Hotels and Lodging: Eco-Friendly Renovations or Greenwashing?

In a previous post, I explored some environmentally-ethical controversies within the fashion industry. The main issue I pointed out was that even if designers are not using animals as materials for their next clothing line, is it really fair to send exotic animals down the runway as a part of their fashion show. When it comes to marketing, it is important to know where the ethical line should be drawn. This is crucial for the consumer because marketing tactics do not want to be seen as misleading. This week I explored the blogosphere in search of what criteria marketing efforts go through to ensure they remain ethical; more specifically to avoid the practice of "greenwashing". Greenwashing is the practice of claiming environmental responsibility without backing up this claim. The term was coined by New York environmentalist Jay Westerveld in response to the hotel industry's efforts to go green. These efforts included displaying green placards, reusing guest's towels, and claiming overall environmental friendliness, which in fact proved to have little to no legitimacy and was used purely for profit. While we still see greenwashing today, and will continue to in the future, there are many hotels that are trying to combat this bad reputation by upholding to standards set by hotel search engines, the six sins set by TerraChoice, and the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating system. One interesting post I found titled "PKF: Green building operations favorably impact asset value" discusses how true profit can emerge from legitimately making hotels green. However we notice in this post that profit is the primary concern. On a more earth-friendly note, I found a very interesting post by Kerri titled "Touting eco-credentials is hot marketing trend for hotels", which discusses how one couple dedicated to helping the environment truly created a green bed and breakfast inn.

"PKF: Green building operations favorably impact asset value"

This is a very interesting and informative post. I think the concept of greener hotels has been on a lot of owners minds for a while, and the prospect that new developments will undergo soon is a comforting thought. I find this post particularly interesting because it seems that there are only positives for company managers and owners to make their hotels greener. The problem that I see, which is a problem with all reconstruction for greener purposes, is timing and profit or funding. When it comes to new developments and renovation, the eventual return on investment needs to outway the costs. With the information you propose this deems true, however owners and investors will not see these returns for some time. That is where a huge drawback lies. Furthermore with the rising cost of fossil fuels, hotels will inevitably need to switch to alternative energy sources in the future, so why not now? I find the quote from Bose, “For every dollar you can add to the bottom line of a San Francisco hotel, more than $11 is added in value,” very interesting. This is definitely incentive for greener renovations, even if they will not immediately be seen. Another problem that I could see being a drawback is that state of the economy. The dark shadow looming over consumers disposable income means that there is a lot less vacationing and a lot less hotel room spending. Furthermore, with the high costs of renovation, there seems to be a lack of that extra push to get eco-friendly changes underway. Another issue that is very relevant to hotels and environmentally friendly actions is the idea of greenwashing. It is comforting to know that Bose claims that “in contract negotiations with companies, consortia and government agencies for all of their travel and meetings business, hotel operators are being asked not only to confirm that they use sustainable business practices, but to prove it by naming the awards and certifications they have earned.” It is time that we can move on to a greener world and hopefully the hotel industry will follow suit.

"Touting eco-credentials is hot marketing trend for hotels"

Thank you for your interesting and lively post. I am glad to see that there are true eco-friendly efforts being made, and success that follows. This couple whole-heartedly seems to believe in the environment and this shines through in the work they have done with their Bed and Breakfast. It seems that in order for a company, brand, or in this case lodging, to exercise authentic green practices, the brains behind the mission must genuinely have the environments best interest at heart. I find your main argument very insightful as well. Not only is green marketing a profitable tactic for marketers, it has come to the point where flaunting what you call “eco-credentials” is even more profitable. With consumer skepticism and the prospect of greenwashing seemingly everywhere it is no surprise that consumers want to know whether or not green marketers can back up their claims with legitimacy. I would like to point out that the Pinehurst Inn have every reason to be legitimately green, as you have pointed out. With the combination of tactics these owners are instilling it makes you wonder why other inns are not reaping the benefits of going green. It is environmentally friendly, cost saving in the long run, sustainable, and appealing to the modern day eco-friendly consumer. One question I would like to raise is about the rating system. The Pinehurst Inn is rated by the Wisconsin Travel Green rating system. When I looked into this it seems that it is voluntary, and as you noted “self-reporting.” Furthermore, there is a fee that one must pay in order to be rate. This seems a little bit of a skeptical source to receive a rating from, however the Pinehurst Inn holds true to what makes a hotel green. Do you think there is any reason to question the legitimacy is the credentials seem a little flaky, even if the experience at the hotel felt green?

1 comment:

ColeRoeder said...


I enjoyed your post concerning green marketing and "greenwashing". I am sure as the ecological movement becomes increasingly fashionable that green washing will become more prevalent. It is important that rating systems to determine the actual "green-ness" of buildings has been created to quantify the statements made by corporations touting their "green-ness". A rating system gives hotels an incentive to pursue actual green renovations and to prevent them from being hesitant to invest in green buildings.

I found your first comment on the Sustainable Travel blog a solid entry. I think you astutely discussed the effect that the green movement is having on the hotel business, and how investment into green renovation has high returns for hotels. I think that the comment would be even more effective if you adding a bit more critique of the post. Several questions posed to the author of the original post would open the floor for discussion, perhaps leading to an scholarly exchange with the author.

I believe the second comment is much more effective than the first at engaging the author in an academic dialogue. You pose several questions here and make an clear argument that grabs the reader more effectively than the first comment. I think it is important you brought up the “self-reporting” flaw to the environmental rating system used by the inn in the second article. If hotels or inns can simply “self-report” their status without any investigation by a independent third party, it erodes the effectiveness of a set of critia to rate “green-ness”. Additionally, saying that an hotel “feels green” does not mean that it actually is, but you pose an interesting question to the author of the blog that may create some lively debate.

One small point: I would not use “flaky” at the end of the last comment, it seems too colloqial.

Overall good post, I also wrote about a similar topic this week so I found your post very interesting. I look forward to reading your posts in the future.

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