NATIONAL REPORT—Last year was a big year for national green lodging certification with the launch of TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders program but at the state level there was still a lot of certification and recognition activity and that will continue through 2014. There are currently 27 state level programs that offer some degree of certification or recognition for lodging establishments actively working to reduce waste, energy consumption and water consumption. Green Lodging News previously had listed 28 states but Montana has been removed from the list. Its partnership with Green Directory Montana is no longer active. Within the 27 states that have active programs are a total of 2,605 properties that have earned official certification or recognition for their green efforts.
Common to state programs is funding challenges and lack of manpower. In one state the program is run by “one-fourth” of a person. Another state’s program was totally volunteer run. A telltale sign of a struggling state program is a website that has not been updated—in some cases, we found, not for several years. Yet, there are still some programs that are robust and growing strong and of great value to those participating. At least one state—Virginia—even held a conference last year for its certification program participants.
Benefits from participating in a state program will vary from state to state but can range from significant marketing exposure on a state tourism website to having access to helpful information and even in-person guidance.
Representatives in 27 States Contacted
Green Lodging News recently reached out to representatives of the 27 states that have some type of green lodging certification or recognition program. We asked for the number of properties currently participating and asked what changes were made to the program in 2013 and what changes are in store this year. The representatives of two states—Massachusetts and Missouri—failed to return our calls. Here is the list of states in alphabetical order:
Alaska—Adventure Green Alaska is a voluntary certification program for tourism businesses operating in Alaska. There are currently five certified lodging establishments. Adventure Green Alaska is volunteer run. The focus for 2013 was to update the website. This project was completed in the fall of 2013. “This year we plan to continue outreach, actively pursue renewals, fortify our board, and pursue collaboration with other tourism-related organizations,” said Brigid Dodge, Board Vice-President, Adventure Green Alaska.
Arizona—There are currently 44 certified lodging establishments participating in the . No changes were made to the program in 2013. According to Kristen Jarnagin, Senior Vice President, Arizona Lodging & Tourism Assn., several changes are in store for 2014.
“We recently met with the ADEQ (Arizona Department of Environmental Quality) to have them review the workbook for any advances in sustainability that we should add or remove,” Jarnagin said. “They don’t anticipate any major changes since our program focuses generally on preservation (water, energy, etc.). In addition, we’ve decided not to go with a third party inspection system, which we have tried (unsuccessfully) to develop since the program’s inception. Instead, we are asking our advanced properties (that total 300 points or above) to serve as mentors to our other Certified Green members in order to help them in advancing their efforts. We are excited about that change and the opportunity for peer-to-peer sharing. Also, because our organization merged with our statewide tourism organization two years ago, we are working with ADEQ on a program to broaden the certification process beyond just lodging. We hope to unveil a program in 2014 that allows all of our members the opportunity to have their businesses apply for Certified Green status. More to come on that, but we’re excited to encourage more people to participate in this program.”
Arkansas Aligned with AH&LA
Arkansas—There are currently 51 lodging establishments participating in the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism’s Travel Green Visit Arkansas initiative. The person reached for this article did not appear to know much about the program. The program’s website offers the following direction to those interested in the program: “For more details on what it takes to join the green hotel initiative and become a green lodging property, visit the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s Green Resource Center.”
California—According to Monica Hassan, Public Information Officer, California Department of General Services, there are now 202 green certified hotels in California’s Green Lodging Program. Additionally, there are 11 hotels with certification pending. The program was put on hold on April 26, 2011 due to Governor Brown’s Executive Order B-06-11, which banned non-essential travel. The program resumed in July 2012 and now requires a $500 administrative fee to maintain a green certification. The fee, which covers three years, was assessed to cover program costs.
“In 2013, we implemented the new changes,” Hassan said. “For this year, we are in the process of developing a marketing plan to broaden knowledge of the program and increase hotel participation.”
Connecticut—There are currently 31 lodging establishments participating in the State of Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection Connecticut Green Lodging Program. According to Kim Trella, supervising environmental analyst, Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, in 2013 the online workbook for the program was updated. “We added more opportunities to get points,” Trellas said, citing additions such as white reflective roofs and Green Seal or ECOLOGO certified cleaning products.
Trella said there is little funding available for the Green Lodging program. “We don’t have money to promote it,” she said. “We do things that are low cost. I would like to promote it more.”
Another State with Funding Challenges
Delaware—The Delaware Green Lodging program is a joint initiative by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Delaware Hotel & Lodging Assn. to promote pollution prevention practices in the tourism and hospitality industry. According to Bill Miller, Environmental Program Manager for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, there are 23 lodging establishments participating. Miller said his organization provides technical support but there are no resources currently allocated for the program. “We are not doing any outreach or promotion,” he said. “I would like to promote it more.”
