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Greening Up Your Travels: What Makes a Hotel Green?

Today is the second installment in my Greening Up Your Travel series.

What makes a hotel green?

"Green roof on the Victoria, BC Marriot Hotel"

Green roof on the Victoria, BC Marriot Hotel

It seems that this innocuous question has no easy answer.

There are over 800 green certifications obtainable around the world – a mind boggling number – and I can only imagine the huge amount of overlap between organizations.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is considered the gold standard but it’s a time consuming and expensive process to achieve. And LEED  certified hotels are not generally for people watching their budget.

So what can you look for to know how green a hotel is?

There are lots of hotels and hotel chains that have joined the Green Hotels Association. I like their mandate. They offer the tools for hotels to green up all aspects of their operation BUT don’t require certification. They’d rather the hotels put that time and money needed for certification back into greening up their hotel – for example buying organic cotton sheets instead of pushing paper.

Energy, waste and water are the three big areas that green styled hotels have addressed.

Before you book your next hotel, ask what they’ve done to green up their hotel or check out their websites. If they’ve done a lot, they’ll be promoting their efforts.

Energy

  • Has a thermostat been installed in every room?
  • Is the air conditioning uncomfortably cold? or heating too warm? What can you do about it?  Can you open a window?
  • Do they have ceiling fans?
  • Are compact fluorescent bulbs in use?
  • Are there timers on lights in public areas that get only sporadic use?
"Enthralled by a ceiling fan"

Enthralled by a ceiling fan

Waste

  • Do they provide a recycling option?
  • How do they handle shampoo and soap? Individual packets or dispensers? If individual do they send the partly used containers to homeless shelters or encourage you to use up the contents?
  • How often do they launder the sheets and towels? Do they give you an option?
  • Have they upgraded their washers and driers to energy efficient models?
  • If they send out the laundry, how far does it have to travel to be washed?
  • Are they asking their vendors to deliver items with minimal packaging?
  • Do they recycle the packaging?

Water

  • Are toilets low flow or are toilet tank fill diverters installed on older toilets?
  • Are low flow shower heads installed?
  • Do they have EASY to use showers? On some showers it seems to me the hot and cold are reversed.
  • Have they installed recirculating pumps so the hot water is instantly there?
  • Do they have timers on the showers?
  • In public areas do they have water-less urinals?
  • Do they ask you if you want that glass of water? Better tap water than bottled water if you’re trying to watch your energy footprint though. You can read about that in last week’s post on bottled water.
  • Do they have pools or fountains? How much water wastage occurs?
  • If there are gardens, are they using drip irrigation?

Bonus points for hotels if they do any of these things

  • Use recycled paper products – toilet paper, paper towels, hotel stationery
  • Use non toxic earth friendly cleaners (check out the cleaning cart as it goes by)
  • Provide reusable items like coffee cups, linen napkins and glasses
  • Offer reclaimed wood floors instead of carpeting
  • Use organic bedding and towels
  • Offer shampoos and creams not tested on animals
  • Source local foods in season if there’s an onsite restaurant
  • Provide bicycles for guest use
  • Offer walking maps and instructions on how to use public transit
  • Install bee hives on the roof
  • Design green roofs and plant an onsite vegetable garden

What can you do?

  • Support and encourage hotels that are making a real effort to go green.
  • Offer feedback in a non critical way on how you think they can make improvements.
  • Unplug appliances and turn off lights you don’t need.
  • Turn up the air conditioning and turn down the heat.
  • Take a short shower.
  • Hang up you towels and ask that your sheets be changed on a weekly basis only.

Have you stayed in a hotel that’s done a particularly good job of going green?

Leigh McAdam
HikeBikeTravel

Photo credit: Green roof, ceiling fan, shampoo

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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

More posts by Leigh

Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • I have stayed in a few hotels that had signs up about reusing the towels, etc., but I never checked to see what else they could be doing. This is a good guide. Thanks, Leigh!

  • I have stayed in a few hotels that had signs up about reusing the towels, etc., but I never checked to see what else they could be doing. This is a good guide. Thanks, Leigh!

  • Very informative post! These are great guidelines for people who prefer to stay in hotels that are more green. It would definitely benefit our environment if all hotels were able to follow these and not be wasteful of energy or resources.

  • Very informative post! These are great guidelines for people who prefer to stay in hotels that are more green. It would definitely benefit our environment if all hotels were able to follow these and not be wasteful of energy or resources.

  • Kurt says:

    It seems that it is hard to get businesses to look at the whole sustainable picture that goes into a carbon footprint impact. It is getting better though. Sometimes it’s not just educated customers, but the correct policies that make change..a little faster.
    I’m a huge fan of public transit. It would be nice to see more hotels and accommodations offer information on these services.

  • Green travels is a perfect way of recreation and improve your health both physical and mental. Moreover, it helps to discover traditions of other peoples. Green travel to Ukraine is an outstanding opportunity to discover Slavic soul and nature of Eastern Europe. Just see these green travel destinations http://ukraine-vacation-guide.com/publ/green_travels/13 I bet you will be happy in case you decide to have a Ukraine vacation.

  • Green travels is a perfect way of recreation and improve your health both physical and mental. Moreover, it helps to discover traditions of other peoples. Green travel to Ukraine is an outstanding opportunity to discover Slavic soul and nature of Eastern Europe. Just see these green travel destinations http://ukraine-vacation-guide.com/publ/green_travels/13 I bet you will be happy in case you decide to have a Ukraine vacation.

  • Kate says:

    This is a great post. The only sign I ever seem to see of greening at hotels is the card that says to put towels you want washed in the tub and they’ll know not to wash the others.

    Signs of greening would make me feel a hotel was more modern/progressive and definitely influence my hotel choices. Maybe more hotels should invest in this vs. modernizing decor.

    • @Kate That’s about all I ever see too and that card talking about reducing laundry doesn’t really cut it. I have come across so few hotels that try hard to improve their eco footprint.

  • @Kate That’s about all I ever see too and that card talking about reducing laundry doesn’t really cut it. I have come across so few hotels that try hard to improve their eco footprint.

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