Green your life at home, work & play

Eco-Friendly Hotels and Where to Find Them April 8, 2011

At a recent Hampton Inn stay, I noticed that the coffee cups were marked with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative logo. According to their website , this label is applied to wood and paper products that are from a certified source according to third-party certification audits. The goal is to promote sustainable forest management, supported by professional foresters, conservationists, and scientists, and the program addresses key environmental, social and economic forest values (e.g. water quality, biodiversity, regeneration). That being said, Forest Stewardship Council is another organization with the same goals and is arguably a better known and more accepted program.

It turns out that a lot of hotels are taking the initiative to make their establishments more “eco-friendly”, addressing a wide range of issues from overall energy-saving measures to water conservation to reducing the use of paper products such as telephone books (and going above and beyond the ‘leave your towel on the hook if you don’t want it washed, which most hotels are doing). But how do you know if the hotel you’ve selected is actually committed to sustainability and conservation?

There are several different resources that you can use as a resource for planning your next personal or business trip. The Travelocity Green Hotel Directory is a great place to start. Travelocity works with second- and third-party green hotel certification programs whose standards align with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC). Some of the certification partners include Green Seal, EPA’s Energy Star, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Rainforest Alliance. To find a hotel that fits this criteria, search through their directory and look for the “Eco-Friendly Hotel” symbol next to a listing. Some examples of eco-friendly hotels in the Washington, D.C. area include the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, Sofitel Lafayette Square, and Embassy Suites. The Kimpton hotels are also known for their efforts in sustainability, as is Marriott.

Hotels achieve a high level of credibility if they are certified by an independent organization. There are several different types of certification, but some of the most common are listed below.

  • Green Seal hotels and lodging properties: Green Seal focuses on hotel operations rather than building structure. They have set standards for lodging facilities, but they allow a range of solutions for many of those standards. Properties are listed by state.
  • Energy Star for hospitality: Part of the U.S. EPA, Energy Star facilities must be certified by a Professional Engineer (PE) and certification can be renewed on an annual basis. Properties can be searched by location or label year. Their website also has some excellent resources for property owners including strategies, online training sessions, success stories, and energy information services.
  • LEED certification: Part of the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. View their certification process or browse the directory for more information. The directory includes all properties, not just hotels and lodging, but can be searched by project name, location, and level of certification.

There are many more resources that don’t involve certification. The iStayGreen website includes a wide range of properties, including some that claim themselves as “green” without independent certification. Their search results indicate whether a property has completed the iStayGreen Environmental Self-Audit and gives a “green eco-leaf rating” on a scale of 1 to 5. Properties include lodging and hotels both in the United States and in other countries around the world. That being said, a self-certification does not bear nearly as much weight as one that is verified by a recognized third-party non-profit. Other programs include the Green Hotels Association and EarthCheck.

Here are a few eco-friendly hotels in the United States that you can keep in mind for your next trip to San Jose, Seattle, or New York. To find more lists like this, check out Out Traveler’s Top 5, Travel and Leisure’s Top 20, and Via Magazine (AAA)’s Top 10.

Fairmont — San Jose, California
Features: Replaced 5,900 incandescent bulbs with CFLs, recycled 8,600 pounds of old telephone books, offers free overnight parking to guests with hybrid vehicles

Hilton — Vancouver, Washington
Features: Water-efficient landscaping, a heat-reflecting roofs, CO2 sensors that adjust temperature and light when rooms are vacant

Hotel Monaco — Seattle, Washington
Features: Includes an eco-friendly kitchen with recycling, composting food, using local organic foods and sustainable seafood, and switched to recyclable to-go containers

Marriott — Bethesda, Maryland
Features: First hotel and conference center in the United States to win LEED certification for its environmental design

70 Park Avenue — New York, New York
Features: Part of the Kimpton Hotels’ EarthCare eco-program; Repurposes kitchen oil in biodiesel, provides discounts for hybrid drivers, offers an eco-concierge


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