Call it a thoroughly modern traveler’s dilemma.
It has never been easier to travel green. Hotels claiming to be eco-friendly are everywhere on the Internet. Expedia.com even has an option to search for hotels by the green/sustainable ones.
But just because a hotel says it’s green doesn’t mean it really is. According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) hotels in the U.S. alone spend around $4 billion annually in energy. In comparison green hotels use 26 percent less energy and emit 33 percent less carbon dioxide.
So, how does anyone tell the green hotels from the ones that will charge you more, while claiming to be green and simply don’t wash the towels and sheets during your stay? Ayako Exaki, Director of Communications at The International Ecotourism Society suggests asking as many questions as possible about a location’s green policies and green certifications. Here are eight key questions to help you determine if the hotel you’ve been dying to stay at is as environmentally responsible as you hope.
Is the hotel carbon neutral? If not, does it offer any carbon offsetting programs? There are very few carbon neutral hotels in the U.S., but many hotels offer programs to offset carbon emissions for the hotel room and transportation.
What is the hotel’s energy-efficiency plan? A hotel should have some sort of response to this question whether it’s energy efficient appliances, lighting and timers or energy efficient heat reflective windows.
What is the hotel’s water efficiency plan? Re-use your towels programs are great, but what’s the rest of their plan? Does the hotel have low flow showerheads, or use rainwater collection for outside gardening?
What’s is the hotel’s recycling plan? It’s simple reuse, reduce, and recycle. Do any non-profit organizations or non-governmental organizations recommend the hotel for its environmental policies? It’s all about who you know. There are many places that provide hotel guides, such as the International Ecotourism Society and the USGBC, find out who if anyone recommends them.
Is the hotel LEED Certified? Sure, the USGBC faces criticism, but hotels that are LEED certified have met a number of criteria including eater and energy efficiency and overall sensitivity to the environmental.
Is there a restaurant in the hotel? If so, does the restaurant use regional organically grown and in-season food whenever possible? Hotels that use locally grown in-season food not only support their local economy but cut down on carbon emissions associated with food transportation.
How committed is the hotel to the local community? Find out how involved in the local community the hotel is by asking the percentage of employees that are locals and if the hotel supports any projects that benefit the local community.
Not every hotel is going to be able to answer all of these questions. That’s OK. Decide what’s most important to you. Maybe it’s a hotel that uses sustainable food or maybe it’s a hotel that can answer the most questions to your satisfaction. These questions should provide a starting point for your travels.