Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 5/17/16
Would you feel comfortable biking, rather than renting a car, on your vacation?
How would you like it if your hotel asked you if it could change your personal bed sheets only once per week on your extended stay?
Would you be able to solely utilize reusable bottles rather than plastic water bottles on a trip?
In an age in which we are working harder to protect our planet — including those in the tourism industry — this is becoming more of the norm.
“I think that people are planning their trips a lot better and they are thinking about the impact they are having when they’re traveling,” said Nora Wagner, director of strategic planning and programs at Duke Farms in Hillsborough. “In the tourism industry, people are becoming more environmentally conscious.”
Part of that is because lodgings and points of interest have become more sustainable, setting an example for visitors.
“We do attract a certain amount of people who are environmentally conscious and also those who just want a nice day out but while they are here, there are subtle messages about stewardship, like our carry-in-carry-out trash policy,” Wagner said.
Staff members at Duke Farms considers themselves a model of environmental stewardship, taking advantage of any opportunity — whether it be from land management to building — to be as sustainable as possible. Just a few examples of their environmental efforts include infrastructure that maximizes energy efficiency, community gardens, permeable pathways and more.
At Element Ewing Princeton, the only LEED-certified hotel in New Jersey, meaning it is 100 percent sustainable from floor to ceiling, the staff also works to provide a green environment for its guests, fostering habits that they can hopefully bring home with them.
The hotel utilizes water-efficient faucets and fixtures, free bike rentals, Energy Star-rated appliances, green cleaning products, the option for once-a-week personal bed linen changing for extended stays, no plastic products and more.
“Our guests definitely appreciate the hotel sustainability aspect,” said Alexis Davison, director of sales of Element Ewing Princeton. “They want to reuse their towels, charge their Apple products off fitness-machine power in our gym and utilize the natural light in our lobby.”
Unfortunately, not all lodgings are so educated in how they can be environmentally conscious. But hopefully, that won’t be the case much longer, thanks to a state program.
Green Travel New Jersey is a voluntary pilot program being developed with the state and operators of hospitality facilities that allows lodgings to earn a New Jersey Green Lodging certification, which ensures that a lodging meets environmentally friendly standards for water conservation, indoor air quality, energy efficiency, minimal waste and more.
To ensure that facilities maintain certification standards, the New Jersey State Green Certification Lodging Program conducts random audits of a selected facility on a regular basis and monitors guest feedback. If deficiencies are noted, the New Jersey Green Lodging Program offers assistance to correct them, and consistent failure to correct deficiencies will result in removal from the program.
Being green isn’t just good for the program, the environment and guests — it’s valuable for a hotel’s wallet, too.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program has determined that a 10 percent reduction in energy costs in the hospitality industry results in $2 more in revenue per room for full-service hotels. Across the lodging industry, this would save $745 million per year.
“People are saying to themselves, ‘OK, I need to make sure I have trash bags with me in my backpack,’ when they go out to a park for a day,” said Wagner. “They are learning to be less impactful with their carbon footprint.”
In order to be a more environmentally friendly traveler, Davison suggests that tourists utilize rideshare programs, bicycling and minimize waste by taking only what they are going to consume in food items.