When I first launched Green Lodging News in July 2006—really not that long ago—most hoteliers had little idea what LEED meant and struggled to get their arms around the concept of sustainability. There are still those out there that need to be educated but in general a lot has changed for the better in the last three years. In July 2006 there were just a handful of hotel developers thinking about LEED; today there are approximately 500 hotels registered for LEED certification. Whereas three years ago few companies had executive-level positions dedicated to environmental affairs and sustainability, now there are many. Consumer demand, revelations about our planet's health, legislation, company policy and the proliferation of certification programs have all helped put a spotlight on sustainability.
Sitting here on Earth Day, I am amazed how far our industry has come since the summer of 2006. Yet, I am also alarmed at how far our industry still needs to go. The lodging industry continues to have a dramatic negative impact on the environment through its use of toxic cleaning chemicals, consumption of energy and water, and generation of waste. Thousands of new hotels are currently in the pipeline—in the U.S. alone—and that means even more environmental impact.
The good news is that a lot of people care and are taking significant steps—through process change and the implementation of new products and technologies—to minimize our industry's environmental footprint. Let's face it, without travel, our industry will die. Yet with travel, we put our planet in even more peril. Solving this conundrum will continue to be our greatest challenge. Maybe by Earth Day 2010 we will be one step closer to sustainability. We shall see. Happy Earth Day everyone.