of a golf course. The court ruled that the construction would continue, but it also led to the migration of some local species of birds that had built nests near the area (Milne, LeMense & Virginia, 2009). In another study, the author found that the application of an insecticide named diazinon at a golf course had resulted in the death of 700 geese and other bird species. However, the local community went to the court, which banned the chemical from any use in golf courses within the United States. However, this was after five years of litigation. Golf courses pose dangers to wildlife and humans due to the harmful effects of chemicals.

The insecticides used on golf courses pose a threat to the humans who come into contact with them. These people include golfers, their caddies, and even those who reside close to the golf courses. Some researchers undertook to find out the cause of death for most of those whose daily life involved being on the golf course. Although the study did not find a link between the death of the sample population and chemical exposure, they found that a high number of those sampled had died from certain cancers, among them brain cancer.

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In one well known and highly publicized case, 30-year-old Lieutenant George Prior was taken ill after playing golf. George died three weeks later, and his autopsy showed the cause of death to be exposed from an insecticide called chlorothalonil that is mainly used on golf courses (Carlsen & Butler, 2011).

The realization that golf courses and resorts, through the issues raised above, have a tremendous and negative effect on the environment has led to the introduction of regulations by both the government and Golfers associations. In Colorado, there are four major regulations that are observed by golf courses. The regulations can be categorized into four major categories: solid and hazardous wastes, pesticides, water bodies, as well as endangered species. A look at these sample regulations can help in understanding the regulations carried out in the US on golf courses.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated Colorado to ensure the enforcement of the solid and hazardous waste management regulations. The power given to Colorado to implement these regulations is equal to the federal powers. In this context, solid wastes refer to any discarded material waste-like material such as grass clipping, leaves, aerosol cans, pesticide containers, among other trashes that one is likely to find on a golf course.

On the other hand, hazardous waste refers to the wastes that are corrosive, reactive, or toxic. It is the responsibility of the golf course to determine and find out which of its solid wastes are hazardous and dispose of them appropriately. Furthermore, universal wastes refer to those wastes that can be recycled. In this group, there are spent batteries, some selected pesticides, discarded fluorescent bulbs, and aerosol cans. Colorado regulations require the golf course to take measures that ensure that the recyclable waste is recycled at their own cost. On the other hand, used oil is commonly a waste product in golf courses. The regulation in Colorado requires golf courses to dispose of the used oil or ensure that it is disposed of as stipulated in the regulations.

Under the pesticides, Colorado is mandated to regulate the following: fertilizer storage, pesticide use and storage, protection of workers and general, as well as controlled-use pesticides. The regulations require that those individuals who are responsible for applying the controlled pesticides are trained and licensed. These pesticides are thoroughly controlled because they have harmful effects if not well handled. In this case, the restrictions refer to any pesticide used in a golf course, and that is either banned by the federal or the state government (Barrett, 2003).

Further, in Colorado, all golf courses located near water bodies are required by law to obtain a permit. The permit is given for those golf courses that are able to show how they will safely discharge material in these water bodies, which may be a pond, a lake, or a river. Colorado also implements the endangered species act. In the spirit of ensuring endangered species are protected, the division of wildlife in Colorado has provided a list of species that are considered endangered. As such, authorities are supposed to determine if the construction of a golf course affects the existence of the listed endangered species.

Federal/State/Local Regulations

Other than the local and federal authorities, there are other associations that strive to ensure stakeholders in the golf industry. One such association is the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). The organization is committed to keeping its members updated on the best practices in golf course maintenance and upkeep. They have an educational program on environmental management. This program touches on six important areas, which include employee safety, golf course management; combined pest management; storage disposal and recycling, water quality, and application.

Industry players have set their own regulations, as evidenced by the National Ski Areas Association, which has launched a campaign to ensure its members are committed to reducing the impact skiing has on the environment. The association has established standards on water and energy usage, as well as habitat protection. As much as these internal associations try to regulate, there is still a challenge on where to focus their strategies on sustainability.

It is prudent that the responsibility of ensuring environmental friendliness is not only left to individual resorts but also to those local and federal authorities that should play a role in implementing a legal framework to guide the activities of resorts. The number one problem is the emission of carbon dioxide by planes. A look at this question will show that the mitigation of this risk cannot be achieved by an individual resort. In this case, even if the resorts were only restricted to locals, it would be tantamount to killing the industry since the ski economy relies on visitors from around the globe. The resorts have attempted to mitigate this by offering carbon offsets to travelers from the hotels to the lifts. Another step has been a campaign by a few individual resorts that have launched campaigns to educate their customers on environmentally friendly and efficient traveling.

Comparison with Foreign Laws

The legal framework governing the mitigation of the environmental hazards caused by resorts is not very well established in most countries. However, this does not mean that all resorts are not making an effort to develop clear and watertight mitigation measures. Resorts are increasing borrowing from other well developed legal frameworks other than that in the federal or state laws. It is commendable that there are some countries that have established clear legal frameworks.

Examples of such counties include Bolivia, Switzerland, and Zanzibar. Other international bodies have come up with guidelines on the best mitigation strategies that should be used in resorts. One of the legal frameworks is on the amount of time that ski resorts are open. While the US has no certain laws that guide the time and duration that the ski resorts operate (often operating the entire four months of the winter season), Switzerland has regulations that are both voluntary and others enforced by the government. These regulations require the resorts to open for only a hundred days to ensure that there is minimal impact on the environment.

