are travelling a lot these days. Everyday millions of us travel
for business or pleasure, from one part of country to another
and maybe abroad. Millions of Indians visit places like the Taj
Mahal, Golden Temple, Kashmir, Kanyakumari, Goa’s beaches,
Jaipur and Udaipur Palace, Kulu-Manali and Mumbai, to name a few.
India also attracts a large number of foreign tourists every year.
The number of foreign visitors to India is expected to cross the
10 million mark by 2010!
IMPACT OF TOURISM AND TRAVEL
Have you ever wondered what millions of us do to the environment
of the places we visit? The locals cut down trees to construct
hotels for us to stay, install more air conditioners for our comfort,
and bring in autos, taxis and buses to cater to our transport
needs. Cutting a forest down, or digging land up, to build a resort
destroys the local ecosystem, affecting air, water, animals and
vegetation. To build a hotel in the middle of a desert or on a
mountain the locals need to bring resources from outside, again
changing the environment. Human interference even affects the
environment worldwide. Can we afford to keep doing that?
This is not all. According to Green Seal, an organization that
certifies the environmental practices of a variety of businesses,
an average 150-room hotel consumes as much in one week as hundred
4-person households do in one year. That's a lot of consumption
Here are some of the reasons for increased consumption:
- In our homes the lights are off during the night and AC/coolers
are off during large portions of the day while hotels are "on"
24/7, with lights, climate control, etc.
- At home we are aware of the cost of rampant water and energy
use, so do some self-monitoring and conservation, while we often
don't worry so much about resource consumption when we are at
- Soap, shampoo, lotion, and food items are reused by our families
until they are consumed, while hotels have a one-use policy,
for which we are grateful.
- At home we do not change towels and bed sheets daily, while
we insist on that in the hotels we stay at.
We can reduce this impact of tourism in many ways, Green or Ecotel
Hotels being one of them. These are environmentally-friendly properties
with programs to save water and energy and reduce solid waste.
Additionally, the architecture of hotels with ‘Green Certification’
is aimed at saving energy. Lets address them uniformly as Green
Hotels, as uncertified ‘Green Labeling’ is synonymous
with anything that is eco-friendly, energy conserving, non toxic
and recyclable. Environmentally friendly hotels not only save
money for the owner and guests, but also resources for the world.
Many of us will be attracted to a green hotel just because it
is taking environmentally friendly steps. Organizations like the
"Green Hotels Association” bring together hotels interested
in environmental issues
All ECOTEL-certified hotels are inspected annually by
environmental experts from Hospitality Valuation Services (HVS)
International, a global ISO-certified body. To get an ECOTEL certification,
a hotel must adhere to at least two of the `five globes' of energy
efficiency, water conservation, employee education and community
involvement, solid waste management and environmental commitment.
Hotels that do not adhere to the five globes lose their certification.
The Green Building Certification is issued by US/Indian Green
Building Council or by LEEDS (Leadership in Energy and Environment
WHAT GREEN HOTELS DO
Green Hotels are constructed using environment-friendly materials
like PPC cement (Portland Pozzalana cement), which last long,
are energy saving (almost 40 per cent) and insulate against extremities
of weather. Their windows are thermally sealed and double-glazed
preventing heat and noise from entering the room. These measures
lower air-conditioning or room heating costs and save electricity.
They use low energy lamps (compact fluorescent lamps) for all
lighting. For most such hotels room lights and A/C are switched
on only when we insert the key. The interactive TV in the rooms
of some such hotels can be used to send/receive messages and clear
bills, thereby saving paper/ phone costs.
The hotels work with NGOs, corporate groups and educational institutions
to conduct environmental community awareness programs.
Green Hotels preserve and recycle water. All taps in the guest
rooms, toilets, cafeteria and the kitchen contain special devices
that increase force and decrease water outflow, saving nearly
50 per cent water. The toilets use concealed cisterns, which consume
only seven litres of water as compared to the ordinary cistern
that flushes out almost 20! Mini tanks (3.5 litres) are used for
a quick flush. Recycled water is used for gardening and air-conditioning.
Some Green Hotels capture rainwater into rain-harvesting wells
which helps restore the water table.
Bio-degradable kitchen, toilet and garden waste is decomposed
in decompost pits and used as manure. Non-bio-degradable waste
is segregated and sent to recycling centres.
WHAT IF WE CANNOT FIND A GREEN HOTEL?
The concept of green hotels is fast catching up to save planet
earth. However we may not find a green hotel always, for the simple
reason that there are not many. There are several sites on the
net when we search for ‘eco-friendly hotels’ or ‘ecotel
hotel’ or ‘green hotel’ that list eco-friendly
hotels in India and elsewhere. Some hotels practice the principles
of eco friendly lodging and boarding but may not have ECOTEL or
US/Indian Green Building Council Certification. However we can
participate in saving our environment through some "green
practices" while travelling:
- Reuse the towels during your stay in the hotel. Do not insist
on changing bed sheets daily. This saves gallons of water and
detergent. It saves a lot of energy too for hotels using dedicated
laundry for the purpose with electrical appliances.
- Turn lights, AC, and TV off when you aren't in the room.
- Accept drinking water only when you want it.
- Be as conservation-minded on the road as you are at home.
- Keep aside small packs of butter, jam, jellies, pickles etc.
served with room service and instruct hotel staff to use for
- Order only what you can eat. Do not waste.
- Give suggestions to management where you can about water
conservation, composting and other techniques to save energy.
- Do not throw used cans, plastics, empty chips and biscuit
packets, and empty water bottles around.
THE NEED OF THE HOUR
What we need today are strict laws. It must be made mandatory
for all hotels to follow the principles of environment friendly
lodging and boarding. Practices harming the environment should
be stopped. Laws and educative programs through mass communication
combined with a moral obligation to save the planet Earth are
the need of the hour. Hotel and tourism ministry and each one
of us need to pull our socks up and tighten our shoe laces as
the clock is ticking—every second taking us towards destruction.
All is not lost, there is time—so act now!