4 | Spring 2008
By Soha Mody and Kate Myers
The hotel industry continues to evolve based on consumer
tastes. In the 1980s, the luxury hotel reinvented the
definition of decadence. By the 1990s, the demand for a
more personal, intimate hotel experience was satiated by
the boutique hotel. More recently, consumer preferences
have inspired the green hotel.
The greening of the hospitality industry, however, is
more than a fleeting trend or a socially conscious endeavor.
Rather, it presents novel, and sometimes challenging,
issues for those individuals or companies that acquire,
design and operate a hotel. Green hotel principles apply
to both new construction as well as the retrofitting of
The Green Movement
In the past decade, the hospitality industry has developed new and more sustainable practices and is proving
that “green” and “luxury” can go hand-in-hand. The
green movement is propelled by the distinct recognition
that green hospitality is a profitable enterprise. With U.S.
hotels collectively spending nearly $4 billion a year on
energy, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA), hotels now are choosing to use renewable materials, earth-friendly supplies, energy-efficient
technologies and management practices that reduce both
environmental impact and operational costs.
Several hotel companies are trailblazers in this regard. In
the early 1990s, Fairmont developed a Green Partnership
Guide to help implement environmental goals; today, the
Washington, D.C., Fairmont is committed to purchasing
10% of its annual electric load from wind-generated power.
Starwood, in collaboration with Perseus Realty, has just
launched 1 Hotels, which the company touts as a “five-star,
eco-friendly international hotel brand.” The debut of the
new brand will occur in Washington, D.C., with one of the
region’s first eco-friendly luxury hotels, a property certified
by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) as part of its
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
program, which will donate 1% of its profits to a local
environmental organization. Other green pioneers include
Accor, Kimpton Hotels and Saunders Hotel Group.
The green movement is also relevant to the rehabilitation
of existing hotels. According to the National Trust
for Historic Preservation, “[t]he conservation and
improvement of our existing built resources, including
re-use of historic and older buildings, greening the existing
building stock, and reinvestment in older and historic
communities, is crucial to combating climate change.” As
many preservationists point out, the greenest property is
the one that’s already built. Kimpton is a good example
of a hotel group committed to green principles in its
The green movement is propelled
by the distinct recognition that
green hospitality is a profitable
rehabilitation of historic properties. The company turned
the former General Post Office Building in Washington,
D.C., a National Historic Landmark that had fallen vacant
for 10 years, into the luxury Monaco Hotel. More generally,
Kimpton’s Earthcare environmental program aims to use
non-intrusive, high-quality, eco-friendly products and
services at all of the group’s hotels.
How Green Is Your Hotel?
Despite the rapid movement toward green hospitality,
there is no universal measurement or guideline to determine the “green-ness” of a hotel. The most recognized
hotel certification programs in the United States are
Energy Star and LEED.
Energy Star: Energy Star is a joint program between
the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy with the
goal of facilitating more energy-efficient products and
practices, most notably through providing resources to
hoteliers seeking improved energy and financial performance. According to the Energy Star program, America’s
47,000 hotels spend $2,196 per available room each year
on energy. Energy Star-labeled buildings use an average
of almost 40% less energy and emit 35% less carbon
than comparable buildings. For example, Energy Star
has recognized Marriott International Inc. (“Marriott”)
twice, most recently in 2007, for its sustained excellence,
including nearly $7.8 million in savings on energy bills and
a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by more than 3%
per available room since 2004.
LEED: Green building standards such as LEED have
been implemented in many building industries and