Hostelling International USA is furthering its mission to promote sustainable travel through a new, eco-certification and greenhouse gas management program that was implemented in partnership with Sustainable Travel International. As part of the pilot program, eight of the participating hostels -- including the Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel and the Point Reyes Hostel -- qualified for a Bronze Eco-Certification Standard from Sustainable Travel International's Sustainable Tourism Education Program (STEP).
The STEP Eco-Certification Standard acknowledges achievements in environmental management policies through four levels of certification (bronze, silver, gold, and platinum). The Bronze Standard includes 21 criteria that assess social and economic, as well as environmental factors -- social/cultural philanthropy, water consumption management, pollution prevention, recycling, fair labor policies, and business plans, to name a few.
Both the Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel and the Point Reyes Hostel are already certified Bay Area green businesses, and the Point Reyes Hostel's new building was recently awarded a LEED Gold certification. Other HI-USA hostels to qualify for a Bronze Eco-Certification are HI-Portland Hawthorne, HI-Portland Northwest, HI-San Diego Point Loma, HI-San Diego Downtown, HI-Monterey, and HI-Boston.
The Bronze Eco-Certification of eight hostels is the first step for HI-USA. This baseline assessment is meant to identify the different sustainability programs already in place at certain hostels around the country, and provide guidelines to help other hostels reach greater substantiality goals. Ultimately, HI-USA is committed to providing a system for all hostels to become third-party certified, according to the pilot program coordinator, Michele Machado.
Business Plan. The company has a written mission statement and a code of conduct pledge for both on-site management and off-site tourism activities.
Sustainability Policy, Benchmarks, and Transparency. The company has a written sustainability policy that provides the vision, goals, and a framework for sustainability initiatives.
Protecting the Area. The company communicates to guests a "do no harm" code of conduct which relates to the surrounding areas, cultural sites, and/or protected areas.
Client Education Regarding Sustainability. The company promotes the principles of sustainable tourism through its marketing materials and website.
Use of Feedback. The company collects customer feedback and has a system for documenting the feedback.
Environmental, Health, and Safety Regulation. The company maintains up-to date environmental, health and safety, operational permits/licenses, and approvals as required by law within the regions where the company operates.
Fair Labor Practices. The company has a fair labor policy, conforms to local labor laws, and meets or exceeds minimum wages for all salaried employees.
Green Team. The company has assigned an employee to oversee the company's sustainability initiatives and health and safety related policies.
Regulatory Compliance. The company is not directly or indirectly involved in a dispute regarding environmental, socio-cultural, or economic regulations. All previous disputes have been resolved.
Recycling/Reuse. The company measures the volume of garbage it recycles and composts as a percentage of total garbage it produces. It also has a policy to decrease solid waste including garbage, paper products, amenity bottles, and food service items.
Chemical Management System. The company documents all chemicals/cleaning supplies on site and determines which ones are toxic and which are non-toxic.
Water Consumption and Management. The company tracks their annual volume of potable water used and has a water conservation policy to conserve water and identify areas where water can be conserved.
Supply Chain Management – Policies. The company has clear guidelines regarding its supply chain purchases, which include increasing the amount of locally source, recycled, fair trade, and/or eco-friendly products purchased annually.
Supply Chain Management – Paper. The company commits to reduce its paper use, monitor its purchase of recycled/non-recycled paper products, and reduce the amount of non-recycled paper it uses.
Energy Reduction Plan. The company documents the annual electricity and fuel used for its operations and has a policy to conserve energy and maximize renewable energy sources when available.
GHG Emissions and Offsets. The company uses its documented energy records and its records of company travel to calculate its total net annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, using a nationally or internationally accepted GHG calculator or protocol.
Pollution Prevention – Vehicles. The company has made a pledge to reduce motorized vehicle usage and this is communicated to employees and clients.
Philanthropy – Environment. The company has made a pledge to provide information on conservation-based philanthropic opportunities.
Philanthropy – Social/Cultural. The company has made a pledge to provide information on social, cultural, or community-based philanthropic opportunities.
Economic Development. The company’s clients are encouraged to buy locally produced products and services and/or visit locally owned businesses.
Basic Provisions. The company does not jeopardize access to basic provisions for those within the immediate and neighboring communities.