Posted by: ecodestination | August 2, 2009

Is that hotel really eco? A look at certifications

Alam Sari Keliki Hotel, the boutique eco-hotel in the hills in Keliki, north of Ubud in Bali

Alam Sari Keliki Hotel, the boutique eco-hotel in the hills in Keliki, north of Ubud in Bali

Oy. I read that some hotels tout themselves as eco solely because they offer their guests the opportunity to not wash their laundry daily. Ridiculous? Indeed!

To help remedy the situation and separate the farce from the truth, there are now as many as 100 green travel certifications all over the world, all of which help potential guests learn whether a hotel’s eco claims are for real. Sixty of these are in Europe, and only 7 are global, including Green Globe and ECOTEL; some countries have their own particular certification program.

[Right now most certifications only apply to hotels and lodges, but increasingly others are cropping up to deal with tour operators, beaches, parks, golf courses (a green golf course?!), and boats.]

The certification measures health and safety standards (whether they are legally required or not), quality and service, and sustainability – which sometimes but not always considers the environmental and social impact of the hotel and its programs on the community.

Green Globe looks at the traditional tourism market. Its certifications reward the cutting down of electricity and water use. They do not set standards on performance (only intent – hello problem!). This one looks at the non-human environment, largely, as social and cultural issues are not addressed. (If you ask me, the environment entails all of us – are we not part of it? Is it not part of us?) P.S. Their user interface is not very intuitive. Good luck surfing their website!

So Green Globe focuses on intent as opposed to performance. Conversely, performance-based achievement certifications set clear environmental and social requirements, such as a specific percentage of local sourcing of employees or food.

ECOTEL is performance-based and more thorough than Green Globe. ECOTEL looks at five inspections:

  • Environmental commitment
  • Solid waste management
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water conservation
  • Employee education and community involvement

Each of these 5 inspections has a 3-tiered Numerical Scoring System for the meeting of criteria. And all hotels have to satisfy ECOTEL’s primary criteria before even applying for the certification. Sweet. That tells me the certified hotels give a damn. Read more here.

See the ECOTEL-certified hotels here to plan ahead for your next trip!

Not many hotels – or even countries – are listed. Hopefully the eco certification industry will soon burgeon and make it easier for all of us to make ethical choices for our trips and vacations.

And I like STEP: Sustainable Travel International

STEP is the world’s first and only global sustainable tourism eco-certification program offered by a non-profit organization. […] Due to its comprehensive nature, STEP was recognized as the most comprehensive of any sustainable tourism certification initiative in an independent research analysis commissioned by the United Nations Foundation, helping to establish STEP as the “Gold Standard” in sustainable tourism certification.

Although STEP is globally relevant, it is designed to address unique regional social, cultural, environmental and economic attributes.

STEP offers another advantage: because it is non-profit, it costs less to acquire its label – when you have to pay high prices for certification, it can get complicated no matter how green you already are. Especially if you’re just starting out or if you’re in Mexico, say, and the swine flu has kicked your business in the bum and left you struggling to stay afloat.

So to check out destinations certified by STEP, click here.



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