Green Hotels & Responsible Tourism Initiative

The Responsible Traveler Guide

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Accommodation Pic

Individually, hotels do not have a significant negative impact on the environment, or consume a substantial amount of resources. However, collectively, this impact is quite large. In addition, hotels can be extremely wasteful. It has been estimated that seventy-five percent of environmental impact that hotels have on the environment, can be directly related to excessive consumption [7].

It is due to this waste and inefficiency that "green" hotels are rapidly gaining popularity. More and more properties are choosing to reduce their environmental footprint by performing upgrades to reduce energy and water consumption, recycling, composting food, buying from local food producers, and being less wasteful.

As with transportation, selecting green accommodation is dependent on many variable travel factors as well as your personal preferences. Some key considerations are:

  • Where is the hotel located? Some areas have a wide range of hotels to choose from, whereas others may have a limited number of accommodation choices. Chose the one which has the best possible environmental record for the place you are visiting.
  • How many of you are sharing the accommodation? The higher the room occupancy, the less expensive it is per person. It also saves on housekeeping and energy, provided green guidelines are followed by all guests.
  • How long are you staying at the hotel? Short stays may require less housekeeping. Take advantage of energy savings options offered by the hotel.
  • What is your budget? Some hotels with eco labels may be more expensive, but may provide best practices in environmental sustainability.
  • What type of hotels are you staying in? Large resort-style properties offer more accommodation options and recreational facilities, but are obviously more energy intensive than smaller hotels. Booking family or community-run accommodation also provides a greater benefit to the places you visit.

Some tips for identifying a green hotel are:

  • Check hotel websites and search for environmental policies.
  • Does the hotel have green certification or eco labels?
  • Has the hotel won any environmental awards or has received recognition from tour operators and consumers?
  • Check consumer and green hotel websites for feedback on responsible practices.
  • Talk to like-minded friends who may have visited green hotels recently.
  • Post a question using social media websites to see if anyone knows of a green hotel they have stayed in the place where you are going.

What can you do to be a "green guest?"

As a guest you can play a role not only by complying with existing responsible initiatives, but by giving feedback about what you would like to see implemented.

The four areas to be aware of are energy, water, waste, purchasing and housekeeping.

To Save Energy

To Save Energy Pic

Hotels are extremely energy intensive as they use energy 24 hours a day 7 days a week! Hotels use generally more energy per visitor than local residents, as they have energy intense facilities, such as bars, restaurants, and pools. Spacious hotel rooms need large amounts of energy to keep guests cool in hot temperatures, and equal amounts of energy to keep them warm during cold winters. The average energy consumption per bed per night in an average sized hotel is approximately 130 MJ [8]. Studies have determined that a hotel emits an average 20.6 kg (45.3lbs) of carbon dioxide per night [9].

To find out about some of the current best practices related to energy efficiency in the accommodation industry click here.

Here is what you can do as a traveler to reduce your energy use and carbon footprint while staying at a hotel:

  • Turn off any lights, TV, radio, and shut off or lower the air conditioner or heater when leaving the hotel room for the day, or when checking out
  • Work with the seasons. During summer months, close the drapes to keep the sun's heat out; during winter months, keep drapes open to heat the room during the day.
  • Public areas are generally too cold or too hot. Advise the hotel to adjust the air conditioning (summer) or heat (winter) in areas such as the lobby and banquet room.

To Conserve Water

Tourists and residents alike require a clean and dependable supply of water for survival and activities such as drinking, cooking and cleaning. Water provision is integral to the operation of amenities usually expected by tourists, such as swimming pools, landscaped gardens and golf courses. It is also essential to support industries such as agriculture that supply the tourism industry. Tourists usually require more water than local residents on a per person basis.

It has been estimated that 15,000 cubic meters of water would typically supply 100 rural farmers for three years and 100 urban families for two years, yet this volume only supplies 100 luxury hotel guests for less than two months [10]. In more arid regions, tourist water consumption can equal up to 440 liters a day per person, which is almost double the average amount of water used by residents in Spain [11]. To find out about some of the current best practices related to water conservation in the accommodation industry click here.

Here is what you, as a traveler can do, to reduce water consumption during your stay:

  • Reduce the amount of water used for bathing or showering.
  • Showers use less water than baths.
  • Turn off water while soaping up and rinsing.
  • Flush the toilet only when needed.
  • Don't run the tap while brushing your teeth.

