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“It has absolutely helped us to have such a focus on sustainability.” These are the words of Ed Sutor, President of Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, Dover, Del. I spoke with Ed recently for an article I posted this past week on the property’s sustainability initiatives. I had asked Ed whether or not what Dover Downs does in the area of sustainability brings in new business. “We reply to RFPs all the time,” Ed told me. “Inevitably, one of the questions is: ‘Describe your green program.’ It is critical to getting conventions.”

One example of an event that Dover Downs will be hosting this year is Sustain 2016, the Mid-Atlantic’s Annual Hospitality Conference, on March 14 to 15. I will be moderating a session at that event entitled, “Innovation All Stars: Case Studies of Three Companies Determined to Make Our World More Sustainable.” Panelists will include: William F. Kratzer, Chief Technology Officer, BioHiTech America; Justin Fishkin, Chief Strategy Officer, Local Motors; and Micah Green, CEO, Maidbot. Be sure to attend the event if you can.

Whenever I write an article on a property, I try to learn something new. From my conversation with Ed, I came to a better understanding of the unique challenges that a hotel/casino faces when trying to find the capital to invest in green technologies. Ed told me Dover Downs operates in a state with a gaming tax rate of 62 percent. At one time that was 25 percent. Dover Downs also operates in a gaming region that is becoming increasingly more competitive. In 1996 there were 15 casinos in the Mid-Atlantic region. Today there are 28 with more opening this year. Dover Downs created a website to explain its positive impact on Delaware and the economic environment in which it conducts business.

Dover Downs has many of the same environmental challenges most of you face but probably on a larger scale. The hotel has 500 rooms. There are multiple restaurants, a casino, horse racing, and entertainment—all on 80 acres.

Significant Increase in Recycling, Food Waste Diversion

Dover Downs has been particularly effective at getting a handle on waste. At one time 10 percent was being recycled. “We set a goal of 50 percent and for the last five or six years we have been at 60 percent,” Ed told me. “We have inspectors who look through trash. We empower people in housekeeping to monitor the trash.” Food waste has been separated from other trash the last couple of years. Since last July about 10 tons a week of food waste has been sent to a waste-to-energy facility.

Dover Downs has also done a great job keeping its energy consumption in check. In 2007 the property completed an expansion that included three restaurants and additional casino space. Even with the expansion, energy consumption remained the same. Dover Downs relied on an outside company to help with energy efficiency. “We revamped the entire building,” Ed says. “We focused a lot on our BAS (building automation system) by maximizing efficiency and balancing air flows. It was about a one-year project beginning in 2006 and paid for itself in three years.” One recent example of an energy-saving step: Last May, 350 parking lot lights were replaced with LEDs. Wattage per lamp was reduced from 250 watts to 78 watts. Interestingly, at one time Dover Downs guests were given a $5 coupon to use on property if they bypassed linen replacement. That program was stopped and now all linens are not changed. That works because most Dover Downs guests stay just one night.

Dover Downs Hotel & Casino sources much of its food from within a 150-mile radius, works with sustainable seafood partners, and utilizes seasonal vegetables and bulk oil systems. Suppliers with sustainability programs are favored. At Sustain 2016 there will be a Sea-to-Table lunch on March 15.

These are just some of the steps Dover Downs has taken to reduce its environmental impact. I am looking forward to seeing the above green initiatives and others in person at Sustain 2016. If you attend, be sure to look for me and introduce yourself.