Environmental Hotels

The State of the Global Hospitality Industry and the Environment

The global hospitality industry is in a unique environmental position. Tourism operators often rely extensively on locating near unique environments to attract tourists and generate income. Unfortunately, hotel developments that accommodate these tourists have become the nodes for environmental degradation due to inefficient building design and wasteful operating practices. Thus, hotel operators find themselves in the role of damaging the resource that sustains their business.

To date, the hospitality industry has provided only limited resources to assist their members in transforming hotel facilities into sustainable operations. The majority of information available focuses on the building operation and servicing of clients but neglects the significant environmental impacts related to and catalyzed by the hotel building. Moreover, significant barriers exist to accessing this information including limited geographical distribution, prohibitive economic costs, and language and cultural barriers.

Green Leaf Eco-Rating

Green Leaf rating is based on answering a 40 or 50 page questionnaire with details on energy savings (lighting, heating, etc.), water savings, environmental policy, use of chemicals, recycling efforts, bulk purchasing practices. Following evaluation of that questionnaire, the company involved (Terrachoice Environmental Services) performs a site inspection to verify the information provided. This is followed up by periodic visits to re-confirm rating and investigate changes made.

The assessment looks at all aspects of a hospitality operation, such as office/administration, staff training, guest rooms, restaurant/kitchen, pool/recreational facilities, maintenance and surroundings/landscaping. It is fairly thorough, although it is really designed for regular hotels / motels more so than small niche businesses like hostels and backcountry cabins. Some of the more site specific issues they have not considered which illustrates the problem of applying one system across a vast range of culture and geography.

In all, one can certainly say that the Green Leaf Eco-Rating is the one of the most comprehensive and serious evaluation available to the hospitality industry (in Canada at least) so far. Other certification programs include Greenglobe 21 and a host of other pseudo certification programs like the Green Hotels Association and The International Ecotourism Society. They allow membership to everyone which tends to result in abuse and a watering down of the ecotourism criteria and a lot of companies use the term although they do not deserve it at all. However, if awareness breeds action then so be it, they are one of the steps along the path.