Again, is your property certified green? Pardon me for starting this week’s column with the same question as last week. The thing is, I realized I had barely scratched the surface when talking about the various green certification/rating systems available in the lodging industry. Thank you to a few readers for bringing some of the other programs to my attention.
In last week’s column I highlighted programs in Florida, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, California and Michigan. There are numerous other programs, however, that are not state-specific. One of the oldest industry rating programs is the Green Leaf Eco-Rating program that is run jointly by Audubon International and TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc.
According to Kevin Fletcher, director of programs and administration for the Eco-Rating program, Green Leaf is based on the premise that what is good for the environment can be good for business. This concept is known as eco-efficiency. Hotels that participate in Green Leaf have the opportunity to reduce costs, improve performance and achieve a Green Leaf rating that enables them to make gains in market share.
Within three years of joining Green Leaf, a participating hotel enters an “eco-rating” stage, in which it completes an environmental checklist that reviews all functioning areas of operation. After a review of the checklist, program staff then conduct a verification audit to determine the hotel’s rating—one to five Green Leafs. Hotels that earn five leafs are considered world industry leaders in eco-efficiency.
“Third-party verification is what our program is built on,” Fletcher says.
Audubon International also has a Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. It addresses environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, water quality management, outreach and education. Fletcher says Audubon is working to add a third-party certification element to that program.
Energy Star Program Shines
A total of 167 hotels are now Energy Star rated as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program. Participating hotels commit to continuous improvement of energy efficiency. As part of their commitment, they agree to measure, track and benchmark energy performance, develop and implement a plan to improve energy performance, and educate staff and the public about the Energy Star partnership and achievements gained through the program.
According to Daniel Ruben, executive director, Boston Green Tourism, hotels can earn the Energy Star label if they are in the top 25 percent of hotels in their class for energy efficiency (energy use divided by square feet, adjusted for climate and other factors).
Green Seal, HAC, Green Globe
Although it currently is emphasizing product certification, Green Seal still maintains its certification program for hotels. The organization certifies properties that meet its GS-33 environmental standard. Interested hotel operators must complete an application process that includes submission of specific data. As with the Audubon’s program, there is an application fee and certified hotels benefit in numerous ways—marketing being one of them.
“Green Seal helps hotels differentiate themselves from their competitors,” says Linda Chipperfield, director of marketing and outreach for Green Seal. “It ultimately helps them save money and add to the bottom line.”
In Canada, the Hotel Association of Canada administers its own ECOmmodation Rating Program. The rating system is designed to recognize hotels, motels and resorts that are committed to improving their fiscal and environmental performance. Based on the results of a comprehensive environmental audit, hoteliers are awarded a one to five green key rating and given guidance on how to find ways to reduce operating costs. Members also benefit from sales, marketing, public relations and team building opportunities.
“You can’t afford not to be a part of this valuable opportunity,” says Tony Pollard, HAC president, on the organization’s website. “The HAC ECOmmodation Rating Program should be integrated into every hotelier’s business plan.”
Green Globe also has a certification program that includes a benchmarking process called earthcheck. It was developed by the Earthcheck Organization. Hotels that have environmental initiatives that meet Green Globe’s criteria can be granted Green Globe Certified Status.
Rating System Overload?
There are many opportunities to participate in rating and certification programs. Choose wisely. Most ask for fees to at least cover costs. Before selecting one, ask other participants what benefits they have gotten out of the program. Be sure to ask program managers how well their programs are doing and if they intend to be around for the long haul. When possible, opt for those organizations that provide third-party certification or at least on-site verification. Question those programs that allow you to just mail it in. And yes, I still have to write about ISO 14001. Stay tuned.
As always, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (440) 243-2055. I look forward to hearing from you.