Ten years ago a business traveler looking for green lodging options would have to search long and hard for accommodations that offered in-room recycling, linen re-use programs, energy efficient light blubs, and water saving fixtures. Five years ago “certified green” hotels were tiny blips on the traveling public‘s radar.
Nearing the close of 2010, the business traveler has over 2000 “third-party certified” hotels in North America, dozens of USGBC LEED hotels and conference centers, corporate brands offering sustainability programs and LEED certified prototypes, numerous certifying organizations, Travelocity and Expedia “green lodging” search engines, and 35 State and Local Green Lodging programs to aid them in their quest for a sustainable overnight stay.
However there is no hospitality industry standard definition of a green hotel. Some will argue that simply implementing guest room recycling, using green cleaning products, and linen re-use programs are enough. Others say a self-certified audit program from an outside party such as following state lodging guideline qualifies. Even more say only a third party audited and certified hotel is the only way to guarantee compliance to strict standards.
Most sustainable industry professional’s definition of green hotel include green policies and procedures in place that at a minimum take into account energy, water, waste streams, indoor air quality, and green cleaning. Furthermore and most importantly, the hotels are audited and certified on a consistent basis from an independent third party organization. A third party certification provides accountability and assurance that the various standards are followed and to avoid “green washing”.
GreenKey’s Certification program has made tremendous gains throughout North America over the last five years. Currently they have over 1500 certified green hotels in the US and Canada and expect that number to increase with recently signed agreements with Hyatt, Carlson, Motel 6 and MGM Resorts.
According to Zach Cohen, GreenKey Global VP of Sales & Marketing, “the GreenKey Program has been well received because it allows for flexibility in the certification process by using a earn/deduction point scoring system rather than a pass/fail method. We expect to see another 1000 to 1500 properties earn their certification in 2011.” Additional programs such as EcoRooms/EcoSuites, LEED, GreenSeal and EnergyStar for hotels are available to hotel operators. All of which have their strengths and offer marketing advantages.
The green hotel movement is only going to gain momentum as more states and municipalities create green lodging initiatives and corporate brands adopt certification programs as standard practice. It will be exciting to see how the next ten years un-fold.
Third Party Certifications 2005-2010
Jeff Kiec, LEED-AP and Director of Sustainability at EcoGreenHotel, is a veteran of the environmental service industry. His experience includes engineering building assessments, operational sustainability audits, and environmental site assessments. He has project experience in a range of property types including industrial, multi-family residential and commercial office buildings. As the Sustainability Director for Deep Ellum, a historic arts and entertainment neighborhood in Dallas, Texas, Kiec is responsible for education and working with neighborhood businesses and property owners to incorporate sustainable building technologies.