How to Find a Hotel That's Truly Fit for The Eco-Friendly

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Travelers seeking a hotel that leaves a minimal carbon imprint often end up in a place that falls short of their expectations. Sometimes the green credentials turn out to be little more than a ficus plant in the lobby. Or worse, "green" means that the showers are cold, the toilets are a long walk away and the place is lit by flashlights.

The problem is that in the United States, "we don't have one single source that clearly defines what is or is not a green hotel," said Glenn Hasek, editor and publisher of Green Lodging News, an independent e-mail newsletter that covers the eco-hotel industry. Unlike in Canada, Costa Rica and some other countries, no single U.S. agency or organization verifies the credentials of eco-lodging. Nor are there many guidebooks or comprehensive directories devoted to the subject.

Still, Hasek and other green hotel specialists have identified several criteria that eco-minded hotel shoppers should look for:

· A towel and linens reuse program.

· A 100 percent nonsmoking policy.

· A recycling program for guests.

· The use of compact fluorescent lights instead of incandescent bulbs.

· The use of nontoxic cleaning products by housekeepers.

Additionally, some hotels compost their food waste and use the results as fertilizer. Some are equipped with sophisticated technology, including devices that power down heating and cooling when guests are not in the room.

Beyond the environmental features inside the property, green accommodations should sponsor outreach efforts to educate guests and the surrounding community in sound sustainable living, according to Karen Lewis, co-owner of Lapa Rios, an award-winning mountain resort in Costa Rica. The hotel also manages the 1,000-acre nature preserve that surrounds it.

Ronald Sanabria, director of sustainable tourism for the nonprofit Rainforest Alliance, suggests that travelers ask hotel managers what they are doing to contribute to conservation and to help the surrounding community practice sustainability.

Sanabria also suggests that travelers find out whether the property's green credentials have been certified by a third party. A number of independent, national and state organizations certify eco-hotels, including the Washington-based Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), an architectural and building organization.

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