As more of the world gets vaccinated and travel restrictions begin to lift, world leaders gathered in Glasgow, Scotland to discuss what may be our last chance (for de true this time) to stop the worst effects of climate change. While I personally am extremely eager to get back on the road, now is a good time to recognize that travel is a significant contributor to climate change. In fact, according to a 2018 study, tourism is responsible for up to 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, and that number is expected to increase.
This doesn’t mean you have to cut vacations altogether to avoid eco-guilt, but you should consider sustainable travel when planning your trips. The good news: There are many ways to travel more consciously, and choosing a sustainable hotel is one of them. The less good news: The growing demand for green travel alternatives has also led to an increase in greenwashing, that is, when companies eager to capitalize on this demand are marketing themselves as green without really making it. to support.
So how do you know if a hotel you are interested in is really worth supporting? I’ve spoken to experts about common greenwashing tactics and methods we can all use to determine if a hotel is truly eco-friendly or if it’s just another greenwashing sham.
Pay attention to environmental reports
Jessica Blotter, CEO and co-founder of sustainable travel platform Kind Traveler, said that while there are dozens of criteria travelers can look for when determining a hotel’s environmental friendliness, the most reliable and simpler is ultimately that of the hotel. environmental report. “Ideally, hotels should have a sustainability report and clearly spelled out initiatives visible on their website,” she told Mic. “While sustainability certifications are excellent and help advance sustainability, not all hotels – especially small boutique hotels – can afford such certifications. Blotter says certifications like B Corp certification work best with a hotel’s budget, but it can still take up to a year for a hotel to achieve this certification.
Sustainability or environmental reports, on the other hand, are the most direct record of a hotel’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint – and they tend to be free from fluff and complacency. that you will find on a hotel’s website. A comprehensive sustainability report can include a record of a hotel’s carbon emissions over the years and a history of water reduction efforts. The report should also include a section in which the company explains the frameworks it used to measure sustainability, as well as a third-party company’s assurance statement confirming that the data reported by the hotel is accurate. Of course, the latter remains a potential problem for hotels that do not have the means to invest in such surveillance.
If a hotel has sustainability certification, research the legitimacy of the organization it came from – hotels can pay for accreditation by pseudo-environmental organizations that don’t measure anything important. While these companies are pretty savvy, you can often identify them through vague guidelines or the lack of oversight from a larger organization, like the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with credible eco-labels and certifications, like those listed on the United States Environmental Protection Agency website. Blotter also tells me that real sustainability can’t really be achieved in isolation, so if a company doesn’t have a sustainability director or work with outside organizations, chances are they’re not taking the lead. respect for the environment too seriously.
Beware of “well-being”
Wellness hotels certainly have their merits; but Louree Maya, the founder of the eco-friendly hotel reservation platform Kynder, warns against hotels that combine wellness and sustainability. “Sometimes a ‘cool factor’ veil can obscure the view, so always take a close look at the details,” she tells me. “Do not confuse wellness travel with sustainable travel, because they are not always the same. While your personal well-being is essential, a hotel doesn’t reduce its environmental impact just because it promises to make you feel more relaxed.
The green hotels behind this wellness brand often freely use buzzwords like “all natural”, “green” and “organic” which can easily confuse consumers. But if it’s all about calming color palettes and talking about “clean” living without specifying what makes the hotel eco-friendly, it’s probably a mirage.
Don’t be swayed by small steps
Of course, every little step towards sustainability is important, but using only energy efficient light bulbs (which, by the way, saves companies a pretty penny) or organic shampoos doesn’t make for a eco-friendly hotel. ‘environment. If a hotel claims to have made an effort to reduce its environmental impact just because it made one or two of these changes, it is probably a greenwashing company. Look for a holistic, holistic approach to sustainability – and think about the little things critically. Does the hotel offer organic shampoo, but in mini single-use plastic bottles? Do they encourage you to reuse towels to save water, but are they silent on their energy use? Hotels that truly care about sustainability are taking steps to invest in renewable energy, reduce plastics and reduce unnecessary water waste, according to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance. Some hotels, however, go far beyond that: the Brando in French Polynesia, for example, collects rainwater for plumbing, produces its own renewable energy, and is carbon neutral.
Look for evidence of durability outside the hotel walls
Tourism does not exist in a bubble and irresponsible hotel practices have a real impact on local communities. For example, if a brand new eco-friendly hotel is built in the middle of a working-class community and displaces the people who live there, even though the hotel itself saves water and reduces its use of plastic, then this hotel is not sustainable. in a broader sense. “Looking through a lens of kindness that takes into account the health and well-being of communities, the environment, animal welfare and even our own individual well-being, it is possible to live and travel in a more conscious and sustainable way, ”says Blotter.
Truly sustainable hotels support local economies by sourcing food and other materials from local businesses. As part of its criteria for recommending eco-friendly hotels, Kynder examines where hotels source their food, as well as their efforts to reduce waste, but they also consider the treatment of hotel staff before to include a hotel on their site. “We can stay in an eco-friendly hotel and enjoy a lovely cafe with a sustainable garden; but if this eco hotel and cafe don’t treat their staff well, or if we are rude customers, then we are not sustainable travelers, ”says Maya.
And being a sustainable traveler shouldn’t be a passive thing. If a hotel you’re interested in doesn’t offer information about its own practices, it’s worth asking. “Travelers need to use the power of their voice to speak up and kindly ask hotels to be transparent about their sustainability in order to make sustainability a priority,” says Blotter.
Ultimately, however, staying in a sustainable hotel is only part of the equation of reducing our carbon footprint – and climate shadow – when we visit a new place. We also need to be mindful of factors such as where we buy, how we spend our money, and the means of transportation we use. As the United Nations states on its website, sustainability is “the practice of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Holding onto this philosophy as you go along and travel can prove to be the best guide.