Whenever possible, organizations such as the World
Resources Institute (WRI) try to use technology such as the Internet
and teleconferencing to reduce their carbon footprints when communicating
with business partners worldwide. However, as is common with organizations
possessing an international scope, traveling long distances to meet
with partners is a necessary undertaking.
As a climate-conscious organization, WRI carefully accounts for
and tries to reduce its emissions from transportation, but another
critical part of travel can be as inefficient as the planes, trains
and automobiles we use to get to our desired locations—the
hotels we stay in.
Fortunately, the hospitality industry is joining other industries
in going green, an exciting development for all who travel.
According to Michael Stewart, partnership coordinator for the Carbonfund.org
Foundation, “The calls for green hospitality measures have
simply exploded this spring.”
What makes the hospitality industry inefficient? Some things even
a casual traveler might notice—lack of recycling facilities,
little bottles of shampoo, the cold blast of the air conditioner.
Hotels, like other buildings, use electricity for lighting, cooling,
appliances and heating. However, hotel structures—individual
units that each have their own appliances, heating and cooling sources—combined
with hospitality standards such as piles of fresh towels and linens
make them more wasteful than traditional buildings.
The hospitality industry has several motivations for implementing
a climate change strategy. First, making their buildings and operations
more efficient can result in cost savings. Consuming less fuel,
using less electricity and using less water can reduce costs significantly.
Another reason hotels are greening their operations is for competitive
positioning of their brands. Facing demand from increasingly environmentally
savvy consumers, hotels are changing their practices to meet the
preferences of customers. According to a study from the Travel Industry
Association, 87 percent of travelers would be more likely to stay
at green properties.
Making a hotel “green” may seem like a daunting task,
but many hotels have shown that making their properties more environmentally
friendly is possible. Making even small changes in hotel operations
and products can reduce the environmental footprint of hotels. Choosing
energy-efficient lighting and appliances, using water recycling
systems and lower laundry temperatures, and adjusting air conditioning
units so they don’t chill empty rooms can all reduce emissions—and
Committed hotels are switching to more environmentally friendly
cleaners and other products. Green Seal, a nonprofit organization
that promotes the manufacture and sale of environmentally responsible
consumer products, has partnered with the lodging industry to provide
technical guidance, case studies and certification of green hotels.
Along with a handful of hotel chains, several organizations are
leading the charge to make the industry greener. The Coalition for
Environmentally Responsible Economies’ (CERES) Green Hotel
Initiative has created several tools to assess environmental commitments
of hotels, including a best-practice survey, guest request cards
and GHI Community, an online green-hotel advocacy group. All of
this work is helping develop market demand for environmentally responsible
The Green Hotels Association is also helping hotel managers utilize
these best practices. Members receive guidelines that range from
advice on energy-saving appliances to providing signs that ask hotel
guests to consider using their linens more than once.
The hospitality industry has discovered that comfort does not have
to be compromised to go green. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, a luxury
hotel company, started a green partnership way back in 1990 to minimize
its hotels’ environmental impacts. Initiatives include installing
water-efficient and energy-efficient appliances, encouraging recycling,
and implementing habitat- and species-protection programs. Vail
Resorts, a mountain resort chain, offsets 100 percent of its energy
use by purchasing nearly 152,000 megawatt hours of wind energy.
Hotel developers are joining the trend, too. Starwood Capital Group—creators
of Sheraton, Westin, W Hotels and others—is launching a new
environmentally friendly hotel brand called “1” that
will adhere to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
standards. The first of these hotels will be unveiled next year.
Another, more complex, issue hotels are starting to look at is climate
change. In Hot Climate, Cool Commerce: A Service Sector Guide to
Greenhouse Gas Management, available for free at www.wri.org, there
are detailed steps for creating a greenhouse gases inventory for
buildings and management strategies for reducing these emissions.
Actively accounting for and managing emissions provides a way for
businesses to track their progress over time and identify opportunities
for emission reductions. For example, switching to renewable energy
sources or alternate energy sources, such as cogeneration power
systems that produce both electricity and heat, can make an enormous
The hospitality industry knows that going green is good business.
Because of it, the travel experience is getting a little better
for all of us.
Stephanie Hanson is a writer and researcher in the communications
department at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C.