How Green Is Your Hotel?

Key questions to ask when planning a sustainable meeting

What should you find out about a hotel in advance if green meetings are a priority? Following are key considerations provided by Amy Spatrisano, CMP, principal of MeetGreen (, based in Portland, Ore.

General Initiatives
• Does the hotel have a written sustainability policy? Ask for a copy.
• Has the property received an environmental certification such as ISO 14001; EnergyStar; LEED; BOMA Go Green; national, provincial or state green lodging designation; or another third-party verified program?
• Is a recycling program in place for the entire hotel, including sleeping rooms and meeting space? Does it specify procedures for recycling paper, plastic, glass, aluminum cans, cardboard and grease?
• Are clearly marked recycling containers provided in common areas, including lobby and guest rooms? If not, does the hotel sort and recycle in back of house?
• Is a towel and sheet reuse program in place?
• Will the hotel provide product specifications or third-party certifications for any cleaning products, as well as toilet tissue?
• Do the hotel's standard cleaning products bear a third-party eco-label, verifying that no toxins are introduced into the air or water?
• Is the hotel within walking distance of the convention center and other city attractions, or easily accessible by public transportation?
• Can the hotel provide documentation about air quality control and systems?
• Does the hotel conduct audits of energy use to measure and improve efficiency?
• Does the property purchase renewable power (solar, wind, hydro, biomass, tidal) or renewable energy credits?
• Are rain water and gray water reutilization systems in place?

Guest Rooms
• Are housekeeping staff instructed to close blinds, turn down heat/air conditioning and turn off lights during the day in rooms while guests are in meetings?
• Is the towel and sheet reuse program effectively implemented by housekeeping staff?
• Is energy-efficient lighting provided in all meeting and guest rooms?
• Are housekeeping staff instructed to not replace individually packaged amenities daily unless they are gone?
• Does the hotel participate in an amenity donation program?
• Are nonsmoking rooms offered?
• Do guest rooms have occupancy sensors?
• Are rooms equipped with low-flow showerheads and toilets?
• Are reusable or locally recyclable cups or glasses provided in the guest rooms?

Food and Beverage
• Does the property use glass or china (nondisposable) catering plates, cups and glasses?
• Is the hotel or caterer prepared to adhere to your food-and-beverage guidelines?
• Can the hotel or caterer ensure that locally grown organic options are offered in the food-and-beverage outlets?
• Can the property guarantee that polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) is not used in any area of the hotel, including guest rooms?

Measurement Metrics

• Will the property be able to track and report on the percentage of specific sustainability requests with which it has complied? 
• Can the hotel report on the weights or total amount of recyclables, compost and waste sent to landfill, or their diversion rate?
• Will the caterer be able to provide the percentage of sustainable food that was served during the meeting or event?