How can one tell the difference between a truly green, eco-friendly hotel and a hotel that just says it is sustainable but doesn’t really care about its environmental and community impact?
This is a tricky question. Below some suggestions how you can determine the credibility of a hotel’s sustainability promises.
Five criteria for a green, sustainable hotel
1. Green hotels measure and monitor their impact
Hotels truly dedicated to sustainability measure and monitor things like water and electricity consumption. And they usually do this with the help of sustainable tourism certification programs, like Travelife or Green Key. Almost always hotels communicate this on their website and at the reception.
Being certified or enrolled in a certification program doesn’t mean the hotel is entirely “green”, environmentally friendly. But it means that it is working towards making its operations more sustainable.
2. Green hotels have someone in charge of sustainability
Ensuring sustainability across a hotel’s operations is a full-time job, which requires some expertise. Truly dedicated hotels have someone in charge, such as Kevin Teng at Marina Bay Sands, or Sylvain Richer de Forges at Siloso Beach Resort. Not always do they have a title like “Head of Sustainability”. Often they are in charge of Quality Assurance, and sometimes Housekeeping – areas of a hotel where eco-smart decisions are especially important.
Sometimes you’ll see a “green team” initiative presented on a hotel website. That’s a good sign, because it means people from different hotel departments come together to discuss and solve sustainability issues.
3. Green hotels provide healthy accommodation
Hotels dedicated to sustainability care about things like allergies and will offer you healthy, local food. That’s something they’ll often advertise – and rightly so. Healthy also means buildings, furniture, sheets, cleaning detergents, etc. which are non-toxic and made of natural materials. Hostal Grau in Barcelona went out of their way to ensure only healthy materials were used during their renovation work, as part of their LEED certification.
4. Green hotels are eco-smart and innovative
Responsible and smart use of water and energy is what usually first comes to mind in connection with a hotel that is green or sustainable. Some hotels, like Alto on Bourke in Melbourne, do a great job in communicating their use of renewable energy sources (wind in their case) and how they have managed to reduce consumption of water per room. Others, like Corinthia in Lisbon, might not tell you about impressive behind-the-scenes engineering and installations.
Keeping waste to a minimum is another eco-smart move, such as bulk soap dispensers and amenities made from recyclable materials. This isn’t something you’ll know before you have actually checked in though.
What we see more often now – especially in four and five star hotels – are charging stations for electric cars, and sometimes also cars for guests to use. And e-bikes are often available. Both make sense where electricity comes from renewable sources.
5. Green hotels are people-friendly
Sustainable hotels treat their staff well and care about their local community. This isn’t just charity but helps the hotel to save money, for example through happier and more productive employees who stay with the hotel longer.
Food sharing programs are great for both sides and more frequent now: hotel kitchens don’t have to throw away perfectly fine food, and local charity can distribute food to the poor. The Langham in Auckland is excelling at this.
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