Conservation in its many forms is here to stay. Individuals as well as organizations are realizing the benefits that arise from protecting existing resources. The hospitality industry whose services span the management of large areas of land, real estate, energy and other resources, is no exception. Hotel managers all over the world are actively contributing to going green in the hospitality industry.
The industry is realizing that green practices contribute significantly to their bottom lines. The World Tourism Organization has identified ecotourism as the fastest growing market in the hospitality industry. Adopting environmentally responsible practices has become imperative to promote properties as destinations for such clients. Another positive outcome is the healthier environments they generate. High energy prices as well as a preference by government agencies to hold meetings and conventions in green certified venues are other contributory factors.
How is the Hospitality Industry Going Green?
Certification: Managers of hotel properties, from bed and breakfast inns to large facilities are turning to certification as a means toward going green. Many organizations have sprung up to provide such certification.
LEED certification for construction and retro-fitting: One certification scheme that is different from the rest is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) that is promoted by the US Green Building Council. LEED focuses on improvements to buildings and structures to improve operations. It provides third party certification in relation to the design, building or retro-fitting of a property to improve energy performance, conservation of water and other resources, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and enhance indoor environmental quality.
While new or recently built hotels follow green construction practices to comply with LEED standards, the same cannot be expected from the bulk of existing properties, some of which stand as cultural icons. To address this, LEED certification is provided by property type, whether new, existing, school etc. Based upon a 110 point scale, an existing hotel can be classified as certified; silver, gold or platinum according to the number of points earned. Bonus points are given for design innovation and complying with region-specific criteria.
Hotel owners realize many advantages with LEED certification. Retro-fitting existing buildings by revamping designs, introducing energy efficient features in lighting, solar heating, contributing to recycling efforts and supporting environmental sustainability comes with a price. However, most report recouping such costs within a 2-3 year period with improved efficiency.
In addition to the obvious benefits resulting from lower operating costs and a healthier environment, owners of LEED certified hotels also enjoy tax rebates, zoning permits and other incentives provided by many cities. Their commitment to environmental conservation is viewed favorably by customers and the communities they operate in.
Green certification for operations: Not all members of the hospitality industry are inclined to invest funds in retro-fitting their properties; yet they incorporate many environmentally sustainable practices in their operations. The use of land, materials such as paint and carpets, furniture, fixtures and equipment, cleaning supplies and food, lend themselves to eco-friendly practices.
Hotels use green certification, either individually or as a group, to promote their services. While the numerous certification agencies are a cause for confusion, customers recognize the more popular certification brands such as Green Key Global, Green Globe International, Energy Star and Green Seal and expect practices aligned with them in any hotel they visit, irrespective of its location.
Each certification plan is different based on its controlling criteria and the type of property it targets; whether a lodge, golf course or buildings covering a large area. In genera,l they are all focused on energy and water conservation, indoor air quality, land use, solid waste management and environment sustainability.
A hotel owner that applies for certification has to comply with standards set by the certifying agency. This usually involves a preliminary on-site inspection by the certifying agency to verify compliance followed by annual re-certification that includes upgrading of specified standards. Hotel owners incur costs related to replacing existing equipment, practices and systems in exchange for the benefit of branding their product as green certified.
Other initiatives: In addition to certification, some members of the hospitality industry are contributing to the greening effort by setting their own goals and priorities.
For instance the Marriot hotel group launched an initiative in 2009 inviting clients to participate in this effort by contributing $1 a day with a minimum contribution of $10 for 10 guest nights to offset carbon emissions generated during their stay. These funds along with $2 million committed by the group are channeled to conserve the Juma rain forest reserve in Brazil.
The Fairmont Hotels and Resorts’ Green Partnership program started in 1990 involves partnering with local groups in conserving water and energy, waste management and community outreach programs.
In addition to receiving awards and recognition from society, these companies can expect greater customer loyalty to flow from such moves.
The hospitality industry has adopted many changes to align itself as an environmentally conscious player on a global level. Going green in the hospitality industry in the next few years will see an increasing trend to unify the different levels of certification out there, leading to less confusion. As customers become increasingly concerned with environmental conservation, technologies and practices will adapt to cater to such need. Environmental sustainability will be a key focus of these efforts.