October 9, 2019

Everyone wants to indulge in guilt-free pleasures, and one of the greatest pleasures in life is travel. Couple that with this new generation of vacation-starved, socially conscious yuppies, and you’ll get an influx of sustainable hotels and resorts attempting to cater to this market of eco-consumers. And don’t worry about the price tag. According to a study published in 2012 in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, consumers are willing to pay a premium for hotels with greener initiatives that allow them to travel without further damaging the earth.

Because of this trend, however, many establishments in the hospitality industry have also begun to exploit the “eco” name to justify their exorbitant fees. Worse still, they’re not actually committed to saving the planet at all, resorting to greenwashing to attract customers. In some cases, greenwashing comes as outright fibs, designed to make companies appear more eco-friendly than it really is. In others, it’s a consequence of trying to get ahead of the competition and thus making claims without looking into their degree of accuracy.

Whether intentional or unintentional, don’t get swindled by such greenwashing. Put your money into a genuinely sustainable brand that will benefit not just the property’s physical environment, but also the local community it’s a part of. Here are a few red flags that might suggest the hotel you’re staying at is guilty of greenwashing.

When there are inconsistencies

One of the oldest tricks in the book is to slap a sign on the bathroom counter, telling the hotel guests to reuse their towels in an effort to save water and electricity. This is a classic way for hotel companies to avoid spending extra money washing towels, and effectively reducing their expenditure, under the guise of pursuing “sustainability”. Now there’s nothing wrong with this. Indeed, it’ll help reduce one’s carbon footprint. The problem is if that’s the only sign of environmental friendliness you see in the accommodation.

If they tell you to reuse your towels, yet offer an abundance of single-use, plastic-wrapped disposables, it’s time to reevaluate the authenticity of the brand’s pro-environment mission statement. Such inconsistencies and contradictory patterns can only point to either a lazy team that didn’t bother to develop a more holistic programme, or one that is simply deceptive.

When there are no statistics and studies to back their claims

Take a gander at the resort’s website and marketing material. How many times do they mention the words, “organic,” “sustainable” and “green”? Is there a section that’s dedicated to explaining the cause behind the company? Hotels that use vague jargon, in relation to the environment, without diving into the “how” that elucidates exactly what they’re doing or offering to help the environment should come with a giant red flag.

Take note when a brand starts making sweeping statements, using superlatives and hyperboles with abandon, yet providing no numbers to legitimise their claims. It’s easy to get lost in flowery descriptions and enticing copy, but also critical to parse through the decorative language and discern the facts for you to make an informed decision.

When a hotel starts branding itself as “eco-conscious” after the buzzword gains traction

For brands to reach the mass market, it’s all about riding on popular fads and trends. It could be spinning a hot topic in current affairs and incorporating it into a tongue-in-cheek social media advertisement to increase eyeballs. It could also be taken too far as a marketing tool when a resort essentially rebrands itself without following through with a proper action plan.

One day, it’s just a regular seaside bed and breakfast. The next day, it’s a luxury, eco-conscious resort for the mindful and the young at heart. It’s possible that these establishments had always been conscious of the environment, but only recently found a way to articulate their identity. But be wary. You could also end up in a money-minded enterprise that pays no mind to whether the sea turtles are choking on plastic.

When they’re not fully committed

Can you write a listicle about the ways the hotel is saving the planet? Is it enough to fill a whole page? If the answer is no, it’s clear evidence that the business is not a truly eco-conscious one. In fact, they could just be doing the bare minimum to claim the “sustainable” title. When a hotel isn’t fully committed to the cause, it’s possible they’re only interested in raising the bottom line.

A company that is more invested in environmental issues would be wrestling with questions about how much damage they can reduce, or what it means to be truly sustainable. What’s the point of being green if you’re only going to make half the journey? Besides the sign for reusing bath towels, look out for certifications by legitimate environmental agencies to find out how committed the hotel is.

Here are a few more things to consider: Are the furniture made from reclaimed material? Is there an initiative that benefits the local community by employing native workers and such? Does its restaurants use locally sourced ingredients? Is there a rainwater recycling system in place? All these questions and more will shed light on how genuine your hotel is.