Nevada certainly could benefit from a statewide program. Las Vegas alone has more than 125,000 hotel rooms open and tens of thousands more under development. I am surprised that states such as Oregon, Washington and Colorado have not initiated their own programs. Whose responsibility is it? In some states, it is a function of the Department of Environmental Protection. In others, programs have grown out of waste management or energy offices. The bottom line is that someone in each state needs to champion the idea, gather other interested parties and come up with a plan.
Ideally, a state green lodging certification program should require an annual on-site audit. It is understandable that this may not always be possible because of funding issues but an on-site audit does add credibility to a program. The organization running a program should also run a first rate website to provide helpful information and to help market program participants. Initial qualification requirements should be kept at a moderate level to encourage participation. After the first year, hotels should be required to improve their programs annually.
Those states that build strong programs will have a competitive advantage when trying to attract government business. Earlier this year, the EPA announced that hotels hosting its functions would have to prove that they have certain types of environmental programs in place. The General Services Administration, which has a much greater impact on government employee travel, announced that it will also screen for green programs. We all know there are many factors that come into play when a meeting planner is planning a meeting. I would like to think, however, that in the years ahead, those states that have strong green lodging programs will be the first to come to mind.