||Tourism is currently the world's largest industry and, if current trends continue, travel and tourism will soon be the largest industry in Vermont. Lodging is an important segment of this growing industry, providing tremendous diversity and stability to the state's economy. This sector of the economy, more than most, however, is highly dependent upon a clean and scenic environment. This is the magnet attracting many visitors to Vermont - and keeps them coming back. The lodging industry in Vermont, with nearly 20,000 guest rooms, strives to be one of the greenest.
The Vermont Business Environmental Partnership is a voluntary, environmental assistance and business recognition program offered by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and the Vermont Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The Partnership joins efforts of the public and private sectors to achieve environmental and economic goals simultaneously.
The Vermont Business Environmental Partnership recognizes Vermont innkeepers as Environmental Partners when they achieve a set of core environmental standards and six elective standards. Once Environmental Partner status is attained, those wishing even greater recognition can satisfy additional, more rigorous standards to have their properties designated as a "Green Hotel in the Green Mountain State." Although each property achieves program standards uniquely, each conducts an environmental opportunity assessment, adopts environmentally preferable practices, and develops an environmental management plan that guides its efforts to continually reduce the environmental consequences of its operations. The journey toward designation as a Green Hotel in the Green Mountain State typically begins years before a phone call is received at either ANR or the SBDC.
Upon initial contact with a facility, the Partnership staff schedule an environmental opportunity assessment. The assessment serves to highlight best management practices already evidenced and, more importantly, to suggest additional strategies and practices in areas such as: environmentally preferable purchasing, waste prevention and reuse, recycling and composting, and resource conservation (i.e., energy and water).
By taking credit for prior environmental initiatives and by adopting new strategies suggested in the assessment, a property gets recognized as an Environmental Partner. Leveraging its past success into the future, by developing a comprehensive environmental management plan and agreeing to host an educational event, allows a property to be designated as a Green Hotel in the Green Mountain State. Innkeepers are recognized by the Governor at a State House ceremony, their property gets listed on a promotional card distributed at each of the gateway rest areas in Vermont, and the Partnership maintains a website designed to laude the property's successes and to promote their patronage. Program participants complete performance reports annually.
Green Hotels in Vermont in aggregate have: computerized energy management systems, adopted linen and towel reuse programs, installed energy and water conservation devices and fixtures, reduced packaging waste by using bulk purchasing, switched to non-toxic cleaning supplies, composted organic waste, converted to renewable energy sources, educated guests as to how they can contribute to environmental initiatives, substituted bulk amenity dispensers for single-use plastic amenity bottles, eliminated the use of chlorine bleach by finding alternative disinfectants, and engineered systems to recapture waste heat.
As of fall 2003, there were more than fifty Program Partners, of whom more than thirty had their properties designated as Green Hotels in the Green Mountain State. The following is excerpted from the Strategic Environmental Management Plan of the Blueberry Hill Inn, in Goshen, Vermont. The sentiments expressed epitomize the heartfelt passion many proprietors in the Program bring to their businesses:
"...we are committed to environmental improvements within both our business and our lives. We strive to create an environment that makes it possible for all to participate - staff and guests alike. We will continue to scrutinize every area of our operations to find ways to minimize our impact on the earth. We will seek to find ways to educate others, and remind ourselves that every little bit helps, no matter how small the offering. We will strive to continually make a difference - while simultaneously maintaining our commitment to provide our guests the quality service they expect and deserve."