A Glossary for Sustainable Hotels

Photo by Daniel Watson on Pexels.com

This is a growing tree of acronyms and information and we will be adding to it frequently.

Alternative Energy or AE: Any energy that does not harm the environment or use up the Earth’s natural resources.

Alliance: When Sustainable Hotel News talks about the Alliance we are referring to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance. We only use this shortened name if there is too much repetition with the full name.

Blackwater: Contaminated waste water from toilets, sinks and kitchens.

​​BMS systems: A BMS monitors, controls and reports on smart building technology systems to control HVAC (heating ventilation and air con) and lighting systems and efficient water systems.

BREEAM certification: Globally accepted as a certification process for a sustainably designed building. BREEAM is a certification system for a sustainable built environment with nine criteria including energy, health and wellbeing, ecology and waste. It’s a bit like LEED. They just have different processes to get to their criteria. As part of the government’s Construction Strategy, it is now a requirement for all public projects to undergo an environmental assessment; achieving an Excellent BREEAM rating.

BREEAM In-Use: With BREEAM In-Use the owner, manager or property investor fills out an online self-assessment tool. Property investors, owners, managers and occupiers determine how to drive sustainable improvements in the operational performance of their assets, leading to benchmarking, assurance and validation of their operational asset data.

Carbon Footprint: Emissions of greenhouse gases from an individual or business. Measured in tons. Most businesses are aiming to be carbon neutral.

Carbon Negative: Removing more CO2 from the atmosphere than is emitted. So for a hotel it would have to take into account not only the operational emissions but those created during construction as well.

Carbon Neutral: This is when a business achieves net-zero carbon emissions, which means it can offset or balance its carbon footprint or buy carbon credits to make up the difference.

Carbon Offset: When you buy credits to offset or balance the carbon you are producing. Some hotel groups plant trees to offset their carbon emissions.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Where companies and businesses take on social and environmental concerns when planning their operations. 

Earth Check a standard / accreditation for sustainable hotels which uses internationally recognised criteria to report on areas including environment, risk and quality management.

Eco Hotel: A hotel which, with its operations and practices, is deemed not harmful to the environment. Worth asking how and why they are an eco hotel.

Embodied Carbon: Carbon emissions which happen during the building, development or renovation of a building. This is by far the largest amount of carbon emissions to focus on when thinking about hotels – the operational carbon emissions are much smaller than embodied carbon.

ESG: Environmental Social Governance – this phrase is all around us at the moment and is interchangeable with CSR. It means a company has to be socially and environmentally responsible in its strategies and can be held to account by its own self governance.

EMS: Environmental Management System.

EU Ecolabel: As its website says “the official European Union voluntary label for environmental excellence. Established in 1992 and recognised across Europe and worldwide, the EU Ecolabel certifies products with a guaranteed, independently-verified low environmental impact.”

Gigawatt: a gigawatt is a unit of measurement of electrical power and is often talked about when discussing Solar energy. It takes three million solar panels to create 1 gigawatt of power (and that energy can be stored and then dispersed). A gigawatt is the equivalent to 10 million 100 watt light bulbs or 100 million LED lightbulbs.

Green Building: Any building – hotel, school, house – that creates a positive impact on the environment with its design and construction and subsequent operations. There is no global standard but there is the World Green Building Council, which supports its members to help them create green buildings suited to the environment they are in.

Green CAPEX: (capital expenditure made in environmentally sustainable economic activities)

Greenwashing: A term used when companies suggest they are greener than they are to sell their products. 

Green Key: Another award for environmental standards  – this one is a “voluntary eco-label awarded to more than 3,600 hotels and other establishments in 60 countries.” The other establishments include campsites, hostels, restaurants and conference centres. Operated by the Foundation of Environmental Education.

Green Globe: Established nearly 30 years ago this is another certification for sustainable hotel and tourism operation practices. If hotels adhere to the strict criteria they get the Green Globe International Standard for sustainable tourism.

GSTC: The Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

ISO14001: an environmental management system standard. ISO 14001 Environmental Management provides guidance on how manage all aspects of a business from building to operations to product development and more. The idea is to be more sustainable and improve environmental performance for regulatory compliance and the ability to meet supplier requirements.

LEED certification: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a globally recognized green building rating system. It’s a bit like BREEAM. It provides a framework for being environmentally friendly, to produce lower carbon emissions and be healthier for people who use it and in the community. It’s a complex process but these are some of the points which have to be checked and certified. Sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality. You can get up to 110 points on your LEED certificate depending on what levels of sustainability you achieve. There are four levels:

  1. 40-49 points LEED Certified.
  2. 50-59 points Silver Certification
  3. 60-70 points Gold Certification
  4. 80+ points Platinum Certification

Net Zero Water: When a building or community only used the water that falls on its location.

Rapidly Renewable Materials: These are materials with a cycle of 10 years or less – so materials like cork or bamboo flooring or, wool carpets.

Renewable Energy Certificates: RECs show how much renewable energy has been generated – giving a consumer or business an idea of renewable energy options.

SATE External Thermal Insulation System: When buildings are thermally and acoustically insulated from the outside making them more environmentally friendly through saving energy and preserving temperatures on the inside.

Sustainable Hospitality Alliance: An organisation, which works with hotels and industry bodies to help the sector drive sustainability. Also known as The Alliance.

Sustainability: Achieving an ecological balance in the natural environment as resources are used. Basically keeping at a level which is sustainable for the environment. Or according to the United Nations: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

Zero Waste: When there is no waste – waste might be composted or reused or repurposed but nothing is chucked in landfill.

Author: Felicity Cousins


%d bloggers like this: