Per person, an average hotel stay generates 44 pounds of CO2 emissions. Add a thousand miles of air travel to that at 903 pounds of CO2 per person, and you’ve already racked up a pretty sum.
These days, there’s a lot of importance placed upon being green – or going green, as the case may be. Even travellers are becoming more aware of the ecological footprint they leave behind, whether in the form of CO2 emissions from airplane or car fuel, their use of disposable Styrofoam cups or having their dirty hotel towels and linens laundered every day.
There are, of course, best practice tips for travelers with an ecological bent. For instance, ask your hotel room attendant to change your linens and towels every other day rather than every day (or less!), since laundering sheets and towels uses energy, water and detergent, or bring your own toiletries instead of using those provided by the hotel to minimize the use of plastic. Sometimes when you travel, however, you want to think bigger. Green lodging can be a great way to make sure that your hotel is practicing the same level of environmentalism you are.
A green lodge is defined as a hotel, motel, resort or inn that meets certain standards for environmental responsibility put in place by the state. (States with programs include California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.) This certification identifies facilities which implement continuing programs to minimize pollution, conserve natural resources and reduce waste.
So what should you look for when you’re trying to find a green hotel?
First of all, check to see if a building is LEED certified. LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” The LEED rating system is rigorous, and companies who are LEED certified have invested a lot of time and money to make sure their buildings are the best in sustainability and design. LEED rates firms on their use of sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, water efficiency, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality. (Read here to learn more about LEED certification.)
Look for a hotel with a recycling/composting program, a zero Styrofoam use policy, a compost to gray water program or an ozone laundry plan. Some hotels even ask vendors to deliver products in minimal wrapping or choose vendors who are also committed to green practices.
So why should you choose a green hotel?
Though you might not contribute significantly to a hotel’s level of energy use, think about how much energy is used when you have a whole hotel full of individuals. A hotel that has implemented energy-saving measures such as ceiling fans, linen cards, lights out cards, and motion sensor-activated lights, reduces the amount of energy it uses, while low-flow showerheads and toilets, waterless urinals and toilet tank fill diverters cut down on the amount of water. Being green is also better for guests, management and staff alike, as it decreases exposure to harmful fumes and odors or toxic residues.
Luckily, hotels are listening to the demands of their guests. A survey conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) shows that the US lodging industry is continuing its efforts to go green. 68% of the hotels surveyed said that they’ve installed energy efficient LED lighting (upper upperscale hotels won the category with 78%.) 59% of hotels have recycling programs, up from 32% in 2004, while 75% of hotels have water saving programs, a dramatic increase from 20% in 2004.
Think of traveling as its own ecosystem. Though you might be the smallest part of the chain, every decision you make influences the next level. When you chose to stay in a green hotel, you’re voting with your wallet. You’re ensuring that hoteliers notice the value of going green. Before you book a hotel, don’t be afraid to ask about the hotel’s environmental practices, and if you’re interested in finding strictly green hotels, check out Green Lodge, a complete guide to researching, analyzing and booking green hotels. It lists hotels that participate in the Energy Star program or have won other sustainability awards. Or try I Stay Green.
For further reading, check out Green Lodging News, the lodging industry’s environmental newsletter.