I’ve written a few posts now where I’ve mentioned “greenwashing” (my post about Sandals, for example), but I realized I’ve never discussed what greenwashing is. So, I’ve attached a helpful video that describes greenwashing and gives some tips on how to avoid falling for greenwashing traps when searching for sustainable products. The video deals mainly with consumer goods like soda and lightbulbs, but the same principles can be applied to tourism. Hotels, like manufacturers, are feeling the pressure to “go green,” and so apply labels like “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” to their amenities—whether or not they actually are. Hotel chains know that they will get more business if they jump on the green bandwagon, and that people will pay more for something they think is environmentally responsible.
The video gets a bit harsh towards the end, but overall the message is good: take green products with a grain of salt, and remember that there is often a trade-off—if a product is changed to be environmentally friendly in one way, it is often harmful in a different way. For hotels, that trade-off is often between being environmentally friendly and leaving a positive economic impact on the community. For example, it is environmentally friendly and sustainable for a hotel to grow its own garden to provide food for the guests, but that means that the hotel is not buying food from local markets, and hence not benefiting the local community. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video that deals with the narrow topic of greenwashing in hotels and its effect on both the environment and the local community, so this video will have to do. But, like I said, the same principles apply to greenwashing in hotels: be wary of green claims, and look for the trade-off.
Michelle Bovée is a SISGI Group Program and Research Intern focused on international affairs, economic development, and responsible tourism. To learn more about the SISGI Group visit www.sisgigroup.org