Blanca Morales is an Ecolabel expert working for BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Europe’s largest network of environmental NGOs. This story was first published on BEUC website.
Now that summertime is officially here, you might be in a holiday mood. But not a day goes by without the environmental crisis making the headlines, and tourism is known to add fuel to the fire, putting pressure on scarce natural resources.
So, if you as a consumer are wondering how to minimise your holiday’s environmental footprint, one way is to stay in a hotel managed sustainably. Environmentally-friendly holiday accommodation is a win-win. While travellers enjoy a lower carbon footprint holiday, hotel-owners improve their image while saving costs. The trend is on the rise, with 55% of global travellers more resolute to make sustainable travel choices than they were a year ago.
In response to the growing green demand, many holiday accommodations claim to be ’green’, ‘sustainable’, ‘eco’… While some truly make the effort, others might just use such labels as a marketing trick. So, what can consumers trust? In Europe, the EU Ecolabel rewards the greenest hotels, camp sites and B&Bs that meet strict environmental criteria.1 Here is how the flower label helps you enjoy your holidays while being kind to the environment:
1. You are safe from greenwashing
The Ecolabel criteria are updated every four or five years, to ensure the label keeps rewarding the most environmentally friendly establishments. Independent inspectors carry out regular audits on the ground to ensure licensed accommodations play by the rules. Non-compliant establishments risk losing their license.
2. You lower your holiday’s climate footprint
The tourism industry accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, often due to poorly managed hotels and campsites. The EU Ecolabel helps to cut emissions by, for instance:
- running on renewables energy. Depending on the number of green contractors operating in the region, either 50% or 100% of the hotel’s energy must be purchased from renewable sources;
- using energy-efficient appliances such as washing machines and water heaters, and no heating or air conditioning in outdoor areas;
- serving at least two local and seasonal food products per meal. Food will not travel more than 160km to reach your plate. Seasonal production methods are less resource-intensive than out-of-season foods (for example tomatoes consumed in winter);
- promoting eco-friendly transportation for goods and guests,such as public transport, electric vehicles, car sharing or bikes.
3. You reduce waste
In a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario, the UN Environment body warns that tourism will generate a 251% increase in waste disposal by 2050. EU Ecolabel hotels & camp sites reduce their waste generation by not only cutting food scraps2 but also prohibiting disposable toiletries and single-use plastic packaging for non-perishable food.
4. You use water efficiently
In an Ecolabel hotel, the water running through taps or used in toilet flushing will be just the right amount, thanks to flow rate requirements. The water used for laundry is also managed efficiently as bed sheets and towels cannot be replaced every day – unless explicitly requested by guests. Hotels get extra points when they manage the swimming pool carefully, recycle rainwater, or set up efficient irrigation systems.
5. You move away from toxic substances
In an Ecolabel establishment, bed sheets, towels and floors can be cleaned with eco-friendly detergents. Some might even go the extra mile serving organic food and maintaining green areas pesticide-free.
The EU Ecolabel has something for everyone. Going green doesn’t necessarily eat up your holiday budget, as choices range from cheap camp sites to luxury hotels. More sustainable does not mean less comfort, as some might fear.
Ecolabel accommodation options are available in many European countries, mostly in popular southern holiday destinations, such as Spain, Italy and France. There are hundreds of choices across Europe, but the offer needs to surge to make it easy for consumers to choose green hotels. That’s why the EU Commission and national authorities crucially need to step up promoting the EU Ecolabel both among hotel owners and holidaymakers. The more consumers know about Ecolabel hotels, the more likely they’ll go for it.
Finally, the EU Ecolabel is about much more than hotels. For over 25 years, Ecolabel has been rewarding the most environmentally-friendly consumer products such as tissue papers, paints, shower gels, shoes or clothes! Be on the lookout for the flower logo every time you shop, whether you’re at home or on the move.