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The Travel Detective

The Travel Detective: How To Know If Your Hotel is Really Green

These days, “going green” on the road seems easier than ever. Or at least it sounds easier than ever. We’ve all seen the signs on hotel beds about re-using bathroom towels and bed linens, but how do you know if it’s just a gimmick or if your hotel is really going green?


Luckily, a growing number of hotels around the world are now seeking out legitimate certifications that confirm that they’ve become more environmentally friendly. But remember, I said SOME hotels not all of them. So, here’s what to look for.


When it comes to green certifications for hotels, there are three major entities you need to know: Green Seal, Green Key Global, and the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, also known as LEED.


Founded in 1989, Green Seal’s focus is on sustainability. This includes strict standards on recycling and minimizing waste.  To become certified, Green Seal evaluates a hotel’s records and procedures in areas such as waste-management, energy efficiency, and handling of hazardous wastes.  A hotel is then rated gold, silver, or bronze depending on how strictly it adheres to Green Seal’s standards.


Green Key, on the other hand, rates its hotels with– you guessed it–keys. To earn a Green Key a hotel property conducts a self-audit by answering 160 questions that assess operational areas and sustainability practices. These questions include environmental management, housekeeping, food and beverage operations, conference and meeting facilities, and indoor air quality. Of almost 2000 hotels participating in the Green Key Eco Rating Program, only 49 hotels have received the maximum five keys.


Lastly, the LEED designation focuses mainly on the energy saving systems and materials used in the actual hotel buildings. Using a silver, gold, and platinum level award system, hotels earn distinction for using environmentally friendly materials, being water efficient, and constructing–or–energy neutral buildings. To reach the platinum level, a hotel must score 80 or more points out of 100.

Do a little research online to make sure you’re getting more than just a pledge about used towels. Each of these green designations has an online database where you can search for a specific hotel or a list of certified hotels in the area where you’ll be traveling.

And while many of these eco-friendly practices help the hotel save money, that’s no guarantee that the savings will be passed on to you in the form of less expensive room rates. But you might just sleep better knowing that the hotel and you are helping to save the planet, one stay at a time.

By Tracy Gallagher for