It seems that media gave to the word "green" a lot of definitions over the last decade. But what does "green hotel" really means?

It looks like ‘being green ’ is becoming a trend. Over the last 10 years, we have witnessed more and more political figures, companies and celebrities address the topics of environment and sustainable development.

Trip Advisor and the Green Leaders programtrip advisor greenleaders

Recently, at the end of 2013, TripAdvisor has launched its program entitled Green Leaders promoting hotels engaging in green practices. It seems that hotels have the choice to ‘apply’ to this program and to be evaluated according to their green performance. How well does it really work?

For this purpose they must fill in a questionnaire of around 30 pages and send it to the TripAdvisor team who will grant them a status ranging from bronze to platinum, status that will be posted on the info page of the hotel and inside the hotel itself.

The program is available in 20 some countries – except for Asia – however, after looking at several hotels in each of the participating countries, I have to say I was disappointed. It looks like the number of engaged hotels remains minimal, as a matter of fact, insignificant and that the only participating hotels are not showcased properly nor through the TripAdvisor research engine, nor through the available selection criteria, nor through the sort functions of the website.

Waste trip advisor greenleader hotel

No sign of recycling in this waste stream of a Trip Advisor Green Leader hotel in South Carolina

Therefore if you would like to book a ‘Green leader’ hotel, you will have to conduct an exhaustive research. Another point that seems to me rather restrictive is that it’s the hotels themselves that are in charge of filling in the questionnaire and not the consumers nor appointed agents. Checking the accuracy of these pieces of information can prove to be very complex if the database of the hotels enlisting in the program increases. Moreover, I have discovered an article underlining the fact that the participating hotels in the program can still have non-green or non-ecological practices, and even not recycle waste, which seems to be a basic practice for a so-called ‘green’ hotel. Can we qualify a hotel as Green Leader if it doesn’t adhere to basic and simple practices such as recycling and selective triage, usage of ecological cleaning products and usage of low-energy consumption appliances? Not sure…In the end all of this is a matter of interpretation but I think that this program has however a long way to go before it truly makes a difference within the touristic and environmental landscape.

Is green ‘what’s not harmful to the environment’50 shades of green

We call ‘green’ everything and anything these days and we don’t make the distinction between the terms referring to ‘green’, may they refer to ecological or sustainable development. Each of the terms comprises dozens of definitions; therefore it’s very challenging to truly define what a green establishment is. The main definition of green is ‘what is not harmful to the environment’. Is it the case that a hotel can be classified as green if it utilizes an EnergyStar refrigerator but also environmentally harmful products? And how can it be compared to a hotel that recycles, that uses non-harmful products but doesn’t have EasyStar windows? And who conducts checks that such and such hotel/resort doesn’t have damaging effects on the environment? Oh it’s certain that a hotel could be granted GreenLeader Platinum status once built, but if its construction participated in the destruction of a mangrove, who will be able to revise the status?

What the program forgets once again is that all of the above remains in the hands of the hotels wanting or not to partake. A lot of people are not aware that this program exists and TripAdvisor doesn’t push it forward although it has been around since 2013. TripAdvisor takes pride in the fact that it has almost 6,000 hotels worldwide subscribed to the program. But where are they!!!? I have spent a considerable amount of time researching, I have not found anything convincing. Moreover, 6000 hotels currently represent a feeble percentage of the overall number of hotels and touristic accommodation possibilities around the world; a little under 1%. Either way, although it has stemmed from an excellent initiative, I believe that the model remains to be clarified so that the term ‘green’ doesn’t become a shadow of what it truly stands for.

Translation & Copy Editing: Liana Marinoiu