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 hospitalityindustry. These days however, staying at an eco-hotel doesn'tnecessarily 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; hotelsand 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 propertyor obtain part or all of their power from renewable energy, hotels thatencourage community involvement such as guests participating in trailclearing, and hotels that offer some form of environmental education totheir guests.
As such, eco-hotels are a diverse bunch. Sophisticated urbanhotels like Intercontinental The Willard Washington, D.C. focus onenergy conservation whereas The Rosario Resort & Spa on OrcasIsland in Washington state offers a wildly popular "green" vacationpackage where guests can "take a hike, clear a trail, and enjoy avacation" and in return receive a special "green" rate. Gyreum is ahostel in Sligo, Ireland that is oriented towards the sunrises andsunsets 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 anorganic 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, theMaho Bay Camps in St. John, US Virgin Islands. When Maho Bay firstopened its doors in 1976, the words eco-hotel and eco-tourism did noteven exist. Maho Bay was constructed using recycled materials andharnesses the power of the sun and wind to generate electricity. It hasreceived numerous awards and accolades over the years including aCommendation Award at the 2000 Green Globe Achievement Awards and 2003Environmental Quality Award from the United States EnvironmentalProtection Agency. It also remains one of the most popular eco-resortsin 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 thetourism industry, representing a conscience effort on the part ofhotels to promote themselves as environmentally, and quite oftensocially, conscience entities.
Part of what drives this greening of the hotel industry is no doubtcompetition. Going green is yet another way to distinguish themselvesfrom the multitude of other excellent hotels that consumers have tochoose from, but for many hotels including Maho Bay, Fairmont Hotels& Resorts, and smaller eco-boutique hotels like The Ambrose inSanta Monica, California, it's also part and parcel of their corporatephilosophy. With the concept of "going green" firmly entrenched inconsumers' minds, eco-hotels take it to the next level, and whether ornot money is the driving factor behind the greening of the hotelindustry doesn't matter so much as that it's good for the planet.
Instituting "green" policies, programs and initiatives in the areas ofwater usage, energy efficiency, and indoor environmental quality, inwhat hotels call "back of house operations", is a large part of thegreening of the hotel industry. So is eco-hospitality, using non-toxiccleaning supplies for instance. Many hotels also offer "green packages"or institute policies that allow guests with hybrid vehicles to parkfree. After all, a majority of hotels are in urban and suburban areasand 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 programguide was instituted in 1990 and has since been used as the prototypefor other hotels including Four Seasons and Hyatt. It focuses onsustainability according to Environmental Affairs Director MichelleWhite, encompassing everything from recycling and organic wastediversion in the hotel's kitchens to retrofitting energy efficientlighting, purchasing green power, and employing alternate energytechnology As part of its eco-hospitality efforts, Fairmont providesin-room recycling and recently launched Eco-Meet, a green meeting andconference option. It also plans to introduce organic or biodynamicwines and menus prepared with locally grown foods this spring.
On a smaller scale, eco-boutique hotels such as The Ambrose alsoconsider themselves to be what Deirdre Wallace, a hotel developer andowner of The Ambrose, calls sustainable hotels. "We don't use toxicchemicals for cleaning, the carpets are being replaced witheco-friendly ones. All of the paint we use is low VOC (volatile organiccompounds) and 15% of our power comes from renewable energy. We servean organic breakfast and the mini bar stocked with healthy choices,"says Wallace.
Then, there are hotels like the Fairmont Pittsburgh scheduled to openin 2009 that are planned and built with sustainability in mind from thestart. Many of them, Fairmont Pittsburgh included, are aiming for LEEDcertified gold, a trend that is expected to gain momentum as greenbuilding becomes the industry standard. LEED, which is the acronym forLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a voluntary nationalstandard for the design and development of sustainable buildings.
Wallace is also building a second eco-boutique hotel in VeniceBeach, CA that she describes as an eco-luxury full service hotel. Builton the site of the former studio of modern design pioneers Charles andRay Eames, The Ray Hotel is considered an adaptive re-use project thatWallace says will use solar panels on the roof and gray water systemsto conserve water. "We're keeping a large percentage of the originalbuilding to house guests and building a new wing that will house asmall retail shop selling sustainable high design goods and a green spawith natural and organic spa treatments," says Wallace.
