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1 hotels in Hanalei Bay overlooking ocean and mountains
Madison ShepherdMar 29, 2024 9:47:52 AM7 min read

What to look for when choosing an eco-friendly venue

Looking for an eco-friendly venue for your next event?

Google searches show an uptick in the term “sustainable hotels” over the past five years (Skift Meetings). Plus, as climate change continues to worsen around the globe, the demand for sustainable venues is increasing.

In this article, we’ll explore things you should look for when choosing an eco-friendly venue and highlight hotels setting the sustainability standard. 

Sustainable design and decor 

Don’t you love it when a hotel or venue has aesthetic decor?

But it’s even better when that decor is sustainably sourced and created with the environment in mind. We love it when hotels decorate their lobbies with upcycled artwork, opt for energy-efficient lighting, and integrate living walls or vertical gardens into their interiors. 

1 Hotels

Venues like 1 Hotel in Miami decorate their lobby and design rooms with pieces made from recycled materials. Some examples include: 

  • Keycards made from recycled wood, instead of those plastic disposable cards
  • Clothes hangers designed from compressed cardboard
  • Furniture crafted from salvaged wood

The 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, Hawaii took their commitment to sustainable design to the next level by:

  • Painting the exterior of the hotel a shade between beige and olive green, to blend in with the surrounding beaches and rainforests
  • Adding vegetation to the hotel’s roof so it blends in with the natural environment and doubles as a kitchen garden

1 Hotels is known for their commitment to sustainable hospitality, proving that luxury and eco-conscious practices can coexist in their event spaces.

sustainable furniture in 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii

(1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii)

2. Energy efficiency

It is estimated that the average American hotel room incurs nearly $2,200 in energy costs annually. If a hotel has about 200 rooms, that amounts to almost $500,000 annually!

As a point of reference, in 2019, the average monthly electric bill for residential customers in the United States was $1,380 per year (buildings iot).

Spending that level of money on energy costs means many properties are not using energy sustainably. Let’s look at an example of a hotel that is focusing its efforts on reducing energy consumption. 

Hotel Marcel New Haven

The newly opened Hotel Marcel New Haven, a part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, certainly uses energy efficiently. The 165-room hotel inside the city’s iconic Pirelli building is “powered solely by the sun.”

The 100% electric hotel creates a new standard for environmentally friendly hotel options by using: 

  • Energy-efficient electric systems, like solar panels, instead of conventional fossil fuel systems
  • Air source variable refrigerant flow (VRF) heat pumps for heating and cooling
  • Energy recovery ventilation (ERV) to provide filtered fresh air
  • Air source variable refrigerant flow (VRF) heat pumps for producing hot water

Hotel Marcel is on track to becoming the nation’s first Passive House-certified hotel and the nation’s first Net Zero hotel by the end of 2025. 

Hotel Marcel New Haven, Tapestry Collection by Hilton

(Photo by Hotel Marcel

3. Food production

You may have come across terms like "organic", "locally sourced", or "farm-to-table" while browsing a hotel's restaurant menu. But what do these terms really mean? And why should you care?

The truth is, these buzzwords go beyond just being trendy phrases.

They reflect a venue's commitment to food sourcing quality, sustainability, and supporting local communities.

  • "Organic" ensures that the food is grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers
  • "Locally sourced" means that ingredients are sourced from nearby farms or producers
  • "Farm-to-table" emphasizes the direct connection between farms and your plate

Hilton Hotels

Hilton Hotels takes pride in creating sustainable culinary options for their guests. Here are some of the ways they incorporate mindfulness into their menu offerings:

  • At Oceana Santa Monica, LXR Hotels & Resorts in California, chefs make regular visits to the Santa Monica Farmers Market, incorporating fresh pasta and local produce into their menu.
  • Haoma in Bangkok has a closed-loop ecosystem with seafood tanks and hydroponic farming on-site, meaning that most ingredients are created in-house.
  • The kitchen at de Kas in Amsterdam has a ‘picked in the morning, served in the afternoon’ policy.


4. Water management

Looking for a hotel that does more than just recommend you reuse your towels to save water? 

Showers and toilets are actually the main culprits when it comes to water wastage in hotels, with laundry and landscaping following closely behind (pure blue sustainability). 

The best hotels are going beyond towel reuse programs by switching to water-efficient systems and instituting water management plans. 

