What is a Green Hotel?

Debra Durkee

A green hotel is an environmentally friendly hotel geared toward minimizing its negative impact on the earth and environment while still providing guests with the best services possible. Large and small measures are taken to save water, lower electricity usage, and recycle. Most of the ways in which the hotel goes green are behind the scenes, but sometimes a green hotel needs to rely on the help of the guests as well.

Energy efficient CFL lights can help make a hotel more environmentally friendly.
Energy efficient CFL lights can help make a hotel more environmentally friendly.

To save on water, many green hotels install features in each room that lower the water consumption of guests without having them do anything differently. Low-flow showerheads and aerators decrease the amount of water used in each shower without shortening the duration, while low-flow toilets use less water per flush than regular toilets. Linen cards give guests the option to reuse their towels if they are staying more than one night, reducing the amount of laundry the hotel has to do. Hotel restaurants are a major consumer of water, and serving guests water only on request, updating dishwashers, and simply telling the staff not to let water run continuously can drastically cut back on water consumption.

A green hotel with solar panels.
A green hotel with solar panels.

Green hotels often feature energy-saving devices such as fluorescent light bulbs, motion sensors for public areas, and heating units that turn off when a room is unoccupied. Some green hotels go so far as to install recycling units for gray water, reusing water that is run through sinks. Others use solar panels for energy generation or heating, and some even collect used oils from their kitchens to donate to local biodiesel vehicles.

Green hotels are enivronmenally friendly while still providing guests with the best services possible.
Green hotels are enivronmenally friendly while still providing guests with the best services possible.

Waste management is an important part of the mission of a green hotel. Many start recycling programs to cut down on items that are dumped in landfills, while some request their vendors deliver products in minimal containers and wrapping. Guests may find recycling bins in their rooms alongside garbage cans.

A green hotel relies on vendors as well as guests to help cut its environmental footprint. Environmental agencies have approved lists of vendors for products from soaps and coffee to laundry equipment and even electric vehicles for taxi services. Some vendors supply the hotels with one-time updates, but implementing strategies and hiring companies that help keep the efficiency continuously high is crucial.

Going green not only has less of an impact on the environment, but cost savings go right back to the hotel. After recovering the costs of the initial investments, a green hotel often finds that lowering the water and electricity usage lowers the bills as well. With the help of guests, these hotels can also lower the amount of garbage put in landfills and turn much of the trash over to recycling centers.

Low-flow toilets use less water than regular toilets.
Low-flow toilets use less water than regular toilets.

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Discussion Comments


@Iluviaporos - That's not always true. There are plenty of wonderful places to stay that have made a serious commitment to being environmentally friendly.

It is actually good for the hotels to do this as well. Not washing towels every single day, for example, saves them money as well as reducing chemicals and water waste.


@KoiwiGal - That might be true in theory, but I would be interested to see whether it holds up in practice. If you make the rooms smaller, you end up with more people per square foot, which means more sewage, more waste and more electricity and heating per square foot, not to mention cleaning products and so forth.

That is one of the reasons that it can be so difficult to cut down on pollution and other environmental concerns, because often the solution ends up being worse than the original problem.

And hotels tend to be fairly nasty in environmental terms, because people are much more wasteful when they aren't in their own backyard.


My favorite example of a green hotel was one I stayed in when I was visiting Christchurch in New Zealand. I can't remember what it was called, but it was based around the idea that people don't really need all that much space when they are staying in a hotel and basically all they really need is a comfortable bed with storage room and a bathroom.

It was very small, but cheap and had all kinds of modern amenities like speakers where you could plug in MP3 players and a TV that could be set to wake you with a video of a sunrise.

But because the room was so small it was a lot greener than many other hotels.

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