At home, it’s easy being green — especially when you see the benefits of your environmental responsibility reflected in your monthly bills. Vacations are another story. Having someone else do your laundry, replenish your toiletries and pick up the energy bill — no matter how long you run the air conditioner — makes it really easy to lose sight of your eco-friendly intentions.
But all of that luxury comes with a price greater than the cost of a few nights in a hotel. According to California’s Green Lodging Program, average-sized hotels purchase more products in one week than 100 families do in a year and can produce as much as 30 pounds of waste per room per day.
“With the sheer vastness of the industry itself, we have the ability to make positive change,” says Kelly S. Bricker, associate professor of sustainable tourism management at the University of Utah, and chair of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, the United Nations Foundation’s sustainable tourism initiative. With the input of 27 organizations and 100,000 tourism stakeholders, in 2007 the GSTC established the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, a 37-point checklist organized around four main themes: effective sustainability planning, maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community, enhancing cultural heritage, and reducing negative impacts to the environment.
“The concept of sustainability, especially in an economic downturn, is getting out there. We see it growing — by the number of LEED-certified buildings in the U.S. and by the number of hotels taking the initiative to be greener,” Bricker says.
Eco-friendly Hotel Initiatives
At Millennium Hotels and Resorts, guests can opt out of having their linens washed nightly and participate in a “terry reuse program” that cuts down on washing towels. Rooms also have been equipped with water-conserving fixtures. At the corporate level, Hilton Worldwide is promoting green-building design and is using a system called LightStay to analyze the sustainability performance at each of its properties. Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants offer free or discounted parking to guests driving hybrid cars. And Marriott has committed to reducing its energy and water consumption by 25 percent by 2017 and expanding its existing “reduce, reuse, recycle” programs.
“There is ultimately an economic benefit to corporations that choose to look at how they conserve energy and products and manage their waste,” Bricker says.
Whatever the motivation, hotels around the world are doing similar activities to promote ecotourism, commonly defined as responsible travel that strives to minimize ecological impact or damage.
“The definition of green varies for different people, but based on our research and our experience, more and more travelers are aligning their purchases to their values,” said Brian Mullis of Sustainable Travel International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education and outreach services for travelers. STI is aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria and is just as focused on preserving cultural heritage and promoting economic development as protecting the environment.
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