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Hospitality & Travel

Eco-Hotels - A Great Way to Travel

by John Livingstone, Founder,

Hotel operators recognize there is a movement where their guests are going green and eco-travel is gaining in popularity everyday. There was a time when hotels simply asked guests to reuse towels, however travelers are now demanding much more. It's becoming travel with a conscience.

Whether it is an eco-farming adventure in Costa Rica or a stay at the five-star Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver, Canada, it is clear that hotels are taking notice. Public beaches from Barbados to Nice and from Tahiti to Costa Rica have clearly marked recycling containers for the public's use.

With such a personal interest in eco-travel and going green, I mentally evaluate properties for their earth-friendly practices. Naturally, I am looking for the basics:

  • compact fluorescent bulbs in the rooms,
  • bamboo wallcovering,
  • a container in the room for recycling newspapers and other materials,
  • bathroom fixtures that limit water flow,
  • wall-mounted dispensers for shampoo, conditioner and soap,

    and, I can generally tell if eco-friendly cleaning products have been used or not.

    I would be even more impressed, and I believe it would lead to more return bookings by guests, if hotels provided information on some of those features that may be hard to see. For example, a list of green features might indicate if these features are present:

  • recycled content carpets,
  • sustainable wood products,
  • draperies of sustainable, toxic-free materials,
  • VOC paints,
  • eco-friendly laundry products are used to wash the sheets and pillows,
  • tankless water heaters for the bathrooms,
  • low-energy (LowE) windows,
  • extra layers of insulation,
  • the shuttle to the airport is a hybrid vehicle.

    Of course, if a hotel is implementing eco-friendly practices, it will have linens that reflect these practices. Are hotels taking it to the nth degree by using not just cotton sheets and pillowcases, but also by making sure that the cotton is organic?

    Smaller lodges or hotels with some land might also:

  • use solar panels for some energy,
  • use solar tubes to light upper floor areas,
  • offer chemical-free landscaping practices,
  • plant an organic herb garden,
  • use water conservation principles
  • Of course, if the hotel offers restaurant facilities there are many opportunities for dining based on organic foods and adhering to principles based on the 100 Mile Diet book (buying all meal products within 100 miles).

    In the USA Today, Joe McInerney, president of the American Hotel and Lodging Association is quoted as saying, "Probably the #1 trend is the greening of the hotel industry. Every hotel company has an environmental specialist, and we're working with them to develop a certification program in the next 90 days. It will involve an inspection, not just trusting self-reporting eco-programs. Inspection results may be tied to be AAA ratings."

    Green Checks: How is Your Hotel Going Green?

    by Terry Hollowell,

    RING! RING! RING! It's another reservation inquiry. "Hello," you answer. After some discussion, the voice on the other end asks, "How is your hotel going green? Are there any resources available so I can learn about your eco-friendly features and sustainable policies?" You think to yourself, This is another caller today asking these same questions.

    If you're not sure what to say to such questions, this Green Hotel Checklist may help. Though you may be savvy of other environmentally friendly strides your hotel has (or maybe hasn't) taken, use the following to help you understand what it is eco-conscious guests want to know.

    If hotels want to keep up with today's guests' demands, then it's imperative to recognize "green" innovations in hotel design, energy use, preservation and services.

    Eco-design specifying eco-friendly products:

    Whether your hotel was built from the ground up with "green" in mind or not, guests want to know what is different (and therefore better) about the design of your hotel. The following may or not apply depending upon your type of property, for example, single-story resort bungalows versus concrete, highrise city hotels.

  • Hotel faces away from sun, maximizing natural coolness (less air conditioning)
  • Double-glazed windows
  • New growth FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) wood used in construction
  • Recycled materials used in building (reused whenever possible with on-site recycling)
  • Low paint emissions (eco-friendlier paints)
  • Low glue adhesives (better air quality, no smells)
  • Low use of un-natural sealants
  • Carpets contain post-consumer recycled materials
  • Wood flooring using sustainable materials such as bamboo
  • Recycled materials used for tiles in bathrooms and granite sink counters
  • Efficient HVAC systems that uses a more environmentally friendly refrigerant
  • Properly sealed air ducts lowering dust and improving air quality

    Is your property taking advantage of these methods?

  • Use solar power and panels to augment electric grid consumption
  • Solar heated hot water heaters
  • Wind turbine fields give free energy
  • Geothermal energy usage
  • Energy conservation with key card systems (electricity shuts off in room when guest is
    not present)
  • Tubular skylights in conference rooms, hallways, fitness facility and lobbies
  • Solatube day lighting systems in rooms
  • Automatic lighting system transitions proper lighting through the day and night


    When we throw away less, less trash is made. With less trash, we not only save room in the overflowing landfills, but also reduce the energy it takes to dispose of it. Saving our resources for the future ensures that going green is not a fad but a favorable fate.

    Is your hotel property preserving our planet's resources with any of these ideas?

  • On-site ecological preservation of woodland and natural growth
  • Water conservation methods used such as filtered gray water used in ground watering
    and landscape
  • Low flush toilets and water restricted showerheads
  • Recycled paper used to make toilet paper and facial tissue (neither wrapped nor
  • Shampoo and soap dispensers (no plastic bottles)
  • Air dryers instead of cloth towels or paper towels
  • Hair dryers enable less towel usage (saving soap, water and electricity)
  • Recycle bins in each room with separation compartments
  • Chemical free and organic landscaping practices
  • Recycled material used to make garbage bags and fewer trash receptacles
  • Plants and flower water management
  • Glass cups used in every room versus plastic or throwaways
  • No pre-wrapped, single serving products
  • Catalogs and brochures printed on recycled paper
  • Paperless check-in to hotel (receipts E-mailed)
  • Eco-friendly cleaning supplies (no harsh chemicals or odors)
  • Recycled door tags (reusable)
  • Green washing of laundry and sheets (no PERC)
  • Low energy and low water use washing machines
  • Low energy dryers


    The services the hotel provides guests should be both eco-friendly and simultaneously useful. The resources available to the going green-conscious guest reflect the hotel's serious effort in making sustainability just as important as the bottom dollar.

  • Airport pick-up done in hybrid or electric cars
  • Laundry services available using low energy washers and dryers
  • Posted conservationist tips in rooms on laminated, re-useable vellum
  • Green tours given by staff explaining hotel's march towards a greener future
  • In-room recycled stationery
  • Green transport for guest: bike rental, electric car and golf cart rentals, group transport
  • Locals hired and trained and given chances for advancement
  • Classes, seminars and discussions for staff about how to improve about sustainability
    and eco-friendly hotel management practices.

    About the author:

    Terry Hollowell is a green enthusiast and considers the going green genre to be one of his favorite niches. Terry is co-owner with his twin brother of Twinlance writing services and Journey Beyond Travel, providing guided, customized and set-date eco-friendlier tours of Morocco, N. Africa (where he lives for months at a time). When Terry isn’t working, he enjoys running marathons, hiking, biking, rock climbing, surfing, tennis and the great outdoors.

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