Florida—According to JoAnn Shearer, Green Lodging Program Coordinator for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Lodging Program, there are currently 698 lodging establishments certified, representing 172,500 rooms. In the last year the program added 10 new properties. In 2013 a redesign of the application was implemented. A four-level rating system was introduced. “Properties can now receive a rating of one to four Palms based on how many points they achieve on the application,” Shearer said.
In regard to 2014, Shearer added, “We are in the middle of a big renewal campaign. A lot of our properties are up for renewal so I am working on getting everyone re-designated through our new rating system. We continue to work with our partners at Audubon International and InterContinental Hotels Group to further our reach here in the state.”
Hawaii—This state has a Green Business Program for many types of businesses, including hotels. Noreen Kam, Communications Officer for the State Energy Office, says there are currently 30 lodging businesses participating. In 2013 four new lodging businesses were added to the program and re-enrollment was required for businesses that had not completed a checklist within the past five years. In regard to 2014, Kam said, “We have a goal to recognize five lodging establishments in 2014 and work with TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders program.”
Idaho—There are currently six properties participating in the Idaho Bed & Breakfast Association’s Green Lodging Program. Brian Scott, President of the Association, says a new, basic level of certification may be added this year to encourage more participation.
Prairie State Prepares to Grow
Illinois—The Illinois Hotel and Lodging StayGreen Hotel Program is “more of a recognition [program] than an official certification,” according to Karrie Teel, Director of Education and Communications and Board Administration for the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Assn. There are currently 58 properties participating.
“The program launched in 2008,” Teel said. “It was stagnant for a little while. We updated our questionnaire. We are going to give it a big push in 2014. I would like to see at least 70 to 75 hotels. We think a lot of our hotels are doing enough to qualify. You have to be an association member to participate.”
Kentucky—The Bed & Breakfast Association of Kentucky’s (BBAK) Green Lodging Certification Program currently has 17 properties participating. According to Todd Allen, President of BBAK, no changes were made in 2013. “We are due for a committee to be reestablished to make sure we have made updates,” Allen said.
Maine—The Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Environmental Leader program currently has 120 certified lodging participants. The program came under new leadership in 2013—Julie Churchill, Regulatory Assistance, Small Business Ombudsman, Maine DEP. Churchill says 2014 will see a transition to a Web based electronic certification program.
Maryland—Maryland Green Travel, a self-certification program, has 70 accommodations participating, according to Catherine Batavick, Manager, Maryland Green Travel. The program, modeled after the Virginia Green program, is open to other business types as well—restaurants and attractions, for example. “We are still working to get our core members in,” Batavick said. “We are trying to focus on getting more partners to join.”
Massachusetts—Calls to a representative of the Massachusetts Green program were not returned. It is unclear from the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism’s website exactly how many properties are participating.
Michigan—Green Lodging Michigan currently has 86 certified lodging establishments and 39 applicants. According to Roger Doherty, Engineer, Green Lodging & Green Venues, no changes were made to the program in 2013 and none are planned this year.
Minnesota Has Largest B&B Program
Minnesota—According to Tami Schluter, Interim Associate Director of the Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Association and innkeeper of the Historic Hutchinson House B&B in Faribault, Minn., there are currently 41 properties certified as part of the Association’s Green Journey Program. Schluter said she is unaware of any changes made to the program in 2013 and none are planned, to her knowledge, in 2014.
Missouri—There are currently 43 properties certified as part of Missouri’s Green Lodging Certification program. Two calls for additional information were not returned.
New Hampshire—Cindy Hureau, Member Services Manager for the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Assn., said there are currently 95 certified lodging establishments that are part of the New Hampshire Sustainable Lodging and Restaurant Program. “It has been a very fluctuating program but 2014 will be a big year,” Hureau said. “We have a lot of plans to get other members into the program. We would like to see all of our members take advantage of the sustainability program. We are also making sure members are certified through TripAdvisor.”
New Jersey—As part of the Garden State Green Hotels Project, hotels in New Jersey can more easily reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce use of hazardous material, reduce use of water and conserve natural resources, and reduce the generation of solid waste. Assistance is provided by The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) through a grant from the U.S. EPA. Green Lodging News is currently awaiting a response from NJDEP to provide an update on the program.
