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Green hotels sometimes miss the mark

As an instructor preparing students to pass the LEED Green Associate exam, the emphasis in the class is insuring that students understand that the LEED process is holistic in nature. One part cannot be considered alone without its impact and connection to everything else.

Green hotels like everything else that has championed this phrase of “becoming green” are a positive move in the right direction, however, in order for it to have an impact, it needs to extend to practices that extend beyond a superficial gesture labeled “green”.

As I travel, teaching around the country, many times I stay in hotels that profess to be green. Usually this refers to laundry. A guest can voluntarily offer to reuse towels or change bed linens less often there by reducing the volume of laundry on a daily basis reducing the amount of water and energy use by the hotel.

This is a positive step in that it reduces the costs for the hotel as well as reinforcing choices that travelers can make to positively impact their environment, choices that they might not have otherwise considered before.

Usually this is the extent of green demonstrated by the hotel. If they are to truly to be called green, this needs to be more comprehensive.

It is not unusual to be greeted by some kind of beverage service in a hotel lobby. This is usually very welcomed by the traveler. Paper cups not foam should be used.

Conferences and meetings that occur should have appropriately placed recycle bins and a wonderful additional step would be a container for composting. The amount of actual garbage should be minimal. Plates, cups and silverware should either be washable or capable of being recycled. Foam container use,  even from outside vendors or caterers should be discouraged. Recycle bins for paper and plastic/glass should be in the hotel rooms as well.

Being able to control the temperature in both the guest rooms and in conference areas is critical to maintaining controls over energy costs. Hotel staff should be encouraged to make a quick check to verify that the a/c is set at 78 degrees or higher. The time between guest check-out, usually by 11 am and guest check-in, usually around 3 pm is time in a room that is set particularly low and remains empty waste energy.

Light fixtures should be examined and retrofitted with more energy efficient bulbs. I have also been in rooms where CFL’s were used but poorly creating a stark almost clinical environment, an unwanted experience by any guest. Time should be taken to insure that the right bulb is in the right place. Retrofit kits are available to replace T12′s to more energy efficient T5′s and T8′s.

Exterior lighting should be produced by solar panels that can be arranged in landscaping to be less noticeable. Rooftops are an excellent location for solar and wind power as hotels are usually taller than structures around it.

Water conservation should be encouraged with low flow shower heads, lavatories and toilets. Leaking pipes should be routinely checked for. Rainwater harvesting and water sensor controls should be utilized. Too many times, I have witnessed irrigation systems watering during a torrential downpour. Appropriate landscaping utilizing native plants and zoning that groups plants together with similar needs contributes reducing the initial need for excess water use.

Renovations should include the use of low-no VOC paint, finishes and carpet. Better yet, skip the carpet and put in area rugs instead that can be periodically cleaned.

Encourage travelers to utilize mass transit as much as possible. On a recent stay in Boston, the “T” provided an inexpensive way to travel back in forth from the airport to the hotel. It was easy, allowing for both environmental and economic sustainability, certainly a lot less expensive than a $30 cab ride.

There are designations that hotels can achieve through both national and international certification programs. You can also look for a green rated hotel in your state. Not every state has this service. If yours does not, encourage your state’s Department of Environmental Protection or Office of Tourism to consider adopting a green lodging designation.

National and International Certification Programs:

Green Globe Certification

LEED Certification

Energy Star for Hospitality

Green Seal for Hospitality

Cradle to Cradle Certification

Green Key Eco-Rating Program

Audubon Green Leaf Certification

EcoTel Certification

IACC Code of Sustainability

Green Restaurant Association

Sustainable Tourism Eco-Certification Program™ (STEP)

State Certification Programs:

Arizona-Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association

California-California Travel and Tourism Commission

Connecticut-Department of Environmental Protection

Delaware-Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and Delaware Hotel & Lodging Association (DH&LA)

Florida-Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Georgia-Pollution Prevention Assistance Division/Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Hawaii-Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism

Illinois-Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association

Maine-Maine Office of Tourism

Maryland-Maryland Office of Tourism

Massachusetts-Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism

Michigan-Michigan’s Energy Office and the Department of Environmental Quality

Missouri-Missouri Hotel and Lodging Association

New Hampshire-New Hampshire Sustainable Lodging & Restaurant Program (NHSLRP)

New York-Department of Environmental Conservation

North Carolina-North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance (DPPEA)

Pennsylvania-Assistance Kit from Department of Environmental Protection

Puerto Rico-In Development

Rhode Island-Rhode Island Hospitality Green Certification

South Carolina-South Carolina Department of Environmental Services

Tennessee-Tennessee Department of Tourist Development (Local Certifications Only)

Vermont-Vermont Business Environmental Partnership

Virginia-Virginia Green Lodging

Wisconsin-Travel Green Wisconsin


“Energy Star for Hospitality”, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

“California Green Lodging Program”, California Department of General Services

“Green Building Research”, United States Green Building Council

“Green Initiatives”, American Hotel and Lodging Association

Interested in knowing what is going on on the local level? Fort Lauderdale Green Culture Examiner.

About Valerie J. Amor:
As an architectural consultant, LEED AP, LEED certification reviewer, real estate broker and AIA associate, Valerie J. Amor is dynamically engaged in sustainability and issues regarding the built environment. Actively participating in several local, county and national organizations and committees focused on sustainability issues, she is also owner/principal of Drawing Conclusions and founder/president of Green Collar Connection, companies engaged in sustainable design, real estate development, green job training and research. Knowledgeable and well connected she brings you timely and thoughtful articles. Reach her at .

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Posted by Valerie J. Amor on Sep 9 2010. Filed under Broward County, Emerging Green, Local news. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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