New Jersey's hotel industry is one of the best places to save energy and increase efficiency, said Ky Asral, and the state is taking steps to help the profusion of smaller hotels upgrade their gear to get greener.

Asral is manager of the small-business assistance program with the state Department of Environmental Protection. He introduced speakers Oct. 19 when the DEP hosted its first Green Hotel Workshop at Atlantic Cape Community College.

The workshop was part of the Garden State Green Hotel Project, which seeks to increase energy efficiency and decrease greenhouse gases while at the same time conserving water and reducing waste and hazardous materials.

The $360,000 project is funded equally by the state and federal agencies. Asral said the state planned to use the money to promote the energy efficiency programs as well as conduct 120 energy audits on the state's small hotels. Other plans include three more workshops, letters to the state's hotels and additional training at Atlantic Cape for 60 hotels.

Small hotels, typically with fewer than 150 rooms, dominate the state's hotel industry. About 70 percent of the state's 1,100 hotels are small, Asral said. Unlike national chains, these mom-and-pop hotels may not have access to capital to make green improvements.

At the workshop, hotel operators talked about the return on investment for efficiency programs, while others laid out the case for recycling and water conservation.

Doug Shattuck, a state clean-energy consultant, told the roomful of hotel operators about programs in which the state would essentially pay for most of the costs associated with a new boiler, light fixtures or heating and ventilation systems - potentially tens of thousands of dollars of savings.

"You save the money, we benefit from clean air," Asral said after Shattuck finished speaking.

Among those who attended was Bob Patel, one of the owners of the 110-room Baymont Inn and Suites on the Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Township. He said he and his partners also own the Country Inn in Millville, Econo Lodge in Somers Point and Howard Johnson hotel in Hammonton.

During a break, he spoke with representatives of companies, including Rich Energy Solutions of Northfield, which sought to find ways to save money otherwise spent on utilities.

Other vendors catered to the hospitality trade, selling higher-efficiency shower heads and laundry machines, as well as greener industrial-strength cleaning products.

Patel, 45, of Egg Harbor Township, said the hotel already has installed motion detectors in the rooms with an eye toward reducing power consumption when a guest has left the room.

The sensors, installed six months ago, seem to be limiting energy usage, he said.

Baymont typically spends $5,000 to $10,000 on electricity and about $1,000 on natural gas per month, Patel said.

The event provided good information on how to become more energy efficient, he said.

"Good for the Earth, good for the bills," he said, noting "so, if I save 10 percent, it's like $500, $600 in my pocket."

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