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The term “green” is fast becoming a part of everyday practice in many businesses, and the waterpark resort industry is no different. Travelers are aware of the green movement and have become increasingly interested in incorporating their eco-conscious lifestyles into travel experiences. Likewise, resort owners have discovered how going green can boost their bottom lines and increase their market shares.

As a result, hoteliers everywhere are looking to adopt sustainable practices and market their properties as environmentally conscious. But what separates those who are truly green from those who just aren’t there yet? How can industry professionals — and travelers — measure exactly how sustainable a facility really is?

Several green ratings programs currently are available to the hospitality industry. These include the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating program, the most well-known certification; Green Globes; Green Seal; and ECOTEL.

It’s up to you to determine which is right for your business, but each offers a unique and consistent measure of sustainability. Here’s a summary of each program.

LEED

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED system is a nationally recognized symbol demonstrating that a building is environmentally responsible, profitable and a healthy place to live and work.

Introduced in 1998, LEED v1.0. was developed to define and measure the sustainability of a building and its operation, and provide independent, third-party verification of all green elements. Since then, it’s grown to encompass a wide range of building projects. The current program includes:

  • New Construction v3.0, launched last month as a part of LEED 2009
  • Existing Buildings - Operations and Maintenance
  • Commercial Interiors
  • Core and Shell
  • Schools
  • Homes

The LEED 2009 program has four levels of certification — Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum (for buildings that meet the highest standards). Projects are awarded a status based on the number of points earned out of a total of 110. Points are awarded in the following categories:

  • Sustainable Sites
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy and Atmosphere
  • Materials and Resources
  • Indoor Environmental Quality
  • Innovation and Design Process
  • Regional Priority

To achieve any level of lead certification, the builder or operator must submit the property for review using documentation forms available online. Once the USGBC has certified the building, a formal plaque is issued to denote the standing.

Green Globes

The Green Globes online and assessment rating system was introduced in Canada in 2000. In 2004, the Green Building Initiative acquired the rights to offer this certification in the United States, and the following year, GBI became the first green building organization to be accredited as a standards developer by the American National Standards Institute.

Like LEED, Green Globes also offers four levels of certification and includes multiple models. These are:

  • Design for New Buildings or Significant Renovation
  • Management and Operation of Existing buildings
  • Building Emergency Management
  • Building Intelligence
  • Fit Up - Commercial Interiors

Each program is based on a total of 1,000 points, and there are seven distinct categories:

  • Project Management
  • Site
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Resources
  • Emissions, Effluents and Other Impacts
  • Indoor Environment

To determine eligibility, Green Globes tracks the individual project through each of the eight stages of development (Project Initiation, Site Analysis, Programming, Concept Design, Design Development, Construction Documents, Contracting and Construction, Commissioning) using online questionnaires covering all seven categories. After each phase, a report is generated, providing a preliminary rating and a list of achievements and recommendations for improvement.

Upon project completion, a final rating is determined by an on-site inspection performed by an approved Green Globes inspector.

Green Seal

Originally known for developing green product certification standards, the independent nonprofit Green Seal launched the “Green Seal Environmental Leadership Standard for Lodging Properties” in 1999. It applies to new and existing U.S. facilities offering travel accommodations, but does not include the swimming pools, golf courses or restaurants that may be associated with those properties.

The Green Seal standard includes three levels of certification — Bronze, Silver and Gold. But properties achieving bronze certification must meet silver level criteria within one year or risk losing their certifications.

Similar to other programs, the level of certification obtained is based on substantiated sustainability efforts in six distinct categories. These include:

  • Waste Minimization
  • Energy Efficiency, Conservation and Waste Management
  • Management of Fresh Water Resources
  • Waste Water Management
  • Hazardous Substances
  • Environmentally and Socially Sensitive Purchasing Policy.

Unlike a program such as LEED, Green Seal is more focused on day-to-day operations rather than the building materials or construction practices used. As a result, other certification programs can be used concurrently for a holistic level of sustainability encompassing building(s) and operations.

ECOTEL

The ECOTEL rating system was started in 1994 with certification of the New York Vista Hotel (later destroyed in the 9/11 attacks). Since ECOTEL’s inception, more than 1,000 hospitality properties around the world have applied for certification.

To qualify, each property must meet designated criteria in five categories and pass a series of inspections. The categories are:

  • Environmental Commitment
  • Solid Waste Management
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Water Conservation
  • Employee Education and Community Involvement

Each category has three levels of criteria and scoring — Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Every hotel applying for certification must satisfy all primary criteria before an inspection will be scheduled.

Like Green Seal, the ECOTEL rating system is primarily focused on day-to-day operations, and LEED or Green Globes can be considered as complementary programs.

With the aforementioned four systems in place, resort owners and architects now have the ability to credibly offer a high level of environmental commitment.

As the green movement pushes forward, it’s a sure bet that certification programs will continue evolving and new options will become available.