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Green Lodging News Research: An Update on State, City Level Green Recognition Programs

Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort, Orlando, Fla., a participant in the Florida Green Lodging Program

NATIONAL REPORT—For more than 10 years now Green Lodging News has been tracking the activities of state, regional and local green lodging certification/designation/recognition programs. Some of the programs have continued to thrive and grow—most often thanks to dedicated staff and adequate funding—while others have withered away, absent of a workable business plan.

Certification/designation/recognition programs can be labor intensive, especially if on-site visits are required, websites need updating, and criteria need to be monitored and changed. Competition from national programs can also impact the health of more local programs. The TripAdvisor GreenLeaders Program is one good example of a program that has had a significant impact.

For this article Green Lodging News contacted representatives of the 26 different programs currently listed on its website. There were some who did not return phone calls. In such cases information was pulled from the program’s website. Four questions were asked of each representative:

1. Is the program still active?
2. If so, how many hotels are currently participating?
3. Has the program undergone any changes of note in the past year?
4. Are there any changes of note planned for the coming year?

Here are the results of our recent research:


According to Tanya Carlson, Director of Partnerships & Travel Trade for the Alaska Travel Industry Assn., Adventure Green Alaska (AGA) is still active. Twelve properties are currently participating. “AGA is preparing to apply to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) to become GSTC-Recognized,” Carlson says. “Once we receive that we will apply for GSTC-Approved. This will add a certification level to the AGA program. We will keep the current level as a sustainable tourism certification introduction that is open to all Alaska tourism businesses. Once we are to become GSTC-Approved this will be a second, higher level of certification open only to hotels and tour operators.”

Annapolis (Md.)

According to Maria Broadbent, who heads up the City of Annapolis’ Certified Environmental Stewardship program, there are two hotels and one B&B currently participating. “We have a stewardship certification program we started in 2008/2009,” Broadbent says. “Ours is a pretty demanding program. Folks fill out a workbook. We sit down and meet with them. Not everyone qualifies. We have updated the program some. We have been encouraging folks to hire those who need a chance. We give points for that now.”


David Drennon, Executive Vice President of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Assn. (AzLTA), says 45 to 50 properties have been Certified Green in Arizona as part of the program that has AzLTA and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality as partners. The Department is working with AzLTA to update the program and collect baseline data from participating properties so that progress can be tracked. “Last week we launched a survey to gather the baseline data,” Drennon says. “In the first part of next year we will collect 2017 data. Hotels will have access to their own information and see where improvements are and see how that information is translating into savings.”


According to Davide Bolognesi, the new Administrator for the California Green Lodging Program, there are currently 217 certified properties. There have been no recent changes to the certification program.


Kim Trella, Supervising Environmental Analyst for the State Department of Environmental Protection, says there are about 30 properties certified as part of Connecticut Green Lodging. The workbook for the program has just been updated to include new products, technologies and systems not previously available to hoteliers.


I reached out to the Delaware Green Lodging program but did not hear back. The Delaware Green Lodging program is a joint initiative by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Delaware Hotel & Lodging Assn. According to its website, there are 25 self-certified properties.


There are now 430 active designated Florida Green Lodging properties, says Sheena Chin-Green, Program Coordinator, the Florida Green Lodging Program. Chin-Green says the website for the program will soon see an update. “We are seeing growth and more governmental agencies contacting us to have green conferences,” she says.


Lodgings in the Aloha State can participate in the Hawaii Green Business Program. According to Gail Suzuki-Jones, Energy Analyst, Hawaii State Energy Office, Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism—State of Hawaii, there are currently 24+ lodging establishments participating. In the fall of 2016, Hawaii hosted the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress. The Hawaii Green Business Program team worked with the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Assn., the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Green Team and the Sustainability Working Group in Hawaii, to ensure that the event’s lodging partners were properties participating in the Hawaii Green Business Program or the IUCN’s Green Hotels Initiative.


The Idaho Bed & Breakfast Assn. has a Green Program. At press time I had not heard back regarding the program. There are currently just four participants listed.


According to Karrie Teel, Director of Education & Communications for the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Assn. (IHLA), the StayGreen Program has changed significantly in the last two years. It was in 2015 that IHLA aligned its program with the TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program. To become a recognized StayGreen Hotel, IHLA members must meet the minimum GreenLeaders program requirements and score a 30 percent or above on the TripAdvisor GreenLeaders Survey. Properties that score a 40 percent or above are recognized as StayGreen Elite. Achieving these scores will also qualify a property as a TripAdvisor GreenLeader. There are currently 75 hotels that either meet minimum or elite levels.


Members of the Bed and Breakfast Assn. of Kentucky can earn Green Lodging Certification. I reached out to the association but did not hear back. There are at least 23 B&Bs that have earned Green Lodging Certification.

Los Angeles

Green Seal is working with LA Inc., The Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, to implement a Green Lodging Program for the Los Angeles area. The LA Green Lodging Program is based on certification of area hotels to Green Seal’s GS-33 Environmental Leadership Standard for Lodging Properties. There are currently eight hotels certified through the program with several others pursuing certification.


According to Julie Churchill, Maine Department of Environmental Protection Special Projects Coordinator, there are more than 100 properties participating in the Maine Green Lodging Certification Program. “We are transitioning to electronic certification,” she says. “We are revising our points system.”


Catherine C. Batavick, Manager, Maryland Green Travel, says the program has not significantly increased the number of accommodations participating and nobody is out “selling” the program. “It is not getting the attention it deserves,” she says. “They have actually assigned me other duties here in Tourism.” According to the program’s website, there are 81 Maryland Green Travel Accommodation partners.