Management Suggestions

Resorts have a lot that they can do in ensuring sustainability and reduction of the negative impacts that emanate from the activities undertaken in their facilities. These areas include the manufacture of artificial snow, lifts, as well as resort maintenance and expansions. In this regard, as has been mentioned, snow-making is water and energy-intensive; on the other hand, ski lifts rely on energy, and their construction may involve clearing of land, which most likely is in a mountain- an ecological habitat. The development or expansion involves the clearing of land, which impacts negatively on the environment in terms of displacing the ecological habitat (Balogh & Walker 1992).

However, with good management practices, it is possible for all stakeholders to mitigate the environmental risks posed by resorts, golf courses, swimming pools, and shorelines. The improvement of the snow-making, chairlift, and trail maintenance should be an area where attention is put by players in the ski industry. Thus, with efficiency, the resources used also decline. Although the measures are short term, they are helpful even as other long term measures are being considered.

It is important to note that each of these mitigation measures has its challenges when it comes to implementation. One of the ways that the process of snow-making can be made efficient is by reducing the amount of water and energy that is used in this process. This can be done by using better and enhanced technology. Another measure can be to use alternative energy and avoid the use of fuel and oils, which are prone to leaks. Some of the alternative energy that can be used includes wind energy or electricity. Finally, there is a need for management in ski resorts to ensure regular monitoring of equipment.

This is to avoid some of the disastrous occurrences such as oil leaks, which threatens aqua life when left to flow into the water bodies. Ensuring that the equipment is efficient also ensures that the process is efficient and thus avoids wastage of resources such as water and energy (Swarbrooke, 1998).

Resorts have also been urged to ensure that they have an alternative supply of water during the winter season. As mentioned earlier, natural water is at its lowest during the winter season. Therefore, it is prudent to ensure that resorts have stored water in human-made ponds, which can be used during the manufacture of snow during the winter season. Progressive resorts are now building reservoirs for this purpose. Another process as important as snow-making is the maintenance of chairlifts and trails.

Chairlifts have their own negative effects on our environment. Those lifts that are below the tree line will normally require the paths cleared through the cutting down of the trees. Cutting downs in areas that are ecologically vulnerable means that the habitat is most likely going to be fragmented through the disturbance that is unleashed on the wildlife. Chairlifts also tend to come along with trails, and their effects on the environment are closely linked.

The first impact is on pollution. Both of these systems are run by fuel, which means they emit carbon monoxide and other toxic gases. This pollution destroys the habitat and leads to habitat fragmentation. Fragmentation is caused by a change in the natural ecology. For example, it can be caused by the cutting of trees or clearing of vegetation that is often the case whenever the chairlifts and trails are being established.

Just like the snow-making process, chair lifts and trails are energy-intensive. Considerable energy is consumed in their operations. There are a number of resorts that have normally used fuels such as diesel, which emit harmful gases such as carbon monoxide into the air. However, there have been a number of progressive resorts that have embraced the use of biodiesel fuel to mitigate this risk. In general, there is not much that ski resorts to ensure their trails and chairlifts are environmentally friendly. However, there is a need to ensure that only the most efficient technology is used in these activities.

The other environmental issue concerning resorts is the effect that ski resorts on other players in the hospitality industry. Ski resorts tend to attract other players in the hospitality industry. These include hotels and lodges. The activities result in significant runoff from the paved areas and the demand for roads and parking increases. The effect is that there is more clearing of land and vegetation. Clearing of natural habitats has its own disadvantages, which we discussed earlier.

Some of the results include increased soil erosion, as well as the disruption and segmentation of the natural habitat. Good environmental practices in some of the progressive countries have seen the establishment of these facilities in designated areas. This is a concept where authorities undertake studies to find out which areas are most suitable for the development of resorts without causing much damage to the natural habitat.

There is a general agreement that the enforcing of mitigation strategies and measures is important. There is no general agreement on if the mitigation strategies should be enforced through a legal framework or voluntary programs. The programs would go a long way in expressing confidence in the resort management and thus ensure their cooperation. However, they may not be as effective. It would also be unfair for the other player’s in the hospitality industry, such as hotels, which are bound by government regulations.

However, given that there are very few precedents in the US courts on the handling of this question, it is important that the two work hand in hand. This means that while as individual resorts, through individual or association efforts, may regulate and enforce mitigation strategies. There should be a legal framework that should guide these mitigation structures. These mitigation strategies should be enforced by both local and federal authorities to ensure that they are strictly followed (Anguita, Alonso, & Martín 2008).

One thing that is for sure is that the maintenance of safe environmental practices is something that players in the hospitality industry have to accept. Researchers have found out that there is a huge negative impact that the hospitality industry has on the environment. As such, environmental activists continue lobbying for legislation of laws that seek to control the negative impact, as well as to ensure mitigation of the environmental hazards caused by the hospitality industry.

However, the challenge is that there is nothing that can be done to ensure zero impact on the environment unless the industry is banned. Banning some of these activities such as skiing or golf would have a tremendous negative effect on the economy. Another thing is that even the minimization of health hazards is an expensive affair as it involves the use of the most advanced technology. To ensure a balance of these factors, there is a need for the government and its agencies to come up with a more comprehensive legal framework to guide the operation of resorts, especially in areas that affect the environment.


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