As awareness of mankind’s environmental impact on earth grows, more and more individuals are becoming environmentally conscious. This movement has also reached the hospitality industry, an industry in which establishing sustainable practices can have a significant impact due to the large numbers of individuals it accommodates each year. The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has established the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification programme to recognise hotels and motels that have worked towards reducing their overall impact on the environment.
What is the LEED certification?
In general, the LEED system measures how a facility lowers CO2 emissions, improves the quality of indoor air, reduces waste, and saves water and energy. Buildings that receive LEED certification can display their certificates in their lobbies, establishing their credentials as eco-friendly hotels.
According to the USGBC, “green” facilities use “26 percent less energy, emit 33 percent less carbon dioxide, use 30 percent less indoor water, and send 50-75 percent less solid waste to landfills and incinerators.” The LEED rating system is completely voluntary and based on a consensus of panel members who are independent of government or corporate involvement.
While the benefits of attaining LEED certification primarily affect the planet, hotels also benefit from making these structural and procedural changes.
Making environmentally friendly adjustments often results in lower operating costs as energy and water efficiency increase. The necessary renovations generally cause the property value of the hotel to rise. In addition, the ability to brand a property as LEED certified leads to a higher profile among eco-conscious consumers and businesses, who are interested in patronising hotels that leave a lower carbon footprint.
How does a hotel qualify?
Qualifying for LEED certification is a rigorous process. There are 100 separate points that the agency considers when evaluating a property’s environmental impact. These points cover multiple aspects of eco-friendly operation, including choosing a building location in an area with access to public transportation, using Energy Star appliances throughout the facility, using local and recycled materials in construction, and selecting indoor paints that emit no harmful chemicals. In order to receive certification, a property must meet at least 40 of the 100 points. Certification is issued in four levels: Basic certification for properties that meet 40-49 points; Silver certification for those that meet 50-59 points; Gold certification for hotels that meet 60-79 points; and Platinum (the highest) certification for those that meet 80 points or more.
A number of hotels and motels have begun the process of achieving LEED certification, and the largest participant in the programme thus far has been Marriott. In 2010, the company announced plans to certify 300 of its properties as LEED-compliant by 2015. Included in these properties were both new construction projects that would be LEED certified upon completion, and existing properties that were being renovated to meet LEED standards. The company has also embarked upon eco-friendly practices at its headquarters, including recycling 69 percent of its waste, eliminating disposable eating utensils, and replacing standard fixtures with higher efficiency lighting.