Green Hotels: Eco-Friendly Travel Choices

The hospitality industry has taken increased notice of its environmental impact in recent years. Thousands of hotels across the globe have responded to customer concerns for the environment as well as an internal desire to reflect good environmental stewardship. Whether it's business travel or a leisure trip, making green choices when you travel is possible now more than ever. Here are a few guidelines that can help you select green hotels.

Why Do Green Hotels Matter?

All living things within an environment—including plants, animals and microscopic organisms—comprise an ecosystem. Each plays an important role in how effectively that ecosystem functions. Human survival, and that of other organisms depends on the existence of healthy ecosystems and environments.

Sustainability operates hand in hand with healthy human ecosystems. It’s a reflection of how effectively biological systems remain diverse and productive. Sustainability efforts help stabilize this ecosystem. They also reduce negative human impact through the use of environmentally-friendly chemical engineering, environmental resources management, and environmental protection.

Professional Certifications Recognizing Green Hotels

There are a number of certifications around the world that recognize green standards in the business world. Here are some of the leading certifications, ranging from daily business practices to detailed construction practices.

Green hotels

Fairmont Hotels offers Earth-friendly programs for children. Photo courtesy Fairmont Hotels.

BREEAM Assessments

A highly respected sustainability assessment method used throughout the world, for commercial construction projects and infrastructure, BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) measures sustainability across multiple categories. Several categories address low impact design and reduction of carbon emissions as well as design durability and resilience. With offices in nine countries (including the United States), BREEAM assesses adaption to climate change plus ecological value and protection of biodiversity. Building projects score points for achieving individual targets, resulting in comprehensive ratings.

LEED Certification

A certification program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System has become a widely respected designation. This ratings system reflects a building’s environmental impact based on practices that include how the building was sited, materials used, water efficiency and more. Green buildings can be rated as Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum.

About 400 LEED-certified hotels that operate across the globe—most with Silver or Gold certification—cover nearly 133.9 million square feet of commercial space. Approximately 1600 additional hotels are currently working towards certification.

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certification

The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) promotes forest management across the globe, which reflects environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous practices. Their goal is to “meet our current needs for forest products without compromising the health of the world’s forests for future generations.” Several principles set forth by FSC include Maintenance of High Conservation Value Forests, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and Environmental Impact.

EarthCheck Certification

Operating since 1987, EarthCheck (with offices in Australia and Mexico) promotes the idea “that what can be good for the planet is also good for business.” Widely considered the world’s leading certification and advisory group for travel and tourism entities, EarthCheck helps businesses, communities and governments create clean, safe, prosperous and healthy destinations that will attract travelers—whether for business or pleasure. Their international client base ranges from premier destinations and multi-national companies to local governments and small business owners.

Making Green Hotel Choices When You Travel

Hotels can make some easy choices that support environmental health, whether or not they desire to obtain any of the certifications listed above.

Green hotels

Green hotels often have bicycles available for guests. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

Here are several eco-friendly practices they may adopt, which can help you select options when you travel.

Green Seal Products

The Green Seal program includes 33 standards that can be applied to 400 different product and service categories, such as Lighting & Control Products or Paper Products. A product that has become Green Seal Certified reflects criteria and guidelines developed for manufacturers, service providers, and companies that are interested in achieving sustainability as well as certification.

Low VOCs

Ever feel a headache or dizziness coming on when you’re in a room that has recently been painted? You won’t feel those effects in the presence of Low-VOC paints. Many ‘traditional’ paints, used in commercial and residential buildings, include VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds, solvents that enter the air as paints dry and can cause irritation. Although more study is needed, the EPA has indicated that some VOCs may be carcinogenic.

Recycled Toiletries

More than 4,000 hotels and resorts work with Clean the World to distribute recycled soap and hygiene products across 100 countries. Clean the World then distributes these lightly used guest amenities to children and families in countries where there are high death rates associated with pneumonia and cholera—two top killers of children under five. Since 2009, Clean the World has distributed more than 35 million bars of soap.

Adopting Advanced Green Technologies

Hotels are increasingly using advanced technology to adopt initiatives that help them introduce green technologies to customers and behind the scenes. One example is Fairmont Hotels. Through its Fairmont Sustainability Partnership, it has adapted such policies as installing smart thermostats, efficiently booking hotels to make it easier to heat and cool, using wind and river electricity generation, recycling, using bio-degradable containers, and converting cooking oil to biodiesel. Fairmont also has a large Bee Sustainable Program.

RoamRight travel insurance

Many factors go into your decision regarding the right hotel or resort for your needs, in a particular destination. Why not enjoy your stay while treading lightly on our natural environment?

Here are some of the green hotels and resorts featured on Wander With Wonder. Many others offer a variety of green practices, so if you find green hotels on your travels, be sure to share your green hotels in the comments below.


Written by Lisa Waterman Gray

A Kansas City-area resident, Lisa Waterman Gray has savored Quebec’s finest cuisine, ridden in a pickup before a Kansas buffalo herd, and toured natural Arizona landmarks with Native American guides. In June 2011, 18 months of driving, research, and writing ended with national publication of Lisa’s book, An Explorer’s Guide: Kansas. During October 2014, she was a U.S. delegate for Terre Madre and Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy – a conference for Slow Food International. Lisa has written for Dreamscapes Travel & Lifestyle (a Canadian magazine), USA, Midwest Living, four AAA magazines, and other clients. Visit her online at

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