Eco-Hotel Certifications Blossom

Third-party validation of environmental practices is a growing necessity for the lodging industry By: Janeen Christoff
Aria Las Vegas just received Green Key certification. // © 2010
Aria Las Vegas just received Green Key certification. // © 2010

The Details

Audubon Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program

Green Key Eco-Rating Program

As the green movement chugs on in the face of economic hardship, the lodging industry is finding more ways to prove to customers that they are eco-friendly. These days, some type of third-party validation of a property’s environmental standards is practically required as customers are becoming wary of hotels who offer only a “recycle your towels” message. This is especially true as major companies, such as Nike and Proctor & Gamble, are requiring traveling employees to reduce their carbon footprint on the road.

While Green Seal and the United States Green Building Council’s LEED certification are among the most well-known ratings, other organizations, such as Green Key Eco-Rating Program and the Audubon Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program, are other ways a hotel can assert its environmental pedigree.

The Green Key Eco-Rating Program is one of the largest international programs evaluating sustainable hotel, motel and resort operations. The graduated rating system helps hotels improve their fiscal and environmental performance, assessing five main operational areas of a property and nine areas of sustainable practices. Operational areas include corporate environmental management, housekeeping, food and beverage operations, conference and meetings facilities and engineering. The nine sustainable practices encompass energy and water conservation, solid waste management, hazardous waste management, indoor air quality, community outreach, building infrastructure, land use and environmental management.

Once evaluated on these standards, a property’s environmental responsibility is measured by its Green Key Rating, with a five-key rating as the highest achievement attainable.

Recently, 12 MGM Resorts International properties received recognition from Green Key, with two properties at CityCenter (Aria and Vdara)  — a pillar of environmental technology in the lodging industry — earning the five-key rating.

“This is the first time that our operations have been placed under this kind of microscope and the first time that our company’s everyday commitment to ‘green’ practices have been formally validated,” said Cindy Ortega, senior vice president of energy and environmental services for MGM Resorts International. “We see this rating as quite an accomplishment, as it acknowledges our company’s commitment to sustainability, while allowing guests the ability to let environmental stewardship play a role in selecting a hotel when they travel. Ratings such as Green Key offer real confidence in those choices.”

Another third-party rating system that hotels can use to show their environmental friendliness is the Audubon’s Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program. The Green Leaf program also rates a property’s best practices using a one-to-five standard. The program began in 1998 and uses a comprehensive method of assessing the extent to which a property undertakes environmental measures. Participating facilities typically also reduce environmentally related costs as well.

Most recently, Marriott Vacation Club has committed to furthering its environmental efforts and has partnered with the Audubon Green Leaf Program to “green” its resorts in North America and the Caribbean.

“Our resorts have been utilizing green practices for years and the Audubon Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program will take it a step further by providing consistency through a respected environmental group like Audubon International,” said Dirk Schavemaker, senior vice president of resort operations for Marriott Vacation Club. “By enrolling our resorts in the Green Leaf Program, we’re confirming our enduring commitment to the environment, our communities and our owners and guests who stay at our resorts.”

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