Reading this article about "Green Hotels" I wondered if being 100% smoke-free is part of the check list?
Greening the Hotel Industry One Eco-Property at a Time
April 20, 2007 — By Heleigh Bostwick for ENN
With eco-tourism on the rise,
eco-hotels are fast becoming the darling of the travel and hospitality
industry. These days however, staying at an eco-hotel doesn't
necessarily mean vacationing in a tree house in the Costa Rican jungle,
although that is definitely an option.
The majority of eco-hotels fall into one of several categories; hotels
and resorts that conserve ecologically significant habitats, "green"
hotels that reduce, recycle, minimize waste, and conserve water,
sustainable hotels that harvest food from gardens on the hotel property
or obtain part or all of their power from renewable energy, hotels that
encourage community involvement such as guests participating in trail
clearing, and hotels that offer some form of environmental education to
As such, eco-hotels are a diverse bunch. Sophisticated urban
hotels like Intercontinental The Willard Washington, D.C. focus on
energy conservation whereas The Rosario Resort & Spa on Orcas
Island in Washington state offers a wildly popular "green" vacation
package where guests can "take a hike, clear a trail, and enjoy a
vacation" and in return receive a special "green" rate. Gyreum is a
hostel in Sligo, Ireland that is oriented towards the sunrises and
sunsets of the summer and winter solstices, uses sheep wool insulation,
is powered by the sun and wind, and has a living roof as well as an
organic garden. There's even a "green" cruise ship that bills itself as
"The World--Sailing Through Green Waters".
Then of course, there's the granddaddy of eco-resorts, the
Maho Bay Camps in St. John, US Virgin Islands. When Maho Bay first
opened its doors in 1976, the words eco-hotel and eco-tourism did not
even exist. Maho Bay was constructed using recycled materials and
harnesses the power of the sun and wind to generate electricity. It has
received numerous awards and accolades over the years including a
Commendation Award at the 2000 Green Globe Achievement Awards and 2003
Environmental Quality Award from the United States Environmental
Protection Agency. It also remains one of the most popular eco-resorts
in the world with a return rate of more than 80%.
No matter what you call them, eco-hotel, eco-lodge,
eco-resort, or green hotel, they're all part of the "greening" of the
tourism industry, representing a conscience effort on the part of
hotels to promote themselves as environmentally, and quite often
socially, conscience entities.
Part of what drives this greening of the hotel industry is no doubt
competition. Going green is yet another way to distinguish themselves
from the multitude of other excellent hotels that consumers have to
choose from, but for many hotels including Maho Bay, Fairmont Hotels
& Resorts, and smaller eco-boutique hotels like The Ambrose in
Santa Monica, California, it's also part and parcel of their corporate
philosophy. With the concept of "going green" firmly entrenched in
consumers' minds, eco-hotels take it to the next level, and whether or
not money is the driving factor behind the greening of the hotel
industry doesn't matter so much as that it's good for the planet.
Instituting "green" policies, programs and initiatives in the areas of
water usage, energy efficiency, and indoor environmental quality, in
what hotels call "back of house operations", is a large part of the
greening of the hotel industry. So is eco-hospitality, using non-toxic
cleaning supplies for instance. Many hotels also offer "green packages"
or institute policies that allow guests with hybrid vehicles to park
free. After all, a majority of hotels are in urban and suburban areas
and not in pristine natural surroundings.
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has been at the forefront of the "green"
hotel movement for more than a decade. Their Green Partnership program
guide was instituted in 1990 and has since been used as the prototype
for other hotels including Four Seasons and Hyatt. It focuses on
sustainability according to Environmental Affairs Director Michelle
White, encompassing everything from recycling and organic waste
diversion in the hotel's kitchens to retrofitting energy efficient
lighting, purchasing green power, and employing alternate energy
technology As part of its eco-hospitality efforts, Fairmont provides
in-room recycling and recently launched Eco-Meet, a green meeting and
conference option. It also plans to introduce organic or biodynamic
wines and menus prepared with locally grown foods this spring.
On a smaller scale, eco-boutique hotels such as The Ambrose also
consider themselves to be what Deirdre Wallace, a hotel developer and
owner of The Ambrose, calls sustainable hotels. "We don't use toxic
chemicals for cleaning, the carpets are being replaced with
eco-friendly ones. All of the paint we use is low VOC (volatile organic
compounds) and 15% of our power comes from renewable energy. We serve
an organic breakfast and the mini bar stocked with healthy choices,"
Then, there are hotels like the Fairmont Pittsburgh scheduled to open
in 2009 that are planned and built with sustainability in mind from the
start. Many of them, Fairmont Pittsburgh included, are aiming for LEED
certified gold, a trend that is expected to gain momentum as green
building becomes the industry standard. LEED, which is the acronym for
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a voluntary national
standard for the design and development of sustainable buildings.
