The eco/green/environmentally friendly movement has become popular and shows no sign of stopping. Many consumers have become more knowledgeable about green practices and have expectations for hotels. Sometimes, the decision between booking between one property over another depends on their eco-friendliness.
There are many types of certifications varying from no cost to high cost. TripAdvisor, for example, offers a free certification based on a survey. Most certifications cost money because they require third-party auditors to visit properties. Third-party auditors conduct a full analysis of environmental practices. Some certifications work well for all properties, and some do not. For example, LEED only makes sense for new builds and full renovation projects.
Below we outlined eight of the most popular green certifications. While this is not a comprehensive list, it includes the companies that are most globally recognized.
TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders Program was created to recognize hotels and B&Bs that implement environmentally friendly practices. A GreenLeader logo is displayed on a property’s TripAdvisor profile to show their commitment to the environment.
According to their website, the program was designed with help from other green industry expert organizations.
In order to meet the minimum GreenPartner level, properties must:
To qualify as a GreenLeader, businesses must also complete a survey and achieve a minimum score. Badge levels are bronze, silver, gold and platinum.
Participation in the GreenLeader program is free of charge. Information on how to apply can be found here.
Green Key Global’s mission is “To be recognized by the lodging industry as a leader in corporate social responsibility certification through educational, collaborative and promotional efforts.” Mostly focused on North America, their programs are designed for the lodging and meeting industries to support sustainable initiatives, improve overall fiscal performance and community relations.
The Green Key Eco-Rating Program is a graduated system to recognize hotels, motels and resorts that are committed to the environment and their bottom line. Properties are awarded 1-5 keys based on their level of compliance with the program. 5 keys is the highest rating. After an initial award is given, the property will receive guidance on how to maintain and improve their key level.
Assessment is based on the five main operational areas of a property including:
The program also covers nine areas of sustainable practices: energy conservation, water conservation, solid waste management, hazardous waste management, indoor air quality, community outreach, building infrastructure, land use, and environmental management.
Green Key Global reports having 1,923 hotels signed up for the program, the majority of properties having 2-4 keys.
To become a member, a property needs to complete a 140 question assessment. 20% of properties are audited every year. The cost for the Green Key Program is $600.
Green Globe International certifies many different types of businesses in the travel industry.
The Green Globe Standard includes 44 core criteria supported by over 380 compliance indicators. Specific criteria and compliances are influenced by type of certification, geographical area and local factors. Certifications are awarded on an annual basis and the standards are updated twice a year.
Once a property becomes a member, they receive a complete set of indicators for sustainability criteria, certification policies & procedures and auditor guidelines. Properties are assessed based on sustainable management, social/economic factors, cultural heritage and environmental factors. Read more on the criteria here.
Certification rates are dependent on location and hotel size. Generally, rates start at $750 per year and increase based on number of rooms and staff.
Green Globe uses third-party auditors to conduct a fair analysis on your property. Green Globe offers certification as well as training to help properties be as environmentally friendly as possible. If you are interested in learning more or becoming a member, click here.
ENERGY STAR is a voluntary United States program created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1999. The certification aims to create environmental benefits and financial value through exceptional energy efficiency.
Businesses of all types can use ENERGY STAR to:
ENERGY STAR rates businesses based on a score of 1-100. Their program is available to 21 different types of buildings and plants, including hotels. Energy scores give buildings and business the ability to benchmark their business to others. A score of 50 represents typical performance, while a score of 75 indicates exceptional performance.
There are three ways to measure your performance based on your industry.
Energy Star is free to all users and is a great way to identify a property’s energy effectiveness. The EPA rating is more of a performance indicator rather than a certification provided by other companies. However, ENERGY STAR offers businesses (and individuals) many tools.
Green Seal is a nonprofit organization that uses science-based programs to empower consumers, purchasers, and companies to create a more sustainable world. The company began in 1989 as the first nonprofit environmental certification program. They offer Green Seal Standards, Green Seal Certification and institutional greening programs.
Green Seal Standards are products, services, and companies they have declared meet their standards. A list of all these products and companies can be found here.
Green Seal Certification is a process for businesses and services to receive after they have met the Green Seal standards. There is a rigorous set of criteria to obtain different levels of sustainability. The process includes annual compliance monitoring and a commitment to continuous improvement.
Hotels and Lodging Properties certification includes three levels: bronze, silver and gold. The Standard was created 1999 and has become a leader in the industry. The certification focuses on
The certification makes properties, their employees, and their guests more aware of their actions. The fee for bronze certification starts at $1,950 and increases per tier (bronze, silver, gold) and room size. More information on the certification guidelines and prices can be found here.
Audubon International’s mission is to deliver high-quality environmental education and facilitate the sustainable management of land, water, wildlife, and other natural resources in all places people live, work, and play. They have certified over 3,000 properties across different industries to help make the world a cleaner place.
Audubon International offers the Green Lodging Program which provides third-party verification hotel properties meet a specific set of environmental standards. The certification comes with the strong commitment to water quality, water conservation, waste minimization, resource conservation and energy efficiency. The certification has five stages:
Annual fees are based on number of rooms and years in the program starting at $350 for the first year.
LEED certified buildings save money and resources and have a positive impact on the health of occupants, while promoting renewable, clean energy. LEED focuses mainly on new developments with construction best practices. However, there are five rating systems:
LEED offers four levels of certification. The number of points determines the level. Certified 40-49 points, Silver 50-59, Gold 60-79, and Platinum 80+ points. LEED certification is recognized across the globe as the premier mark of achievement in green building.
LEED has many reference guides to help your project in the certification process, and you can find them here.
Memberships vary by level starting at $300 for the lowest level extending to $20,000 for platinum membership.
If you plan to build a new property or are completing a major renovation, LEED is a great certification to have.
Green Tourism is a United Kingdom based company that has certified over 2,000 members in the UK, Ireland and Canada. Their website boasts that they are the largest and most established sustainable certification program in the world.
The criteria are divided into ten areas and hits upon 150 different measures. The ten areas are:
In order to be considered for a certification:
After your property is rated, you will receive practical tips to improve your business and receive a regular e-newsletter.
The annual fee is the number of rooms multiplied by the cost per room plus the base rate. The cost per room decreases as number of rooms increase, while the base rate increases with the size of the property. The full pricing model can be seen here.
Travelife is an international sustainability certification scheme and has been approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Their websites says they have certified over 1,300 hotels around to the world to improve their environmental, social and economic impacts cost-effectively.
The Travelife certification helps businesses manage and improve social and environmental impacts by complying with sustainability criteria. All Travelife certified hotels and accommodations must undertake an independent on-site audit to receive the award. Properties can receive one of two awards either Travelife Gold award or Travelife Award of Excellence.
The award is based on the following criteria:
The full criteria list can be found here.
For a Travelife-certified hotel to maintain their award they must be audited every two years. The membership price is based on maximum guests per night and property size starting at 800 euros for a two-year membership.
To begin your registration, you can fill out their form here.
The certifications listed above are not appropriate for all types of properties. But, there is a green solution out there for any property willing to put the time and effort.
Large Independent Chains:
Bed and Breakfasts:
Independent Properties or Hostels:
Many of these certifications offer extensive case studies outlining the positive effects of implementing eco-friendly practices. Obtaining a certification, especially one completed by a third-party auditor, will help confirm your team’s efforts, as well as convince guests your eco-claims are valid.