Green Key: Unlocking sustainability in the hospitality industry

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When it comes to travel, modern nomads and voyagers increasingly want to travel in a sustainable way and to eco-friendly destinations  To make sure that our wanderlust respects the environment and the local communities, eco-conscious travelers can check Wayaj’s comprehensive eco score and verify that the hotel they’re planning on visiting has a veritable eco certification. There are many eco certifications for tourism and hospitality. Many are local (national), some cover only specific sustainability factors (e.g. energy), and a few are truly comprehensive and applied internationally. Green Key is one of them. Since 1994, this non-profit organization based in Denmark has certified more than 3,000 hotels, conference centers, restaurants, and attractions in 57 countries.

Green Key measures a property’s impact on one or more of the following areas:

  • Environment
  • Community
  • Cultural heritage
  • Local economy

Countries with the highest number of Green Key properties are the Netherlands, France, and Greece.

The organization is managed by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). FEE is a non-governmental, non-profit organization promoting sustainable development through environmental education.

To put the state of sustainable hospitality industry into perspective, Wayaj has interviewed Finn Bolding Thomsen, International Green Key Director and Deputy CEO of FEE.

What trends do you see in the hotel industry with regards to sustainable travel?

There is an increasing awareness about sustainability among travelers. Research from has shown that after location and price, travelers consider sustainability at their destination a priority.

The same research has found that the less frequent replacement of amenities, such as towels and bed sheets, is now widely accepted, and we have observed that Green Key-awarded establishments (from budget to luxury hotels) have successfully implemented this type of policy. I also see the hotel industry having an increasing focus on all the different aspects of sustainability from the environment to the local communities. Certification programs (including Green Key) now include these various factors in their requirements.

What are some of the challenges the industry is currently facing?

The main challenge for the hospitality industry is that many hotels are still not aware of how they can implement sustainable practices without compromising the quality of services for the guests. Many hotels assume that it is costly to work with sustainability and do not take the return on investment into consideration (saved costs on energy/water, increased staff satisfaction and retention, etc.)

How do you see the hospitality industry changing in the next few years?

The hotel industry will continue to move towards sustainability and increase its contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Two factors are essentially pushing them in this direction: on one hand, national and international authorities are going to require changes in the form of laws and regulations. And on the other hand, consumer demand, as guests are going to expect the hotels to be sustainable

What is Green Key doing to meet the challenges and changes that the industry is facing?

Green Key offers a step-by-step solution for the hotels to integrate sustainability into their operations. Our certification program guarantees that its criteria are up to date with current regulations by revising them every 4-5 years. Moreover, we make sure that our standards are internationally recognized by an external entity (Global Sustainable Tourism Council).

Green Key also focuses on supporting the hotels in their process to implement sustainable practices by providing a detailed explanation of our criteria, through tools on our website and toolbox system for members, and through individual professional support from application to award.

Find these Green Key certified Hotels on Wayaj

What are some ways that Green Key is raising awareness to guests of sustainable establishments about new eco-friendly measures they have taken?

Environmental education (training, information and engagement) is an important component of the Green Key program. This includes requirements to the hotels to inform guests about its sustainability practices and encouraging the guests to support and participate in these activities. This can be accomplished in various ways: from informing guests about the sustainability policies in the guest brochures in the rooms, to asking guests for active participation in reducing the use of resources by reducing the frequency of changing towels or bedsheets, to support the recycling of waste by sorting it, to participate in sustainability events such as Earth Hour or to support corporate social responsibility related activities promoted by the hotel management.

What are some initiatives that Green Key has taken to increase the use of eco-friendly methods with its partners?

Green Key’s criteria encourage our participating hotels to save water and energy, reduce waste and chemical products, increase organic and locally produced food and beverages, promote sustainable transportation, and recycle outdated durables by giving them to charity. The criteria are developed in cooperation with our partners from hotel chains, interest groups, and internationally recognized by Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Green Key stands by its promise to guests that by opting to stay with a Green Key establishment, they’re helping to make a difference on an environmental level. This is the time when every little thing counts towards making the difference. Choosing to travel sustainably doesn’t cost more and doesn’t mean inferior services. On the contrary, it supports the efforts of hotels that are moving to more sustainable practices.

Happy Green Travels!

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