Published on March 30th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans0
Selecting Eco-friendly Accommodations
In the past the hotel, lodging, and travel industry was renowned for what many perceived as a startling lack of concern for the environment—the excessive consumption of energy and water alone could make the socially responsible tourist forgo these wasteful accommodations.
Fortunately, visionaries in the industry recognize the importance of being green and many companies offer eco-friendly accommodations and attractive alternatives for the environmentally savvy traveler…
What Makes It Green?
Green hotels and eco-friendly lodging alternatives may incorporate a few basic environmental practices into their daily operations, or environmental sustainability may be embedded within every level of their business. When evaluating indicators of eco-friendliness there are 3 basic categories to consider. Even many conventional hotel chains across the country are starting to integrate some of these practices.
- Physical/design aspects of the building and property, including energy efficiency, materials selection, indoor air quality, and use of resources.Green credentials include things like:
- Reclaimed, recycled, and sustainable building materials
- Use of alternative energy resources (solar, wind, geothermal, and human power)
- Low-VOC (volatile organic compound) carpets and pads, sealants, paint, and adhesives
- Eco-friendly lighting and interiors with access to natural light
- Energy efficient heating and cooling systems
- Renewable and sustainable natural furnishings
- Daily operations, including how the facility is maintained, cleaned, etc.Green credentials include things like:
- Use of biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning products
- Recycles whenever possible
- Takes action to conserve heat and water
- Bed and bathroom linens are 100% organic
- Provides chemical free soaps and shampoos in environmentally friendly containers
- Sources food locally; compostes waste food
- Instructs and trains staff in green practices
- Impact on the local community, including how the business interacts with employees, community members, supply chain partners, and local organizations.Green credentials include things like:
- Offers local employment
- Practices responsible land development policies and management; protects biodiversity
- Pays attention to local heritage, diversity, social justice, and environmental protection
- Gives back to the community through profit-sharing, philanthropic foundation, or community-based giving
How to Find Green Hotels or Lodging
Obviously there are many eco-friendly indicators to look for and there is no single definition of a green hotel. There are however many places to look for help in your search for an eco-friendly destination that will meet your lodging needs.
- LEED certified hotels have been reviewed by independent, third-party evaluators on environmentally responsible construction, energy use, indoor air quality, and other key factors. Very few hotels currently have LEED certification, but many have now registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and are seeking the prestigious certification based on their new green building and operational practices.
- Other hotels have been certified by the U.S.-based Green Seal or rated by the Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program in Canada.
- Sustainable Travel International is a non-profit organization that helps travelers support environmental and cultural conservation while promoting cross-cultural understanding and economic development; they can provide referrals to eco-friendly lodging.
- The Good Travel Company gives eco-friendly hotels and alternative lodging a score based on environmental footprint, community connection, and architectural conservation. Another company, It’s a Green Green World, offers links to green travel destinations.
Alternatives to the Green Hotel
As you look to find an eco-friendly destination, it is also important to remember that there are many options available beyond the green hotel…
Eco lodges and resorts are typically known to have small carbon footprints and are ideal for the more adventurous eco-traveler.
Holistic spas offer an enticing alternative to those seeking a healthy, relaxing, planet-friendly retreat
Home exchanges and hostels offer travelers affordable ways of discovering other parts of the world while minimizing the travel-related impact of large hotels that may damage fragile ecosystems and waste precious resources. Jamble is a UK-centered online periodical dedicated to raising awareness
of what can be done to minimize our impact on the environment, and it offers a section specifically devoted to green hostels.
Another lodging option for the environmentally conscious and thrifty traveler is the renting of yurts, cabins, or huts in relatively remote areas. Many State and National Park Services maintain huts or yurts—circular, domed tents made of extra-heavy, durable canvas with spacious interiors, screened windows, sustainable hardwood floors, and locking doors—that are affordable and convenient ways to vacation. In addition to being extremely eco-friendly, they allow visitors the chance to enjoy the beauty of nature, even if they’re not in the mood to “rough it.”