A call to the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism went unreturned. As part of the MAGREEN page, links are provided to other certification program sites—LEED, Green Seal, Green Key Eco-Rating Program, etc.


The Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Association’s “It’s Inn to Be Green” self-certification program currently has 35 properties certified, says Tami Schluter, Executive Director of the Association.

New Jersey

Ky Asral, Manager for Small Business Environmental Assistance Program, says the Garden State Green Hotels Project is not as active as it once was. “We are not actually pursuing new people,” he says. “If someone contacts us, we will do an evaluation.” The Garden State Green Hotels Project had been funded using a grant from the E.P.A. Click here to view a recent video about the program.

North Carolina

Tom Rhodes, NC GreenTravel Initiative Program Manager, says there are currently 62 lodging facilities taking part in the NC GreenTravel recognition program. “This year, we are reaching out to breweries, wineries and food truck businesses as well as lodging establishments,” Rhodes says. “I am working with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina’s Visit NC program to help bring more lodging facilities on board. Their Tourism Resource Assistance Center holds four or five events annually so we can meet and greet potential lodging members and other tourism-oriented businesses throughout the state. We also have a Twitter account and a Facebook page on which we feature one of our members each week. We also feature sustainability videos to help our followers learn how to be greener. I am writing a weekly column for the Visit NC NewsLink, which goes out to the lodging and tourism businesses in North Carolina. Our plans for the coming year are to step up our outreach efforts now that we have a P.I.O. for our section at DEQ.”


Member inns of the Oregon Bed and Breakfast Guild can be recognized for their green initiatives on a Green Travel section of the Guild’s website. There are currently 10 B&Bs currently listed. Kristin Fintel, Innkeeper, Chehalem Ridge Bed & Breakfast, said the OBBG Green Travel program is in flux right now.

“This past spring, one of our innkeepers, Jamie Kerr, revamped the program,” Fintel says. “As you know, green standards are a moving target and our old program had not been maintained well enough to keep up with changes. Our program is nearly ready for re-boot; we will be getting our innkeepers to sign up and go through our qualification process this fall and winter. I don’t have an estimate as to how many members will be signing up, but we have three levels of qualification, so we are hoping to get quite a lot of members participating on the level they can afford to do within their inn and budget. We will be submitting our process to Travel Oregon to be one of their Recognized Certification Programs for their Sustainable Tourism program.”

Oregon lodging establishments can also participate in Travel Oregon’s Sustainable Business Challenge. There are now 38 properties participating in the self-assessment recognition program.

Puerto Rico

As part of Puerto Rico’s Green Certification Program, more than 40 properties have been evaluated but just eight have been certified. “We have worked under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Environmental Protection Agency since 2011,” says Carolina Morales, a representative of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. “The MOU was extended in August 2016 for five more years.”

Rhode Island

I reached out to this state’s Green Certification representative but did not hear back. The site has not been updated in two years and lists events from five years ago. The link to the site has been removed from Green Lodging News.

San Francisco

Kevin Kumatak, San Francisco Green Business Coordinator, says eight area hotels have been certified as a San Francisco Green Business. There are 13 others in the process of being certified. “We are working on creating a tiered certification program,” Kumatak says. The tiers will include: Participant, Certified, and Innovator. A six-month pilot program will be conducted and the new system will launch in 2018.


Dobbin Callahan, Environmental Consultant and Administrator of Tennessee Green Hospitality, says that including State Park lodging and all Welcome Centers, 107 facilities have been certified. At least 50 of those are lodging establishments. “We recently added the in-house restaurants as part of the certification for the hotels,” Callahan says. “It was a logical extension of what we were already doing, but now the restaurant gets its own certification (if it earns it). We also recently added a benefit for our certified properties and for the guests coming into Tennessee. Each Welcome Center has a small poster stating Tennessee’s commitment to sustainability, including the efforts by all the Welcome Centers in becoming certified. Also on this poster is a QR code that travelers can click on to see all of the certified properties statewide, by region. I wish we had some way to prove this, but I think we are the only state with all of its Welcome Centers certified.”


In Vermont a property can earn a Green Hotel designation after completing an application and having an on-site audit. Mary Ann Remolador, Assistant Director with Northeast Recycling Council and Coordinator for the Vermont Green Business Program, says there are currently 100 hotels that have earned the Green Hotel designation. “The person who founded the program retired in September last year,” Remolador says. “I started coordinating it when he left. At the state level there have been changes. The application process was revised. There are more changes coming.”


This state’s Virginia Green program is currently undergoing some major changes. Tom Griffin, Executive Director of the Virginia Green Travel Alliance, says the transition should be complete by the middle of September. “The program will no longer be administered by the state,” he says. “However, the Virginia Tourism Corporation will continue to recognize and promote the Virginia Green certification; and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will assist in the development of technical guidance and resources for the certification.” Businesses previously certified will not lose their certification, but will be required to recertify in the coming year. The new system will be run by the nonprofit Virginia Green Travel Alliance, and it will involve administrative fees to support the certification process and marketing materials associated with it.

Griffin says the Virginia Green program currently has 582 lodging partners—approximately 200 B&Bs, 30 to 35 cabins and resort condos, and the remainder hotels. This makes the program the largest state-level green lodging program in the United States.


Heidi Schultz, Travel Green Wisconsin Coordinator, says there are currently 500 certified travel businesses statewide. A search of the Travel Green Wisconsin website produced 63 hotel search results and 45 B&Bs. Cabins and cottages can also be green certified.

If you are aware of any other active regional, state or city level green lodging certification/designation/recognition programs, let me know.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.