Niagara hotels ‘out of step’ with environmental claims

From left: Margaret Milner, Amber Bordun, Michelle Williamson, Lindsay Murray, Danuta de Grosbois and John Middleton

From left: Margaret Milner, Amber Bordun, Michelle Williamson, Lindsay Murray, Danuta de Grosbois and John Middleton

In an era where going green is a marketing buzzword, few Niagara hotels seem to be making any green claims at all, let alone following up on them, shows a new research project by a group of recent Brock Tourism and Environment students.

As a research project for a course, a team of four students looked at 381 hotels in Niagara to see what green claims they were making, and what they were doing to follow up on them. Studying promotional material, the students found that few hotels were talking about the environment at all, let alone promoting how they helped it.

“We thought we’d see an overwhelming number of green claims. We were proven wrong,” said Michelle Williamson of Grimsby, who conducted the project with fellow students Lindsay Murray of Welland, Amber Bordun of Niagara Falls and Margaret Milner of Schomberg.

The project showed Niagara hotels to be “quite out of step with the rest of the world” when it came to apparent environmental involvement, said John Middleton, associate professor and project supervisor.

“Of a whole large sample size of accommodation in Niagara, they weren’t even at the stage where they were talking about the environment or sustainability,” he said. “We were shocked at how few there were.”

The project arose from a study of greenwashing, a term used to describe when often destructive companies make environmental claims to make themselves look conscientious. The students took the seven signs of greenwashing and applied it to Niagara hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts.

Of the 381, only 4.2 per cent (or 21 hotels) made any green claims at all, and 2.9 per cent provided evidence of it. Most of the claims that did exist revolved around LED lights or programs designed to wash fewer linens.

Danuta de Grosbois, assistant professor of Tourism and Environment, is analyzing the work and getting it reviewed for possible publication.

“We’re very proud of the work they did,” she said.

All four students graduated in June with degrees in Tourism and Environment. Most of them plan to pursue careers in environmental fields.

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