To Minimize Waste

Minimize Waste Pic

Waste generation is one of the most visible effects on the environment. One estimate identified that an average hotel produces in excess of one kilogram of waste per guest per day [12]. 50-60 percent of the waste materials in an accommodation facility, can be recycled or reused.

To find out about some of the current best practices related to waste management in the accommodation industry click here.

Here is what you can do as a traveler to reduce your waste:

  • Ask if there is a guest-recycling program and thank management for their efforts in person and/or on their comment cards.
  • Where possible, recycle your waste: bottles, cans, paper, and plastic bags.
  • If recycling is not available in your guest room, minimize your waste as much as possible and suggest to the hotel manager in person, or on your comment card, that they adopt a recycling program.
  • Tell reception you only need the room key and save any unnecessary paperwork such as maps and promotions. They are likely to be online, or in the room already.
  • Ask for only one key if you are traveling alone, and be sure to turn it in for the hotel to reuse.
  • Avoid the use of Styrofoam cups and containers whenever possible.
  • Carry and use a re-usable coffee mug, water bottle, and a "carry all" bag for you to fill with extra shopping.
  • Carry a reusable plastic bag to put dirty laundry to take back home.
  • Don't bring your litter on holiday with you. Remove all excess packaging from toiletries, clothes and gifts, as waste disposal may be difficult in developing countries.

Housekeeping and Hotel Amenities

Amenities Pic

Hotels strive to provide great service, but often well intentioned in-room amenities, such as toiletries, fruit baskets, and welcome snacks may go to waste. If you feel you will not consume them, thank the manager and decline the courtesy offer. Also, make sure you ask not to change your towels and linens on a daily basis, as this conserves water and energy!

Making the Stay in Your Room Green

  • Comply with the practice of not changing your sheets and towels every day.
  • If you see that the linen and towels are being changed daily, contact housekeeping, or leave them a note.
  • Use the same number of towels and linen you would at home.
  • Pack your own personal items, such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shower cap, reusable mug, pen and pencil.
  • Avoid buying personal items in small amounts locally. It generally comes with wasteful packaging.
  • Leave unopened amenities in the room and take home opened ones to give as gifts, or donate to your local charity.
  • For short trips, contact housekeeping to decline housekeeping service and turn-down service during your stay.
  • Separate the towels and washcloths you will use during your stay and leave all others untouched so housekeeping will know they were not used.
  • Ask the hotel to use bio degradable cleaning products as thousands of tons of chemicals used by the hospitality industry leak into the environment yearly.

Using the Resort and Hotels Amenities

Pool / Beaches

Pool Pic

Many hotels have pool facilities and/or have beach fronts. Tips to staying green while having fun are:

  • Re-use pool and beach towels wherever possible.
  • Take only short rinses in the communal shower.
  • Use water soluble suntan lotion in pools.
  • Avoid wearing sunscreen when snorkeling, diving, or swimming near coral reefs. The chemicals in the sunscreen can contaminate the aquatic ecosystems.
  • Avoid mosquito repellent with DEET or other harmful chemicals which contaminate the water.
  • Ask for reusable cups, plates, and cutlery for drinks and food served pool and beachside.
  • If available, dispose waste in the receptacles provided, or bring a plastic bag to recycle in your room.
  • Avoid motorized sports as they create noise, fuel pollution, and disrupt aquatic life.
  • Ask if pool or beach attendants are tipped for their services, and reward them for good service accordingly.

Golf Courses

Golf is a wonderful sport and its popularity is growing worldwide. Awareness about its environmental impact is also rising and golf clubs are starting to address issues related to water use, toxic pesticides, bio diversity loss, and community displacement.

Golf players should enquire with the golf club directly and consider choosing the establishments which publicly advertise the best environmental and social practices. A good resource for golfers is the Golf Environment Organization [13].

Beyond the Environment

As an active member of the local community, hotels have a role to play in the social well being of the area in which they operate. Some questions to ask are:

  • Does the hotel source their food and products locally where possible?
  • Does the hotel have and practice policies regarding fair and equitable employment?
  • Does the hotel support community development projects?
  • Does the hotel support marine and land conservation programs?
  • Do they offer activities and excursions, which are operated by the local community?