Wallace's goal is to have the hotel become LEED certified gold in theadaptive re-use category. Scheduled to break ground this year she saysthe plans for Ray Hotel are now at city hall awaiting approvals fromthe planning commission. When asked why she decided to go for LEEDcertification, Wallace's answer is simple. "Sustainability is part ofour company's values and green building is highly respected in thebuilding industry."
The proliferation of eco-hotels has given rise to the need for a set ofcertification standards and agencies to govern the green technologiesand environmental practices used by these eco-hotels. Without acertification process in place, any hotel could call itself aneco-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 industryassociations, national or local governments, and non-governmentalorganizations. In Europe and the Americas, two separate initiatives areunderway to accredit the certification schemes and help consumers sortthrough the myriad of programs," says Bill Meade, head of theenvironment and tourism unit at PA Consulting Group.
For example, the luxury eco-tourism resort Tres Ríos in theRiviera Maya was recently awarded by SEMARNAT, the organization inMexico responsible for developing policies of environmental protection,for being at the forefront of environment stewardship. In Ecuadorhotels can be Eco-Certified by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism andthe Ecuadorian Ecotourism Society (ASEC).
Audubon International also has a certification-type program called TheAudubon International Signature Program, designed to assist in thedevelopment of communities that integrate an ecosystem approach toconstruction and management and provide environmental education forthose that live, work and recreate in the community. Resorts that fallinto the sustainable communities category such as Spruce Peak inVermont, the first mountain resort in the US to become the recipient ofthe Audubon Green Community Award, and Cotton Bay Estates & Villas,scheduled to open Fall 2007, have worked closely with the AudubonInternational Signature Program. Similarly, Mata de Sesimbra inPortugal, the world's largest sustainable living community and resortproject, where an anticipated 30,000 residents will share 13,000 acresof nature reserve on Portugal's pristine Costa Azul, is based on 10principles of One Planet Living communities, an organization thataspires to achieving the highest quality of sustainable living.
There is also ISO standard 14000, which refers toenvironmental management practices that include minimizing harmfuleffects on the environment caused by an organization's activities. ThePortuguese resort of Jardim Atlantico is not only in compliance withISO standard 14000 it has also received the "European Ecolabel", whichis the highest environmental Certification available from the EuropeanUnion. It is Green Globe 21 certified as well.
"Green Globe 21, perhaps the most popular international environmentalcertification scheme specifically for the tourism industry, has evolvedfrom a membership program where members only signed a commitment to aninternational performance benchmarking and third-party verification andcertification program," says Meade.
Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa was the firstall-inclusive resort to earn Green Globe 21 Certification in 1998 andwithin three years, all of the Sandals Resorts were included in thecertification. The eco-friendly Sunset at the Palms Resort & Spa inNegril, Jamaica where guests stay in treetop suites and dine on fruitsand vegetables harvested from the 10-acre tropical gardens on theproperty was also among the first eco-hotels to be certified by GreenGlobe 21 in 1998.
None of these certification programs are regulated however, andcompliance is voluntary, but that has not stopped any of theseeco-hotels from becoming certified. In fact it's to their advantage. AsMeade says, "Hotels see a net benefit to transforming their facilitiesand operations, meaning the benefits (savings in operating costs andincreased revenue from attracting a responsible tourist) outweigh thecosts (e.g., equipment, human resources, consulting fees, andcertification costs)."
The future of eco-hotels is bright and many such hotels have clearlydone their part in "greening" the hotel industry, but according toMeade, who also is on the Governing Council of the Caribbean Alliancefor Sustainable Tourism and chairs the board of the Certified HotelEnvironmental Manager, there's more work to be done in terms ofconsumer awareness and eco-tourism as an industry. "Few if any visitorsselect their hotel based on its environmental and social programs. Touroperators, travel agents and even Internet booking sites are beginningto highlight environmental and social achievements, but a lot morestill needs to be done to increase the number of ecotourists orresponsible travelers that will ultimately be needed to transform theindustry as a whole."
Heleigh Bostwick is a freelance writer whose work hasappeared 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.