Saturday, June 2, 2012


Eco-labels, also known as green-labels, work to reduce environmental degradation by helping consumers make more informed decisions about the products they consume.  By using the information provided by an eco-label, the consumer is thinking about their health and well being but he is also thinking of the resources used in providing the consumable.

The Green labelling began in the 80's, as part of the "green" revolution in marketing with non-food products. Labels on products with "green" claims like "environmentally friendly," "nontoxic," "energy efficient," "recycled content," and "recyclable" began appearing in several commercial venues. Later,   with consumers choosing to buy more and more products that wouldn't have a negative impact on the environment, manufacturers started to take advantage of such labels to increase their market value. 

The manufacturers started therefore to worry about showing to the costumer an emblem that certified the product. However, the emblem did not offer any details about what those environmental qualifications were. It became a trend. In some cases the label did not even mean changes occurred in the product or in the process of producing the product,. The label just meant that the product used a percentage of recycled material, or natural ingredient (etc). Items or ingredients that were already there in the first place.

"The rapid proliferation of eco-labeled products serving as marketing tools has led different countries' governments, together with representatives of consumer groups and industry, to develop programs to standardize eco- or green-labelling. Manufacturers are encouraged by market trends to eco-label their products to avoid losing their market share." (Environmentally friendly hotels)

Each country decided therefore to certify their products in accordance with certain standards established by their own government. This certification schemes started to extend from products and food to services and industries.  

The hospitality and tourism industry is a major consumer of resources and products. Consumption includes land; construction, operation, maintenance, and eventually demolition of the building; fixtures and furnishings; cleaning supplies; food; and equipment. Then, over their lifetime, buildings require appreciable amounts of energy, water and many other resources. Lets not forget Hotels are active 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year in and year out, using water and power throughout the day for general operations and guest use.

The built environment and industries as the mentioned above are therefore responsible for a considerable portion of the overall air, water and soil pollution. With this massive ongoing use of  resources and damages to the natural environment it is critical that actions are undertaken to preserve the environment and conserve resources for future generations.

With this aim, more than 100 ecolabels and certification schemes are already available for tourism, ecotourism and the hospitality industry worldwide (find here some of them). Some of the certification programs include: (Environmentally friendly hotels)

  • international standards for lodging properties to follow for certification
  • lodging certification programs
  • hospitality property certification
  • U.S. building certification
      • U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
Although these schemes have different quality, are based on different criteria, have different content, and are designed for different countries and policies, they all have the same objective. The objective of stimulating environmental concern and encourage innovation within the industries without necessarily having to increase costs. Studies reveil that not only operating a facility in an environmentally responsable way is not more costly, but there exist a number of convincing examples of facilities where proactive environmental management, including lower water consumption, waste-water treatment, lower energy consumption and a variety of other measures were successfully combined with increased profits (Bohdanowicz). 

So, It is time to change mind sets and start getting involved with industry self-regulation schemes such as green-certifications and help guests make more informed decisions about the hotels they want to stay in.
Although it is good to have a certification scheme, having 100 eco-labels around the world does not seem to me to be the answer to the present challenges. Amongst all the industries, the hospitality should be the one that shares a common rating scheme worldwide. After all, hotels are used by tourist from all over the world. And by definition, a tourist is a person who travels for pleasure, usually sightseeing and staying in hotels. As such, a tourist should be able to travel abroad and understand what is behind an eco-label and which commitments where made to diminish their negative impact on the global ecology.

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