Want to know where the country’s dirtiest hotel room is? No, it’s not that $20-per-night drive-in motel on the side of the highway. Chances are that it’s a penthouse suite in a J.W. Marriott hotel in Chicago.
And if you’re looking for the cleanest hotel in the country, you might consider going to a Vagabond Inn located somewhere in California.
That’s according to a new report from the research firm Brighter Planet, which just released a comprehensive ranking of the energy and carbon intensity of hotel chains across the country. Here’s a look at the geographic spread of where the “cleanest” and “dirtiest” hotels are located:
There are 51,000 hotels, motels and inns scattered around the U.S. with roughly five million guests rooms. According to Brighter Planet, the lodging industry represents 4 percent of all commercial building energy consumption in the country, generating 34.5 million metric tons of CO2 each year.
As appliances and building materials get more efficient, you’d think that the industry would be getting more efficient. But this analysis shows that modern hotels use far more energy per room than their “vintage counterparts.” This trend is particularly stark in upscale hotel chains, which use 25 percent more energy per night than the average budget hotel.
The dirtiest 25 percent of hotels — a large share of which are upscale chains — represent more than half of the energy use and carbon emissions from the entire lodging industry. The cleanest 25 percent only make up 7 percent of energy consumption and carbon emissions.
However, it’s wrong to conclude that high-class hotels are always going to be “dirtier” than budget lodging:
It’s probably no surprise that efficiency varies by price, with upscale hotels on average using 25% more energy per room-night than budget hotels. This is to be expected based on hotel characteristics: the average upscale hotel has twice as many rooms and was built a decade more recently than the average budget hotel, with midrange hotels falling in between.
But it’s important to note that there’s so much variability within each service class that the different service classes overlap significantly. Nationwide the cleanest upscale hotels are cleaner than most budget hotels, and the dirtiest budget hotels are as dirty as all but the dirtiest quarter of upscale hotels.
This study is particularly relevant for companies attempting to track their carbon footprints. It’s not just air or car travel that matters. Depending on the length of stay and the type of room purchased, lodging can rival the carbon intensity of office space.