Leave it to our beloved Help Desk columnist Chris Elliott to help clarify the confusion behind “greenwashing” in travel. In a recent article he wrote, now up on his blog, he exposes techniques used by airlines, hotels, and other culprits in the tourism industry to wrap themselves in a cloak of “green” by purporting to save the planet while actually doing little to help. He writes:
[T]here’s no credible evidence that the greening of travel is saving the Earth. But here’s what we do know. A recent Deloitte survey found that nearly half of all travelers try to be “environmentally friendly” when they’re traveling, and almost a quarter of them are willing to pay more for green hotels, resorts and rental cars. Another poll by Travelocity found that almost three-quarters of active travelers were prepared to pony up more cash for a greener getaway.
In other words, travelers want to feel socially responsible—and the travel industry, true to character, is more than happy to take their money.
Elliott speaks with some experts to learn more about what you can do to avoid being duped. His highlights are after the jump:
- Look at the fuel efficiency of your aircraft (not their fancy biofuel gambits)
- Don’t just trust what they tell you. Though “green” certifications are not yet at the point where they’re internationally recognized, certain objective groups, like the U.S. Green Building Council, can give you the truth behind the hype.
- One eco-friendly practice doesn’t equal “green.” Reusing towels is nice, but look for a property which is institutionally sustainable—meaning they’ve been green from the ground up.
- Ask tough questions. Being a “green traveler” means being informed enough to know what to look for, and be comfortable enough to pose difficult questions. Do they hire and work with locals? What is their waste policy? Do they encourage conservation? These questions and more will help you make an informed decision about whether give them your business.
Have you encountered an instance of “greenwashing” in your travels? What did you do?
Photo: Jeffy Can via Flickr
- Nat Geo Expeditions