North Carolina—Tom Rhodes, NC GreenTravel Initiative Program Manager, said there are currently 88 travel businesses, of which 40 are lodging establishments, that have been recognized as part of the NC GreenTravel Initiative. “Our program is moving right along,” Rhodes said. “I think we probably added 20 new businesses in the lodging area in 2013.”
Rhodes said that an advisory team worked to make the program’s application more user-friendly last year. Regarding 2014, he said, “We are going to reach out to more facilities and include airports and nature-based businesses. We will be reaching out to lodging properties at different conferences.”
Oregon B&B Guild Adds Just One in 2013
Oregon—There are currently 15 B&Bs participating in the Green Inspection Program with the Oregon Bed and Breakfast Guild. Mary Pellegrini, President of the Guild, said just one property was added in the last year. “Most of our members follow a lot of our green guidelines but have not taken the time to [go through the Green Inspection Program process],” she said. Pellegrini said about half of the Guild’s 60 members probably would qualify for approval.
Fifteen lodging establishments in Oregon are also currently participating in the Oregon Tourism Commission's Sustainable Business Challenge. The program is for non-lodging tourism businesses as well.
Rhode Island—Ron Gagnon, Chief of Office of Technical and Customer Assistance for Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management, said there are 23 properties certified as part of the Rhode Island Hospitality Green Certification Program. No changes were made to the program last year.
“For hotels and restaurants we are in a maintenance type of mode,” Gagnon says. “Our challenge has been in the marketing. I am trying to raise the level of the participation. We have a golf course program we are expanding into turf management. We are trying to do a little more with event planning.”
South Carolina—There are currently 39 lodging establishments that have been certified as part of the South Carolina Green Hospitality Alliance certification program. The Alliance is a program of the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling.
Douglas OFlaherty, Director of Operations, South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Assn., said a new application was released last year for 2013 and this year. “We had a task force that went through every single question and every point value,” he said. “We omitted things that are not considered a green practice anymore.” OFlaherty said LEED certified hotels now qualify for advanced recognition through the South Carolina program.
Tennessee—There are currently 45 hotels certified as part of the Tennessee Green Hospitality Program—all of which, according to Dobbin Callahan, have undergone on-site audits. Callahan is the auditor who inspects the properties as part of his company, Skye Con. Callahan said he is currently working to expand the certification program. It already primarily involves hotels and restaurants. Callahan said that last year the Hospitality Program was studied by a group out of Maine using an EPA grant. It was found that those participating in the Tennessee Green Hospitality Program are experiencing an average annual savings of $14,000.
Vermont Strengthens Standards
Vermont—Green Hotels in the Green Mountain State is a program of the Vermont Business Environmental Partnership, a partnership of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and the Vermont Small Business Assistance Center. There are currently 108 lodging establishments participating in the designation program. According to Peter Crawford, Environmental & Regulatory Assistance Programs, Vermont Small Business Development Center, standards were updated in 2013.
“We’ve raised the bar on the standards,” Crawford said. “We added further environmental requirements including water conservation. We used to make a towel/linen reuse program optional. It is now a requirement. We added a lot more details and have definitely raised the bar as businesses have become more environmentally aware.”
Crawford noted that a rest area marketing piece highlighting the green properties has been particularly successful. Eighty percent of the designated hotels are participating in it.
Virginia—There are currently 535 lodging establishments that have been self-certified as part of the Virginia Green program. The program, which is open to other tourism businesses, has a total of 1,415 program partners, according to Tom Griffin, Virginia Green Program Coordinator. Griffin says a lot of time was spent in 2013 working on solidifying relationships with existing program partners. Also last year, Virginia Green began measuring the cost savings its members tallied in 2013. Virginia Green estimates a total cost savings of almost $25 million. This includes water savings, energy savings, and reduction in waste sent to landfill.
Unique among state programs is Virginia Green’s 2013 Progress Report. The report was just recently released. Also unique was last fall’s Virginia Green Conference. It featured the presentation of the 3rd Annual Green Travel Star Awards. Approximately 125 attended. Looking ahead, Griffin said in 2014 Virginia Green will require all program partners to recertify in order to continue with the program. Virginia Green is also working on creating a foundation to raise marketing funds.
Wisconsin—According to Danielle Johnson, Public Relations for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, Travel Green Wisconsin now has approximately 180 certified lodging establishments. The program was restructured in 2012 and a flat participation fee of $95 was put in place. Previously, the fee had been based on business size. Renewals now occur every other year for just $75. Johnson said no changes were made to the program last year and none are planned for 2014.
If your state has launched a green lodging certification or recognition program and it is not listed here, contact Glenn Hasek at email@example.com.