In a market full of different certifiers, it is important for hotels to distinguish between a green-washed standard and one with real environmental benefits.
Green Seal recently collaborated with the Bren School of Environmental Sciences and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on a year-long study to quantify the environmental benefits (in terms of greenhouse gas [GHG] reductions) for hotels in the City of Los Angeles that are certified under Green Seal’s hotel standard (GS-33).
Let’s go back a few years to get the full picture…. in 2008, the City of Los Angeles recognized the role hotels can play in reducing the city’s overall GHG emissions, and created the Los Angeles Green Lodging Program (LAGLP) to meet its Climate Action Plan goals. Green Seal was selected as the official certifier for the LAGLP, which now has 7 certified participating hotels including: JW Marriott Los Angeles LIVE, Hilton Universal City, Hilton Los Angeles Airport, Sheraton Gateway, Crowne Plaza, Westin Bonaventure, and Westin Los Angeles Airport. Los Angeles now has more Green Seal-certified hotels than any city in the nation (over 6 million square feet certified), with a number of additional hotels in the process of getting certified. Until the recent Bren Study, however, neither the City nor Green Seal had a quantitative metric of the environmental benefits of the LAGLP.
The Bren team used electricity consumption data from 6 certified hotels in Los Angeles, and found that on average:
- entering at Bronze level saw 2.8% reduction in GHG emissions,
- those progressing to Silver saw an added reduction of 8.8% (hotels entering directly at Silver would see a 2.8% + 8.8% = 11.6% reduction)
- those progressing to Gold saw a further reduction of 18.2% (hotels entering directly at Gold would see a 11.6% + 18.2% = 29.8% reduction)
The Bren team took this study one step further to see how Green Seal certification benefits a hotel itself. They conducted surveys of over 1000 participants and found that consumers were willing to pay $6.50 more per night for hotels with demonstrated sustainability measures.
A case study by the Bren team showed that meeting the most basic requirement in the GS-33 standard of upgrading lighting (mandated by the Bronze level), can reduce a hotel’s emissions by a total of 1,066 MT CO2 annually, which is equivalent to emissions from 225 passenger vehicles driven for a year. Furthermore, these replacements reaped financial benefits as well: over a 20-year project cash flow period, the hotel would see $1,562,157 in cumulative savings from avoided utility costs. Hotels can target lighting upgrades as “low-hanging fruit” that yield higher benefits than costs.
Finally, the Bren team also created a user-friendly Excel-based tool that can be used by an individual hotel to calculate its GHG reductions and financial savings from different energy and electricity reduction projects undertaken because of Green Seal certification. This tool can be used by hotel managers and engineers to calculate their GHG and long-term financial savings.
As hotels across the globe increasingly embrace green practices, it is important for the lodging industry to pursue practices with real environmental benefits. Hotels can be one of the most energy and GHG intensive buildings, as they tend to keep lights on throughout hallways at night or run thermostats even when there are no occupants in the room. Green Seal’s GS-33 Hotels and Lodging Properties standard requires hotels to upgrade their energy intensive equipment and to integrate sustainability practices in their daily operations.
The Bren study strengthens the findings of an independent study by Washington State University, which stated that: “The single most important thing is to become certified by an independent and credible agency such as Green Seal and Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), the major certification programs in the lodging industry.”