It's good news, bad news this week for travelers concerned about whether hotels are harming the environment. While you can refer to hotel rating systems that let you compare hotels on a scale of one to four stars for their level of amenities, there is no rating system for judging how eco-friendly a hotel is.
The good news: Next month, the American Hotel & Lodging Association will publish a list of eco-friendly steps that hotels can voluntarily take, such as towel reuse programs and the installation of energy-efficient lamps.
The bad news: The association has decided not to create a star-based system for rating hotels or a hotel certification program for environmental issues, says an article in this week's Travel Weekly (registration required). The reason is that such a program would be expensive. Presumably not enough hotels have decided to get together and chip in to a kitty to fund such a program.
This summer, the editor of Hotel Interactive pointed out one of the problems of not having a national eco-friendly hotels certification program. Here was one of his interesting examples:
Gary Coward, SVP with Concept Amenities Inc., [recently] brought up the very real issue of what does a word really mean. Coward noted that people are bandying about “biodegradable” without ever truly understanding what it means. After all, a plastic bottle is biodegradable; it just takes something like 400 years. So if your hotel uses biodegradable products, what exactly does that mean? Is it two weeks, two years or two centuries? And is your definition in line with consumers and industry peers?
Let's hope someone in the industry steps forward to create a campaign to create a rating system or certification program. Otherwise, travelers face "green-washing," which is when hotels pretend to be more eco-friendly than they are.
Update: 5:37 p.m. In response to my blog post, I learned that today, Green Seal, an independent non-profit, put several Chicago hotels through a environmental certification process. The Chicago Department of Environment and the Mayor's Office apparently partnered with the hotels. Kimpton Hotels in Chicago were among those recognized.
Travelers may not always like it when a hotel is truly eco-friendly. [Go Green Travel Green]