1) What is the purpose of this system?
It is a way of gauging the eco-friendly nature of specific hotels. When people go on holiday or on a business trip, they normally take into account the quality of the hotel in terms of the five-star system (location, comfort, price/quality, service and so on). We provide an element that people can add to their list:
the eco-performance of the hotel, on a scale of one to five.
2) How are hotels assessed to find out what level they are?
They assess themselves. When doing so, they will be aware that guests will be able to make their own assessment and tell us at Five-Leaf what they think. It is not good publicity for hotels if they are over-rating themselves. We also think that those who become members of the Five-Leaf community (hoteliers and guests) are going to be discerning people aware of environmental issues, and the hotels wishing to join the system are probably already pro-active in the field. If they are not, but see the advantages, they will soon be with us!
3) What if there are no hotels in the scheme in the area where I want to go?
We ask visitors to hotels to find out at their destination if the hotel knows anything about the Five-Leaf scheme. When we learn of such a hotel, we contact them direct and see if they want to become a member. Membership is free for hotels. The hotel can go to our website and join direct, though they must check the requirements for each level.
4) Is this scheme for international chains, family hotels, town and country, boutique hotels, guest houses?
It is for all hotels with a star rating, so we could have member hotels which are two-star but four- or five-leaf. And a luxury five-star hotel may only have a two-leaf rating. The scheme is also available for guest houses. It is not necessary to have a star rating in order to register.
5) Is Five-Leaf a certification authority?
By no means. In fact, this is one of the reasons why Five-Leaf works on the basis of self-assessment by hotels. Our site provides a way for hotels to show they are interested in eco-policies. There are many hotels which do not want certification but have been doing very good pro-environment work without getting any real recognition. Five-Leaf gives them an opportunity – and at no cost.
6) Five-Leaf has a Kids’ section. What is that?
This is still under construction. In fact, we are interested in hearing from anyone who would like to contribute. We want to use this area of the site as a place for games related to the environment, and for projects which individual children or groups can do while they are on holiday. Environment teachers can build projects around school visits with a hotel stay or their pupils’ family holidays and have the work posted on our site or highlighted in our newsletter or given space on our blog. In a general way, the Five-Leaf system builds on the concern of people today for the future of our children.
7) Are small hotels at a disadvantage compared with large ones?
Not at all. In fact, imagine there are big hotels in any area, maybe part of an international chain, and they are doing nothing. A regular visitor to this region will have every interest in being a patron of the small but eco-efficient hotel. And this will encourage the big hotels to be on their mettle.
8) What is meant by the statement that Five-Leaf is a “dynamic system”?
The five-star system is relatively static. A three-star hotel will probably stay three-star all its useful life. But on the Five-Leaf scale, hotels can rapidly improve their rating, sometimes with very little investment. In fact, many of the measures indicated on the Five-Leaf site are relatively simple to implement, and show that the hotel management is becoming increasingly aware of environmental impact as an issue.
9) Can a hotel go from Level 1 to Level 5, from zero to hero?
There is no reason why not. If you want to see a detailed breakdown of suggested actions that can be taken to go up the scale, you can look at the sections below.
a) From zero to one.
The entry point for Five-Leaf is at Level 1, and it is fundamentally when the hotel management realises that a policy has to be in place. An indication of this could simply be a change in the Visitor’s Book to include a prominent statement relating to the environment issue. There will thus be a yardstick for guests, and a focus point for raising staff involvement and awareness – and a commitment for management.
b) From one to two.
This could involve small investments such as dual flush mechanisms in toilets or receptacles for waste separation. A specific green policy for suppliers could also come in here, and this may simply mean a change in purchasing routines. Using fair trade or farm assured products for complimentary tea and coffee is one example. Other positive points would be a towel policy, eco-lighting and the use of environmentally friendly products for laundry and room cleaning. In general, there would be a commitment to the basic principle of: reduce, recycle, reuse.
c) From two to three (with bullet points for guidelines).
All or many of the changes described in From one to two plus a good selection of the following:
- a staff policy that involves commitment to eco-performance;
- awareness of the interests of all stakeholders, including the disabled and all their requirements;
- the use of renewables wherever possible for heating and lighting;
- measurement of water / power consumption every year, with information made available for instance on the hotel website;
- the use of recycled paper throughout the hotel;
- water control mechanisms in public places;
- waste separation ensuring compliance with local authority norms;
- a letter or e-mail from a local authority or other organisation recognising the efforts of hotel management;
- a pro-active approach to organic waste from kitchens and restaurants, with, for example, a cooking oil recycling programme using licensed dealers;
- the inclusion of information on eco-policies in advertising (for instance in photos used for on-line description of hotel services and amenities).
d) From three to four (with bullet points for guidelines).
A good selection of the changes described in From one to two and From two to three plus:
- an eco-charter committing the hotel to best practices in the field, available to guests (affixed in a prominent place and / or on the hotel website);
- a member of staff in charge of and able to talk about the hotel’s eco-policies;
- questions about the hotel’s eco-policies on any in-house satisfaction survey given to guests to fill in;
- a section on the hotel website with photos of recent eco-friendly improvements to the built fabric, services and amenities;
- new hotel vehicles chosen for their eco-performance;
- rainwater harvesting;
- a commitment to sustainability and everything that this implies;
- staff training schemes involving issues of environmental importance;
- involvement with the local community in relation to the principles of reduce, recycle, reuse;
- actions involving environmental organisations and / or charities with letters of commendation or awards for measures taken.
e) From four to five.
An award such as ISO 14001 or any other nationally recognised certificate is the fundamental indicator that this level has been reached, though this is not absolutely essential for Five-Leaf, since guests’ appreciation also counts. Certification, of course, implies most, if not all, of the points from Level 2 to Level 4, and it also indicates a belief on the part of the hotel management that eco-criteria should be an intrinsic aspect of every part of a hotel’s operation, including all the stakeholders. The process also involves time and effort (and not just over one short period) and acts therefore as a touchstone of the hotel management’s attitude towards the environment. It should be reiterated here that Five-Leaf is not a certification authority.
10) Does the scheme mean extra expense for the hotel?
Not necessarily. Being eco-friendly is in fact a plus on the outlay side, with energy and water costs under far more control. And a hotel that demonstrates to potential customers that the environment is a concern will gain an enormous benefit.
11) Will the scheme be more attractive to hotels already at a three-leaf or four-leaf level?
We hope not. We value a hotel anywhere with a management that says: “Ok. We are going to do something. We will come in at Level 1, fully intending to climb.” Splendid!
12) How can I insert the Five-Leaf System logo onto my website?
To insert the Five-Leaf System LOGO and social media links on your website, copy the HTML code below in its entirety:
At Five-Leaf System we want to inspire travellers by finding environmentally friendly accommodation. With the same token, we support eco-accommodation that demonstrates positive environmental initiatives and show their commitment to lessen their environmental impact on the world.