Are hotels going green?

It's Not Easy Being Green (Certified)

A recent study of business and leisure travelers revealed that the No. 1 green attribute guests prefer is a green hotel certification, such as LEED [source: Millar and Baloglu]. Though respondents indicated interest in a number of energy-saving measures such as refillable shampoo dispensers, energy-efficient light bulbs and linen reuse policies, they seemed to value green certification by a qualified ratings bureau most of all.

At the time of this writing, more hotels than ever before are seeking green certification. In March 2010, the Emory Conference Center Hotel became the first LEED-certified hotel in Atlanta, Ga. Less than a year later, Marriott and Springhill Suites hotels also earned LEED certification. Green-certified hotels employ numerous innovative energy-saving and conserving features, such as room lights that will not power on until a hotel key card is inserted. In countries other than the U.S., hotels boast green certifications from competing ratings systems like Green Star and BREEAM.

Not all hospitality industry professionals are advocates of green certifications, however. The Green Hotels Association, for instance, does not recommend certification. Its Web site points out that, with more than 800 competing green certifications worldwide and no industry-wide green standards, certifications are little more than window dressing.

Green-certified or not, the hotel industry is without a doubt more energy-conscious today than ever before. Given the nature of the business, investing in energy-saving measures such as water-conserving toilets and energy-efficient appliances saves hotels money in the long run. Some hotels are going even further in the quest to be green. The Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers recently tested a pilot program that awarded free meal vouchers to guests who rode electricity-generating exercise bikes connected to the hotel's solar grid.

Though hotels are undoubtedly becoming more energy-aware and are starting to tout their own green achievements, it can still be a challenge to find a green hotel in some places. Luckily, many Web sites offer a variety of "green city guides" to places from Berlin to Beijing.