Green Hotels

Green Hotels: How Do I Identify Sustainable Travel Lodging?

Are you a globe trotter but want to have a small footprint? You aren’t alone. According to a study by, 83% of global travellers think sustainability is vital. Green accommodations are an essential element of a more sustainable approach to travel. Unfortunately, it can be tough to tell which hotels are really green. To help set apart the cream of the crop, several organizations created green certification programs.

What Is a Green Hotel?

Green Hotel
Green Hotel

There are a variety of hotels that might achieve a sustainable hotel certification and these come in all shades of green. Some were constructed with sustainability in mind and may be LEED-certified buildings. After opening their doors, others have made improvements like installing water-saving plumbing fixtures and using natural cleaning products. Some may give back through volunteer or donation programs and consider their impact on the broader community.

Unfortunately, some hotels and resorts may employ greenwashing to attract green travellers but might not meet rigorous standards. A few major hotel chains that have shown a concerted effort to green their operations include Hilton, Marriot, Hyatt and Starwood Hotels.

What Are Green Hotel Certifications?

It is critical to discern which hotels are the most sustainable to reduce our impact while on the road. Certifications include industry guidelines and best practices but each certification program has its own criteria and standards. Well-designed certifications can help identify genuine leaders from those greenwashing themselves without really having substance. They also help guide companies on ways to continuously improve, thus becoming more sustainable over time.
Some green hotel certification programs may emphasize one aspect of sustainability more than another, so your personal preference also comes into play when choosing which certification programs to trust.

Are There Trustworthy Green Hotel Certifications?

Numerous certification programs can help choose accommodations. The following are from the most rigorous and respected to the more questionable ones towards the bottom.

Green Globe

This program measures travel and tourism businesses and their supply chains and contains 44 core criteria. Green Globe considers itself the “highest standard for sustainability worldwide” and even appoints a third-party auditor to work with clients on-site. It even shows on its website how it compares to other certification programs.

The certification program has specific criteria for various types of tourism-related businesses, including golf courses, restaurants, tour operators, attractions and resorts. Companies can have three different statutes: Certified, Gold and Platinum. Companies can achieve the Platinum standards if they have been certified for ten consecutive years. In addition, Green Globe has received Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) recognition, helping to increase trust in this certification.

Green Key Global

This certification program was designed for hotels and meeting venues across the globe. With 1,600 certified hotels and 350 venues across 20 countries, this program has a broad reach across North and South America.
Green Key uses a grading system with five keys being the highest and provides guidance on improving a rating. The assessment examines multiple areas of operation, including waste, energy, water, community outreach and indoor air quality. Like Green Globe, Green Key is GSTC-recognized. In addition, it parts with BookDifferent which offers a searchable database of hotels along with their estimated carbon footprint.


This international certification program is available for tour operators and accommodations in over 50 countries. Its program includes 163 criteria related to human rights, community engagement and environmental impact. Organizations must renew their membership after two years and undergo an audit and the program is GSTC-recognized. Unfortunately, this company doesn’t offer a simple search tool but has a database of certified hotels by country.

Are There Green Certification Programs Specific to Geographic Areas?

Yes, your destination shapes which certification programs are most helpful. The GSTC maintains a list of certification programs it recognizes. Many of these specialize in a particular geographic region such as Europe or Australia.

Your Actions Make a Difference

Green Hotels
Green Hotels

Ultimately, part of the impact of a hotel stay depends on our behavior, even if you do find a green hotel. If possible, avoid drinking bottled water (unless it’s the only safe option), alert hotel housekeeping that you don’t need freshly laundered towels or sheets daily (for extended stays) and turn down the AC or heat when going out. Book your hotel in a walkable area and walk or take public transportation to your destinations when possible. If the hotel doesn’t collect recycling, try to find places to recycle your items off-site. And bring your own toiletries in reusable containers to avoid waste.


Let us know in the comments how likely you are to book your hotel at a sustainable travel lodging.

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