|Vermont is a destination for bucolic views, maple syrup, vibrant fall colors, snow covered mountains, historic villages, and country inns. The unspoiled beauty of the landscape is largely responsible for Vermont’s popularity as a vacation destination (13 million out-of-state visits/year; tourism is about 10 percent of the state’s annual revenue) and protecting the quality and character of the state is paramount in maintaining the Vermont brand identity.
Vermont’s lodging industry is beginning to understand the importance of the integrity of the state’s natural, cultural, historic, and aesthetic attributes. The “green” movement shows vitality as an increasingly popular strategy of innkeepers statewide. In response, the Green Hotels in the Green Mountain State program was created in 1998 to promote and advance environmentally – and fiscally – sound practices at the lodging establishments throughout the state. This program, a branch of the Vermont Business Environmental Partnership (VBEP), is a voluntary environmental assistance and recognition program offered by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) and the Vermont Small Business Development Center.
The Green Hotels program recognizes Vermont innkeepers that are committed to pollution prevention and exemplary environmental stewardship. The process begins with an environmental opportunity assessment conducted by the VBEP program staff, in which good practices are observed and recommendations made to further reduce the environmental impact of the inn and the guests. A property must adopt eight core standards in order to be designated an “Environmental Partner.” These standards include management policies, such as:
-designating an environmental team
-developing a mission statement
-developing an environmentally preferable purchasing policy
and such initiatives as:
-solid/hazardous waste and toxics use reduction
-recycling and composting
-wastewater discharge reduction
-environmentally preferable purchasing
Once a facility attains “Environmental Partner” status, additional and more rigorous standards, such as an environmental management plan to guide efforts to continually reduce the environmental consequences of operations, can be satisfied to be designated a “Green Hotel.” Finally, the program gathers data to measure the overall success of the program through performance reports.
More than 80 lodging properties have become Partners since the program’s inception, of which 50 have been designated as Green Hotels. Innkeepers are recognized as new program members by the Governor at a State House ceremony. Members also have their property listed on a promotional card available at each of the gateway rest areas in Vermont.
The marketing value of the program is essential to its success. The ‘green’ achievements of a hotel appeal to potential tourists, and the green lodging industry in Vermont is increasing in both numbers and in public awareness. Statewide lodging organizations have shown interest in endorsing and marketing Green Hotels, and VBEP maintains a website designed to laude the environmental accomplishments of each inn.
Green lodging is not without its challenges. While small, independently-owned inns are easily attracted to and retained in the program, larger properties are much more difficult to both bring into the program and to sustain as partners. Many large hotels are owned and managed by two different entities, often with different priorities. However, increasing market demand and green cost-effective procedural and facility improvements are slowly shifting hotel management towards environmentally sound practices. The VBEP program is working to include all of the state’s lodging facilities, large and small, and based on current trends, it is expected that interest in the program will continue to grow.