Google Now Has a Tool for Identifying “Eco-Certified” Hotels

Here's what that means, and how to use it to travel more sustainably

September 28, 2021 10:10 am
The Eco-certified Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas
The Eco-certified Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas
Anantara Hotels

It is extremely admirable and increasingly important to approach travel through a lens of sustainability. That said, it’s a goal that’s not always easy to actuate. That’s largely because it can be difficult to distinguish hotels and resorts that are truly eco-conscious in design and practice from those that just want you to reuse your towels. A new feature from Google’s hotel search seeks to change that.

As of last week, the search engine began assigning some hotels a green “Eco-certified” label next to a small leaf symbol immediately to the right of the property’s rating. It symbolizes — you guessed it — the hotel’s commitment to sustainability, recognized by a third-party agency and based on an evaluation that utilizes a set ​of globally recognized criteria. More specifically, the evaluation focuses on environmental impact from four categories: energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction and sustainable sourcing.

The new eco-certified tag
The new eco-certified tag

“Hotels can now identify their sustainability efforts on their hotel detail page alongside amenities and health and safety practices,” an explanation reads on the sustainability in hotels landing page. “This information only appears for hotels that opt-in to self-reporting and have sustainability practices to report.”

“Hotels with an “eco-certified” label have been certified by an accredited independent organization for meeting certain standards,” it later states. “You’ll find an ‘eco-certified’ label near their name, and you can find out more about their sustainability practices on their detail page.”

Once in the hotel’s individual details page, all of their practices are broken down further into the aforementioned categories:

A breakdown of Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas' eco-certifications and sustainable practices
A breakdown of Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas’ eco-certifications and sustainable practices

After spending some time playing around with the tool, I have to admit that it’s a little underwhelming as far as new Google features go. But it’s also one that has the potential to evolve into something much bigger. The interface is user-friendly and straightforward, delivering exactly what it claims it will.

There are, of course, a few notable caveats: the first of which is that, at this point in time, there doesn’t seem to be a way to view eco-certified properties only. Whereas there is a way to filter preferred destinations by amenity — free-wifi, pet-friendly, fitness center, bar, spa, air-conditioned, etc. — you can’t yet filter by eco-certification.

A perusal of properties in the state of California, and then later of regions of California, also taught me that hotels that meet Google’s eco-certification standards are not as abundant as you might think. In fact, the ones that are tagged as being so are at present almost exclusively Hilton properties. I had to click through several pages of results to come up with more than a handful of hotels with the designation (of which the majority were still Hilton), meaning the certification process may require a bit of effort not only on the part of travelers, but also the properties themselves. Further proving this hypothesis was my discovery that some qualifying hotels aren’t yet marked with the eco-certified badge on Google. The  LEED-accredited 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, for example, is not yet labeled. (The LEED rating system is one of 29 certifications that a property can receive and is included in the list of eco-certifications that meet Google’s standards.)

While it stands to reason that the potential of the feature won’t be fully realized until more hotels are participating, it’s worth noting that based on a survey conducted by The Vacationer this past summer, nearly 83% of all Americans stated that sustainable travel was either “somewhat important” or “very important” to them. That 83% represents more than 210 million people over the age of 18. That means properties like 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge have very little to gain by not participating, and their adoption figures to increase in the coming months. Once it does, the tool will be much more useful to you, the eco-conscious end user.


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