Hotel industry program makes it easier to be Green

North American Hotels are banking on the colour green holding the key to the hearts of their environmentally conscious clientele.
Originally launched in 1997, the Hotel Association of Canada’s Green Key Eco-Rating Program evaluates and certifies the sustainable initiatives of hotels, motels and resorts in North America and beyond, with the highest rating being five keys.
“For a traveller who is conscious of the impact their trip is having on the environment, a rated hotel will enable them to continue to practise environmental responsibility while on the road,’’ explains Andrea Myers, director of program development at Green Key Global.
“It may even educate them on and/or prompt them to participate in other environmentally sound practices as well.”
The voluntary program was developed for HAC by an environmental consulting company and specifically designed for the lodging industry in consultation with hoteliers. 
List of participating facilities grows daily
There are 2,825 hotels currently participating in the program, with 52 earning a five-key rating as of this writing, 34 scoring a single key and nearly half of all participants sitting in the middle of the five green key rating system with three.
“A green key rating is an indication that a property recognizes the impact that its daily operations have not only on the community it operates in but also the environment from a local to global level,” Myers said.
“The rating system itself is a good indicator of the extent of programs a property has in place, though a guest should never hesitate to ask for clarification. Typically, the higher the rating, the more initiatives and resources a property has committed to lessening their footprint.”
The environmental self-assessment program grades five main operational areas of a property: corporate environmental management; housekeeping; food & beverage operations; conference and meeting facilities; and engineering.
It also covers nine areas of sustainable practices: energy conservation; water conservation; solid waste management; hazardous waste management; indoor air quality; community outreach; building infrastructure; land use; and environmental management.
Green practices constantly evolving
“The benefits our members receive provide them not only with a detailed picture of where they currently stand with respect to their sustainable initiatives, but also provide them with detailed direction on how to further their initiatives,’’ said Myers. 
“We enable them to implement further practices and procedures that are not only beneficial to the environment, the community, guests and staff but also to their bottom line.”
The program has an annual membership fee of $400 for Canadian properties and $600 for international properties.
“Most of the major brands promote or mandate the program extensively throughout their portfolios,” Myers said. “We expanded to the United States in early 2009 and have recently begun to see interest roll in from other countries.”
HAC also owns, operates and delivers the newer Green Key Meetings Programs and the Green Key Carbon Calculator under the Green Key Global banner, reflecting its international scope. The Carbon Calculator aids hotels in determining their carbon footprint.
Members constantly monitor performance
The Green Key Meetings Rating enables meeting planners to visit the site and assess how their properties perform in six conference and meetings criteria: core areas (carbon, energy, waste, water, air quality); communication (information, training); activities (purchasing, auditing, community); people (health); exhibitions; and audio/visual.
Of the 90 properties participating in the Green Key Meetings Program as of this writing, three had received a five green key rating, 40 were at four, 28 received three and one property was at two. No properties received a single green key.
“The past year and a half was quite busy and saw the launch of our Green Key Meetings Program and a Carbon Calculator,” Myers says. 
“At the moment we’re focusing on these two programs but with respect to the future we’re always exploring new ideas and partnerships to enhance our membership’s experience.”

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