Melia Hotels International

Meliá Hotels International was just named the most sustainable hotel company in the world for the second year in a row by S&P Global

Meliá shows their commitment to reducing their water footprint and contributing to water conservation by: 

  • Having an environmental management system that monitors their water use
  • Raising awareness among customers and employees
  • Switching to water-conserving toilets, faucets, and shower heads
  • Investing in more efficient facilities

aerial view of Melia Internacional Varadero, Cuba

(Photo of Melia Internacional Varadero, Cuba)

5. Waste management

It’s estimated that 50-60% of recyclable trash in hotels isn’t being recycled (Roadrunner).

And if it’s not being recycled, then it’s ending up in our already overflowing landfills. 

Are any hotels doing something about this? 

The Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina

The Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina has achieved a Gold-level certification from the Green Seal Environmental Standard for Lodging Properties. They show their commitment to reducing their waste production and food waste output by:

  • Partnering with local community food banks to ensure any leftover food is donated
  • Adding occupancy sensors in the guest rooms to manage the heating and cooling system
  • Reducing single-use plastics 
  • Having sustainability council meetings each quarter to review the property's environmental impact and goals
  • Diverting more than 250,000 pounds of waste annually

Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina and sailboats near waterfront

(Photo by Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina

6. Location Matters

The location of your venue also impacts the environment. 

When choosing an event space it’s important to consider its walkability, access to public transit, and in what city it is located.

Walking distance

Make sure to take note of how walkable of a location your venue is in.

Selecting an event venue close to local restaurants or activities is not only convenient for attendees but also helps reduce carbon emissions.

Additionally, your attendees will appreciate being able to incorporate some movement into their day rather than having to take a taxi or Uber. 

Access to public transportation

Choosing a venue with easy access to public transportation allows attendees to get to and from the airport, hotel, and venue easier. Take into account the proximity of local buses, subways, or trolleys in the city and their convenience for your attendees.

eco-friendly transportation in a city

Most sustainable cities in the U.S.

In addition to researching eco-friendly venues, it may be smart to host your next event in an environmentally responsible city. Here are some of the greenest cities in the U.S. according to a 2023 Rocket Homes analysis

To determine the rankings, researchers used 11 eco-friendly metrics including the amount of solar energy produced, energy usage, and green spaces. 

  1. San Diego, California
  2. Portland, Oregon
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Denver, Colorado
  5. San Jose, California
  6. Boston, Massachusetts
  7. Sacramento, California
  8. Seattle, Washington
  9. Honolulu, Hawaii
  10. Salt Lake City, Utah

With an increasing focus on sustainability efforts, cities across the United States are embracing green initiatives. 

aerial view of the city of Honolulu, Hawaii

7. Certifications for sustainable events with low impact

Many hotels and convention centers are racing to meet the high demand for sustainability practices by obtaining environmental certifications.

If you aren’t sure whether a venue or hotel is “environmentally friendly”, check out what certifications they have. 

Some “green” convention centers and event venues in the U.S. that proudly show their LEED certification are:

Here are some additional certifications to look out for when choosing a venue:

Building certifications

  • LEED assesses areas such as energy and water efficiency, materials used, indoor air quality, and awareness and education. 
    • A LEED certification is the world's most widely used green building rating system and one of the more popular sustainability credentials.
  • WELL uses ten concepts including water conservation, materials, and community to assess sustainable spaces.
  • EDGE certifies buildings based on their resource efficiency and includes a certification for zero carbon. 

Operational certifications

  • Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) uses criteria such as sustainable management, social responsibility, cultural impacts, and environmental impacts as a basis for its certification.
  • Green Seal bases its certification on how a company preserves the climate, minimizes waste, protects human health, and ensures clean water. 
  • Green Key certifies businesses that help make a difference on an environmental and sustainable level. 
  • Earth Check gives businesses the chance to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable practices by reducing their environmental footprint.

Why choose a sustainable venue for your next event?

It’s been estimated that over 75% of hotels’ environmental impacts can be directly related to excessive consumption

Events, conferences, and meetings can have a significant impact on the environment, from travel emissions to waste and food production. You can reduce your event’s carbon footprint by choosing a venue that aligns with your business’s environmental goals. 

For more ways to reduce your carbon footprint at events, read our blog on how to make your corporate event more eco-friendly.


Madison Shepherd

Madison Shepherd is a Marketing Specialist at GoGather. When she's not writing blogs or sending out social media posts, she enjoys hiking, traveling, or reading at one of the many beautiful beaches in San Diego.