Green Hotel Ratings: Sustainability Matters

In addition to location, amenities and services, more and more travelers now also consider environmental stewardship when searching for accommodations. As sustainability becomes increasingly important to consumers, businesses across the hospitality industry are embracing sustainability, and engaging in activities that reduce their impacts on the environment. In line with these trends, travel sites are now making it easier for environmentally-minded travelers to choose hotels by providing environmental rating information.

In April 2013, TripAdvisor announced the launch of its GreenLeaders program. TripAdvisor developed the program in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program, the U.S. Green Buildings Council, and the United Nations Environment Programme to help travelers identify hotels and bed-and-breakfasts that operate using environmentally-friendly practices. As one of the world’s largest travel sites (according to research performed by comScore), TripAdvisor is increasing consumer knowledge of how accommodations incorporate sustainability, and implement actions that reduce their impact on environmental and human health.

Similar to other sustainability rating programs, TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders program ranks hotels and bed-and-breakfasts according to four levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, with Platinum indicating the highest level of environmental performance. To be rated as a GreenLeader and have the logo displayed on the hotel’s TripAdvisor site, accommodations are evaluated on a range of green practices in the areas of energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, green purchasing, sustainable landscaping, and employee and guest outreach and education. To support the transparency of a GreenLeaders designation, TripAdvisor provides a comprehensive list of all green management aspects of each GreenLeader hotel.

TripAdvisor is only one of the most recent travel sites to provide information on environmental stewardship at hotels and bed-and-breakfasts; there are other sites that also offer green accommodation ratings. EnvironmentallyFriendlyHotels, launched in 2005 as a travel site dedicated exclusively to green hotels, provides a comprehensive searchable database of sustainable hotels around the world. The site is owned and operated by HealthyStays.com, a company that connects eco-conscious travelers with green and healthy hotels. EnvironmentallyFriendlyHotels uses a 30-point "green hotel attribute" system to evaluate a hotel’s performance. These attributes encompass environmental, health, and social stewardship considerations, including energy and water efficiency, recycling, air quality in rooms, and charitable donations. In order to be listed on EnvironmentallyFriendlyHotels.com, a hotel must have at least 10 of the 30 green hotel attributes. A hotel can receive up to seven green leaves, which indicates the level of green attributes the hotel uses.

While not a ‘searchable’ travel site, the Green Key Eco-Rating Program provides a rating system that recognizes hotels, motels, and resorts that are dedicated to strong environmental performance. Participating accommodations are given a Green Key rating between 1 and 5 based on the results of an environmental self-assessment that covers energy and water conservation, waste management, indoor air quality, community outreach, building infrastructure, land use, and environmental management. A unique aspect of the Green Key program is that it also helps lodging properties become more sustainable, reduce their operating costs, and increase their Green Key rating by providing guidance, conducting on-site inspections, and verifying self-assessments. The Green Key site also provides an interactive map that consumers can use to search for Green Key-rated accommodations worldwide.

These programs and websites are only a sample of the resources travelers and the hospitality industry can use to find more sustainable lodging. The growing availability and easy to access information on green accommodations should inspire consumers and hoteliers alike to keep sustainability in mind. Additional resources include: