As environmental awareness continues to increase and environmental responsibility becomes increasingly important for businesses, hotels around the world are getting in on the green trend. More and more hotels are promoting themselves as being certified green by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.
The LEED Green Building Rating System is a third-party certification program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a group of building industry sector leaders. It rates buildings based on their environmental impact in categories that include siting, materials used, water efficiency and more. Green buildings can be rated as Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum.
Currently, there are about 400 LEED-certified hotels in the world that cover nearly 133.9 million square feet. Most of these are either at the silver or gold level. In the next few years, that number is expected to increase significantly. There are around 1600 hotels currently going through the process of becoming certified.
How Does This Impact Hotels?
Consumers today demand that the companies they buy from are committed to environmental responsibility, and some will even pay more for greener products and services.
This means that going green can be good for business, because it makes customers more likely to have a positive view of your hotel and may even be willing to spend more to stay with you.
In addition to helping hotels make more money, it can also save them money through lower energy and water costs due to improved efficiency. In many areas, tax rebates and other incentives are available to hotels that become LEED certified.
LEED certified buildings also tend to have better indoor air quality, which will positively impact the health of guests and employees. Of course, helping the environment is also a benefit in itself and is a practical thing to do in the long run, because we count on the environment for our own survival.
How Are Hotels Changing to Become Greener?
Hotels owners can make a wide variety of changes to increase the sustainability of their buildings. Changes to energy use, recycling programs, water use and more can all have impacts.
About half of larger hotels have installed energy management systems to help keep their energy use lower, according to a 2016 survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
Smart systems can help turn down heat and air conditioning when rooms aren't in use and turn off appliances that aren't being used. Sensors can also be placed in rooms to help determine whether people are there or not, and then turn down heat or switch off lights if the room is empty. The majority of hotels now also use LED or other energy-efficient lighting.
Some hotels have also installed their own electricity generators, such as solar panels or turbines that run on the hotel's exhaust heat. Hotels can also opt to purchase their electricity from renewable energy resources.
About three quarters of hotels have implemented water saving programs – another important factor in going green. Most hotels today encourage guests to reuse towels in order to reduce the amount of water used for laundry. Installing water fountains or providing guests with water filters can also reduce the use of bottled water.
The location of a hotel also impacts how green it is. Hotels that are in walkable locations or are close to public transportation facilities will encourage visitors to drive less.
What's the Cost of Going Green?
Going green might have some upfront costs, depending on the steps you decide to take. If a hotel decides to install more energy-efficient windows, for example, they'll have to pay a considerable up-front price. Similarly, energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances can cost more than less efficient models.
Efficient light bulbs, however, use less energy and last longer, meaning you'll have to buy them less often. In the long run, these bulbs and other energy-efficiency measures will end up saving you money in the long run.
Other methods of making a hotel greener, such as doing less laundry, provide up-front savings as well as environmental benefits.
The cost of going green depends on your building and exactly what you plan to do, but in general, the costs of building and running a green hotel and a less sustainable hotel can be comparable. In fact, as opposed to worrying about the costs of going green, some guests and hospitality professionals are more concerned about the financial and environmental costs of not going green.