As seen in the Calgary Herald.

Hotels around the globe are competing for customers in a changing world that is demanding green.

So far, The Green Building Council has certified only four U.S. hotels as"green," while more than 800 office buildings already have its seal of approval. All this, however, is about to change as the race to build energy-efficient hotels has begun in earnest.

A recent survey found almost 20 per cent of travellers choose hotels because of environmental practices, including housekeeping services that only use non-toxic cleaning agents.

Going green in the hotel industry is not just in vogue — it's sound business to consume less energy, less water and create less waste. For instance, the Marriott's only green-certified hotel, in College Park, Md., uses 33 per cent less electricity than a comparable property, which means it can charge the same rates as rivals yet earn a far better profit.

Forward-thinking management teams are taking advantage of innovative technologies and significantly reducing greenhouse gases.

Moreover, hotel chains are supporting clean, renewable energy industries, creating new jobs.

Earlier this year, Accor North America and its Sofitel Hotels signed an agreement with wind energy supplier Community Energy Inc. to purchase clean, renewable, wind energy for all of its nine locations in the U.S. This laudable decision prevents two million tonnes of CO2 a year from being emitted.
Fairmont has been implementing energy-saving measures for years — all front-desk computers in North America are run on wind power bought from a sustainable energy co-operative. Several of its golf courses are irrigated with recycled water and Audubon certified sanctuaries are protecting the environment by maintaining precious wildlife habitats.

Fairmont has also partnered with the World Wildlife Fund, entering its Climate Saver Program to reduce its global footprint on climate change.

In order to be certified green by the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings must adhere to the Leadership Energy and Environmental Design Standards. The criteria include recycling construction waste, locating near mass transit, planting water-efficient landscaping, installing windows that open and use solar tubes, choosing lower-energy elevators and laundry machines, using Forest Stewardship certified wood and other recycled materials, and covering rooftops with tiles made from recycled tires or planting sedum as green roof cover.

There are currently 61 applications for U.S. hotel projects, including 7,500 hotel rooms with MGM Mirage's $7.4-billion City Center in Las Vegas.
The leader for being the most innovative and green in the hotel sector is the Marriott International and its more than 3,000 properties.

Marriott has partnered with Conservation International and is the first major hotel company to calculate its carbon footprint and launch an aggressive worldwide campaign to lessen its impact.

Each year it uses 2.9 million tonnes of CO2 or 30 kilograms per available room. To offset this they have undertaken a remarkable initiative. Marriott is protecting 589,000 hectares of endangered rain forest in partnership with the state of Amazonas in Brazil.

As a part of Marriott's long-standing commitment to the environment they have implemented the following: the Linen Re-use Program, which encourages guests to reuse towels and linens and saves an average of 11 to 17 per cent on hot water and sewer costs at each hotel; the Re-lamp Campaign, which in 2006 replaced 450,000 light bulbs with CFLs, saving 65 per cent on lighting costs and energy usage in guest rooms; and is replacing 400,000 showerheads and toilets with low-flow devices, reducing hot water consumption by at least 10 per cent.

By 2017, more than 40 Marriotts will be outfitted with solar panels.

Twenty-three million litres of water are saved each year because they buy towels that do not require washing before first-time use.

Marriott buys more than four million litres of paint low in volatile organic compounds, which are safer to use, less polluting and reduce health risks.

Thirty-four of its managed golf courses throughout North America and the Caribbean are becoming certified Audubon Co-operative Sanctuaries.

In 2008, the Marriott headquarters became waste-neutral by replacing 2.5 million pieces of plastic and Styrofoam utensils with those made of potato, sugar cane and cornstarch that biodegrade within 100 days.