Wallace is also building a second eco-boutique hotel in Venice
Beach, CA that she describes as an eco-luxury full service hotel. Built
on the site of the former studio of modern design pioneers Charles and
Ray Eames, The Ray Hotel is considered an adaptive re-use project that
Wallace says will use solar panels on the roof and gray water systems
to conserve water. "We're keeping a large percentage of the original
building to house guests and building a new wing that will house a
small retail shop selling sustainable high design goods and a green spa
with natural and organic spa treatments," says Wallace.
Wallace's goal is to have the hotel become LEED certified gold in the
adaptive re-use category. Scheduled to break ground this year she says
the plans for Ray Hotel are now at city hall awaiting approvals from
the planning commission. When asked why she decided to go for LEED
certification, Wallace's answer is simple. "Sustainability is part of
our company's values and green building is highly respected in the
The proliferation of eco-hotels has given rise to the need for a set of
certification standards and agencies to govern the green technologies
and environmental practices used by these eco-hotels. Without a
certification process in place, any hotel could call itself an
eco-hotel even if it's only claim to "green" fame was recycling.
"Today, there are now hundreds of environmental programs,
eco-labels, and certification schemes worldwide, sponsored by industry
associations, national or local governments, and non-governmental
organizations. In Europe and the Americas, two separate initiatives are
underway to accredit the certification schemes and help consumers sort
through the myriad of programs," says Bill Meade, head of the
environment and tourism unit at PA Consulting Group.
For example, the luxury eco-tourism resort Tres Ríos in the
Riviera Maya was recently awarded by SEMARNAT, the organization in
Mexico responsible for developing policies of environmental protection,
for being at the forefront of environment stewardship. In Ecuador
hotels can be Eco-Certified by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism and
the Ecuadorian Ecotourism Society (ASEC).
Audubon International also has a certification-type program called The
Audubon International Signature Program, designed to assist in the
development of communities that integrate an ecosystem approach to
construction and management and provide environmental education for
those that live, work and recreate in the community. Resorts that fall
into the sustainable communities category such as Spruce Peak in
Vermont, the first mountain resort in the US to become the recipient of
the Audubon Green Community Award, and Cotton Bay Estates & Villas,
scheduled to open Fall 2007, have worked closely with the Audubon
International Signature Program. Similarly, Mata de Sesimbra in
Portugal, the world's largest sustainable living community and resort
project, where an anticipated 30,000 residents will share 13,000 acres
of nature reserve on Portugal's pristine Costa Azul, is based on 10
principles of One Planet Living communities, an organization that
aspires to achieving the highest quality of sustainable living.
There is also ISO standard 14000, which refers to
environmental management practices that include minimizing harmful
effects on the environment caused by an organization's activities. The
Portuguese resort of Jardim Atlantico is not only in compliance with
ISO standard 14000 it has also received the "European Ecolabel", which
is the highest environmental Certification available from the European
Union. It is Green Globe 21 certified as well.
"Green Globe 21, perhaps the most popular international environmental
certification scheme specifically for the tourism industry, has evolved
from a membership program where members only signed a commitment to an
international performance benchmarking and third-party verification and
certification program," says Meade.
Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa was the first
all-inclusive resort to earn Green Globe 21 Certification in 1998 and
within three years, all of the Sandals Resorts were included in the
certification. The eco-friendly Sunset at the Palms Resort & Spa in
Negril, Jamaica where guests stay in treetop suites and dine on fruits
and vegetables harvested from the 10-acre tropical gardens on the
property was also among the first eco-hotels to be certified by Green
Globe 21 in 1998.
None of these certification programs are regulated however, and
compliance is voluntary, but that has not stopped any of these
eco-hotels from becoming certified. In fact it's to their advantage. As
Meade says, "Hotels see a net benefit to transforming their facilities
and operations, meaning the benefits (savings in operating costs and
increased revenue from attracting a responsible tourist) outweigh the
costs (e.g., equipment, human resources, consulting fees, and
The future of eco-hotels is bright and many such hotels have clearly
done their part in "greening" the hotel industry, but according to
Meade, who also is on the Governing Council of the Caribbean Alliance
for Sustainable Tourism and chairs the board of the Certified Hotel
Environmental Manager, there's more work to be done in terms of
consumer awareness and eco-tourism as an industry. "Few if any visitors
select their hotel based on its environmental and social programs. Tour
operators, travel agents and even Internet booking sites are beginning
to highlight environmental and social achievements, but a lot more
still needs to be done to increase the number of ecotourists or
responsible travelers that will ultimately be needed to transform the
industry as a whole."
Heleigh Bostwick is a freelance writer whose work has
appeared in Organic Producer, Natural Family Online, Collectors News,
and D'Luxe magazine, and is the publisher of Marigold Lane, an online resources for Simple Living with a "Green" Twist.