Back to the Basics: What is Sustainability?
By Michelle Millar Assistant Professor Hospitality Management, University of San Francisco | March 03, 2013
What Does Green Mean?
As Kermit the Frog used to say "It's Easy Being Green". But what does green mean in terms of the lodging industry? Green hotels, also called eco-friendly hotels, ecologically friendly hotels, or environmentally friendly hotels, are defined a variety of ways, but the term green has become commonly used to describe a hotel's environmental practices. In other words, how "green" a hotel is may be determined by policies such as recycling, or using efficient lighting such as compact fluorescent or LED lights.
A green hotel is an environmentally conscientious operation that promotes and practices energy efficiency, conservation, and recycling, while at the same time providing hotel guests with a clean, and healthy product. According to the Green Hotel Association, green hotels are "environmentally-friendly properties whose managers are eager to institute programs that save water, save energy and reduce solid waste-while saving money-to help protect our one and only earth". Some simply say, "green hotels are those that show concern for the environment". The emphasis on protecting the "environment" is often a key indicator for green-identified hotels.
The industry started referring to green hotels roughly within the past 5-6 years. At that time the idea of being green was becoming a popular concept in the lodging arena, even though several hotel companies have been practicing being green for many years. For example, Fairmont, often recognized as a leader in green practices, has incorporated such policies into their operations since the 1990's. They publish the "Green Partnership Guide" which is widely used both in industry and in the classroom as a resource for operational sustainability. More recently, however, the word "sustainability" has started to replace the word "green", because, as stated earlier, being green is often about more than just environmental practices. Sustainability, in theory, encompasses more than just protecting the environment.
Sustainability. Sustainable development. Sustainable business. Some, as with the word "green", would call any term that incorporates the word "sustainable" a buzzword around the world today. The widely recognized Brundtland Report, created after the 1983 World Commission on Environment and Development, defines sustainable development, as "development, which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". This definition is one of the most often cited and focuses on three aspects of sustainable development – economic development, social development and environmental protection. These three aspects, or pillars as many people refer to them, are also called the three E's of sustainability – economic, environment, and equity, and are interconnected to each other; none can exist without the others. Despite their interconnectedness, however, some companies may still focus on just one aspect, such as environment, without recognizing it's relationship to people or profit.