Mar242010

What does a “green” hotel really mean?

Over the past year I have seen dozens of articles on the greening of hotels. Is there really merit behind green initiatives at a hotel or is the primary motivation a hotel’s cost savings?

  • A hotel, particularly an upscale hotel, is a place where a bar of soap is used for a couple of hand washings and another, bigger bar of soap is used for a shower or two and then both are tossed into the garbage by the housekeeper.
  • Towels are used once and washed.
  • Empty refrigerators sit unused for days while consuming electricity so as to be cold for the next guest who may walk in at any minute.
  • A bathrobe is worn for an hour and washed.
  • Breakfast buffets are set up for 200 people and only 100 people show up to eat and the leftovers tossed out.

Personally, I have my little green efforts. I take a bar of hotel soap from room to room in my cosmetics bag until it is used up. I collect most of the soaps from my room and take back home to use. Some hotels use refillable large bottle dispensers of soap and shampoo for the shower. That is fine with me.

Like me, you may have noticed more of the plastic cards in your hotel bathroom describing how much water is used to wash towels and your role in reducing the global laundry impact for the hotel industry by reusing your own towel for another day.

I typically don’t get towel changes unless I am around for five days or more.

But on the other hand, I use too much air conditioning due to most hotel rooms being too hot for me. Hey, I am from the California coastal marine layer fog zone. 75 degrees here in Monterey is occasion for a heat wave party. (We had two days of partying this past week.) I love a room with a window that opens to get some fresh cool night air.

Back in 2000 when I started the LatinPass million mile mileage run tour in Colombia, I picked up a security tip from Robert Young Pelton, author of “The World’s Most Dangerous Places”, to leave the radio or TV on in the room when not occupied so as to deter robbers with the sound heard through the door. While perhaps this is a cheap security measure for some hotel locations, the practice certainly doesn’t pass “green” standards for hotel living.

Showers are my environmental weakness. Give me a rain shower head fixture and a large marble tile stall and I can daydream long enough in the soaking water to quench the thirst of an African village.

So what has brought green vision to this color-blind guy in the past month?

Encounters this past month have me seeing hotel “green” — in good light.

Green Lodging News – Lodging’s Leading Environmental News Source

My first green insight was dinner earlier this month with Glenn Hasek, publisher of Green Lodging News.

So I asked Glenn, “What does it really mean for a hotel to be certified “green”?

Glenn gave me a comprehensive response, but honestly it was late and I had a few beers in me and I’ll refer you to his website for details of being a green hotel. Green Lodging News offers expansive insight into the hotel industry “green” niche that I don’t write about much.

I encourage you to check out Glenn’s Green Lodging News and his Green Lodging News blog for a truly authoritative view on the environmental green perspective of the hotel industry. He covers everything from water usage, waste management, carpets, lights, and air quality in hotels and more aspects of hotel design and sustainability.

Hotel Responsible Business Initiatives

The second encounter was a presentation by Beathe-Jeanette Lunde at the Carlson Ambition 2015 Global Conference where Carlson Hotels’ green awards were mentioned and responsible business initiatives by other hotel companies for environmentally social policies were highlighted.

Measures such as seeking environmental certification from independent and government agencies, maintaining an active recycling program, using environmentally responsible cleaners, offset emissions, and purchasing food from local growers are some of the green efforts hotels make. Motion sensitive lights, low energy bulbs, key card room control for lights, AC, and TV (when key card is not in the wall control, most energy sources are turned off).

Here are some webpage links to green initiatives by the major hotel companies:

Carlson Hotels Environment Policy, Rezidor 2009 Responsible Business Report

Hilton Sustainability Efforts

Hyatt Earth

InterContinental Hotels Group –  Green Engage

Marriott Hotels – Spirit to Preserve

Starwood Hotels – Environmental Sustainability Policy and Make a Green Choice

(Starwood’s program at Sheraton and Westin hotels offers guests the option to earn 500 points per night when refusing housekeeping service for towel changes and such. I took advantage of this at the Sheraton Walt Disney World Dolphin in Orlando this month. Starwood’s Element brand are new build hotels which are LEED certified properties.)

Wyndham Green

There truly is a growing movement to environmental sustainability in the hotel industry. The move is good for the hotel and good for us and the environment.

Now, if we could just get rid of those plastic water bottles at the conference meetings.

And is there a way we can recycle my bath water so I can continue to daydream in hotel rainshowers without guilt?

There is always the swimming pool for extended water immersion, but that just makes another shower necessary.

Carlson Hotels Ambition 2015 slide of a "green" hotel room

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »