As demand rises for sustainable practices, industries have to adapt to the changing market to increase their competitive advantage. Jeff Benavides, a 2009 graduate from the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida, is helping to assess and improve the sustainability efforts of Central Florida’s hospitality industry to help the environment, and ultimately attract more visitors and convention clients to the area.

In November 2011, Benavides, a LEED Accredited Professional with a specialty in Operations & Maintenance, teamed up with the Hospitality Advocacy Committee to help launch Green Destination Orlando, a program which aims to make Orlando, FL the most green destination in the world.

“We determined a need to create a total sustainability experience: from the moment a visitor steps off the plane, to the transportation to their hotel, from their stay at local lodging, to their daily activities, and all the way back to the airport,” said Benavides. “This complete loop never breaks, creating a sustainability experience.”

This sustainability experience can be achieved by allowing all segments of the hospitality industry, including restaurants, shopping venues, entertainment, transportation companies, and others, to earn a Green Destination Orlando designation. The designation is awarded to those who participate in Green Destination Orlando program, which is based on a 100-point rating system that requires year-over-year improvement.

“Participants in the program have become leaders in sustainability, realized operational cost savings from various efficiency projects, and have engaged clients and customers like never before,” said Benavides.

The program’s participants currently include: Hilton Orlando, Peabody Orlando, Universal Orlando, Pointe Orlando, Rosen Shingle Creek, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida, and the Orange County Convention Center.

Today, Green Destination Orlando is recognized around the country for its vision and practical application, with the national U.S. Green Building Council promoting the program as a blueprint for other major hospitality/tourism markets wanting to create a sustainability experience.

To learn more about Green Destination Orlando visit