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Earth-friendly lodging no longer means roughing it in a mud hut swatting flies. Whether you’re dreaming of a luxury suite at a seaside resort or the country charm of a historic B&B, or just a place to lay your head on an overnight business trip, many hotels are now billing themselves as green homes away from home.

Find it! Green hotels

Booking an eco-lodge is a key component of green travel, and finding one that fits your style, mood, and pocketbook has never been easier. But you'll want to do a little up-front work first; earth-friendly hotels run the gamut from pale green to deepest emerald.

Some are only green-leaning. These eco-beginners offer basic earth-friendly options, such as towel/sheet reuse programs and recycling containers in guest rooms. Others are further along the green path, pampering guests with an array of high-end eco-amenities (think solar-powered hot water, luxurious organic cotton sheets, and fine bamboo-fiber stationery). These ecotels also work to cut their environmental impact (and yours) via greener operations—everything from composting food waste and installing low-flow showerheads to landscaping with native plants and using recycled paper products. Still others are going the extra green mile by building LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design developed by the US Green Building Council) facilities. Starwood Capital Group, for example, plans to launch several upscale LEED-certified "1" Hotel and Residences in 2008.

Check out these GY ecotel picks (US and International) that will help you green your stay wherever you travel. Search for more at Green Travel Hub by RezHub.com.

How to make your hotel stay greener

Even if your hotel hasn’t yet opted for an eco-makeover, you can become a greener guest all on your own by trying some of the following strategies recommended by the Green Hotels Association.

  

  • Let hotel management know your towels and| sheets don't need to be changed every day.
  • Remember which towel belongs to whom by attaching a safety pin with a small colored bead (a different color for each family member) to each towel. Be sure to remove on check-out day.
  • Take shorter showers and baths.
  • When you leave to sightsee or dine, be sure to shut off the AC/heat, lights, and television. Close the drapes.
  • Leave little shampoo and lotion bottles behind if unopened.
  • Pack a permanent marker and write each family member’s name on cups in your room, as well as water bottles and other reusable items.
  • Pack a night light instead of leaving bathroom lights (and fans) on at night.
  • Pass along complimentary newspapers to someone else, or leave them in the lobby for other guests to read. Ask the hotel to make sure they're recycled.
  • Don’t forget to turn off exercise equipment, sauna, whirlpool, whirlpool bath or tennis court lights when you're finished.
  • Reduce paperwork by checking out of the hotel via the hotel's electronic program, often available on your room TV.
  • Assess a hotel’s eco-commitment before checking in and ask for environmentally responsible services when you arrive. Ceres Green Hotel Initiative offers tools, such as a Best Practice survey and GHI Guest Request Card, to help consumers and businesses make their interest in green lodging known and help expand the industry.

Choosing a green hotel helps you go green because…

  • These eco-friendly facilities work to reduce their environmental footprint—and yours—by conserving energy, reducing water use, cutting CO2 emissions, using fewer natural resources and stepping more lightly in surrounding ecosystems.

About 17 million international travelers stayed in US hotels and motels in 2005.[1] With the average hotel producing approximately .01 metric tons of greenhouse gases in a single night, the eco-impact of sleeping away from home is significant. US hotels alone generated about 170,000 metric tons of CO2 in 2005—the amount produced by nearly 37,000 cars in one year.[2]

The US hotel industry spends $3.7 billion a year in energy costs with electricity accounting for 60-70 percent of a standard hotel’s utility bill. The average hotel also uses 218 gallons of water per day per occupied room. In addition, a typical hotel purchases more products in a week than 100 families do in a year and generates as much as 30 pounds of waste per room per day.[3]

Green hotels—a growing segment of the industry—work to cut solid waste, preserve natural resources, and conserve water and energy via a number of eco-measures, including installing energy-efficient HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems, using energy-saving CFL light bulbs, and providing towel racks that allow them to air-dry instead of being washed daily.

Green hotel ratings

The following sites rate eco-friendly hotels, lodges, B&Bs, and inns in the US and around the world. Also check out Go Green Travel Green's guide to accreditation directories.

Certified "green"

Non-certified

  • Green Hotels Association: Lists member hotels that presumably have greened their operations or plan to.
  • Best Green Hotels: Self-proclaimed “green” hotels around the world are rated on how many eco-friendly programs and services they say they offer.

Controversies

Just because hotels talk up their green credentials, doesn’t mean they’re actually walking the eco-walk. It can be difficult to tell the difference between “greenwash” and the real deal. Many regional, national, and international green hotel rating systems exist. However, some standards are voluntary and others are verified. For instance, some hotels that claim to be green (and are listed in green hotel databases) have really only implemented a few eco-friendly changes.

In addition, many organizations that list green hotels, including membership associations, apply the honor system to members and don’t verify green claims. Even hotels that have made a real effort to green their operations and have received certification don’t always promote this fact to guests—apparently under the impression that most travelers don’t really notice or care.

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