Recycled toilet paper and organic coffee doesn’t make a resort eco-friendly.
Eco-travel is a hot market, but with not reliable rating system or regulatory body, the word “eco” is overused and misrepresented. For those who truly care about the sustainability and environmentally-conscious practices of their travel destination (and we ALL should), we think there’s a better way to rate and review eco-resorts.
In 2010, I visited an eco-resort with sustainability at its heart.
When the competition came to visit, they compared notes. Their energy bills differed by a factor of four – and both were eco-resorts boasting low energy usage. One had air conditioning. The other had natural ventilation and light. For the consumer, the resorts come with the same eco-rating.
The problem is simple: we don’t measure the operational footprint of these resorts on an ongoing basis. If they fall out of line, their rating doesn’t change. There are no norms for measuring the ongoing progress and operations of eco-resorts once they’re rated.
Measure and benchmark
If the eco-tourism industry agrees to measure the ongoing, verifiable use of energy and water, then benchmark resorts against each other in a normalized fashion, we can more clearly articularte the eco-ness of each resort.
This is actually easy to accomplish. Each resort has a utility bill – a trusted source of data. It’s easy to audit (just look at the bills!). The more resorts that climb aboard, the more the difference between an “excellent” and a “poor” rating can become apparent.
If we were in charge, we’d rate eco-resorts like this:
- Measure the footprint per guest days
Look at utilities consumed over the last year versus the total of guest days billed
- Divide distribution into terciles (equal groups each containing a third of the resorts)
We’d award a rating of “green” to the third with the lowest footprint
- Renew the ranking every year
This way, the ranking is objective and meaningful, easy to computer, easy to audit, and cost-effective to apply.
If we applied this system to all eco-resorts, many eco-resorts would likely prove to be very “un-eco” afterall. We would provide more clarity for the eco-conscious traveller and reward true eco-resorts with a meaningful, legitimate rating.