Best Practices

Weathering the storm with renewable energy

When the Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, the bed-and-breakfast Casa Sol with its solar panels on the roof became a centre of support for the whole neighbourhood.

© Marie Fazio: Ramirez with his solar panels on the roof of Casa Sol.

© Marie Fazio: Ramirez with his solar panels on the roof of Casa Sol.

Eddie Ramirez hasn’t forgotten the reaction when he installed solar panels on the roof of Casa Sol, his butterscotch-coloured bed-and-breakfast nestled on a cobblestone street just two blocks from Castillo San Cristóbal, the largest Spanish fort in the New World.

While Ramirez planned, his neighbours laughed.

“People said, ‘Why are you spending all this money, do you really need it?’” recounted Ramirez, who’s 56 years old and has owned Casa Sol for six years. But thanks to those solar panels, Casa Sol regained power just about 24 hours after Hurricane Maria struck. For months, Casa Sol was one of the few buildings in the neighbourhood with regular electricity. 

“When the storm hit they said, ‘Wow,’” Ramirez recalled of his neighbours. “We didn’t really install it because we thought something like this would happen, we just thought we have to put in our little contribution in order to protect the environment.” 

Ramirez was at the forefront of a push toward renewable energy that has swept over the island since Maria’s passage. Before the storm, roughly 2.5 percent of Puerto Rico’s electricity was drawn from renewable energy sources. Today, that figure is about 4 percent, with some neighbourhoods and towns — weary of unpredictable and enduring power outages — forming their own small-scale power grids.

Even though he was preaching the gospel of solar energy in the face of doubters, Ramirez was far from smug about his foresight or selfish with his good fortune. In the months after the storm, he left the doors of Casa Sol open for anyone who might need draw a bit of energy from the batteries that stored the power his solar panels collected.

Some came to charge appliances and cell phones or do laundry. Families stored breast milk and life-saving medications in his refrigerators. One man powered his sleep apnea machine at night. During one particular stretch, he recalled, as many 100 people a day would visit.

“Casa Sol came to be a centre of support during or after the storm for all our community and our neighbours,” Ramirez said.

Support, and also, it seems, inspiration. Today, more than a few of Ramirez’s neighbours also have solar panels.


Original article by Marie Fazio for Notre Dame Journalism


The Radisson Blu Hotel, Kyiv Podil creates art with plastic straws

The Radisson Blu Hotel in Kyiv-Podil, Ukraine has found a creative way for reusing their unused plastic straws by creating a work of art.

Copyright: Radisson Blu Hotel, Kyiv-Podil

Copyright: Radisson Blu Hotel, Kyiv-Podil

When implementing Radisson Hotel Group’s campaign #RefusetheStraw the hotel wondered what they could do with the unused plastic straws that they had left in stock.

Instead of throwing them in the recycling bin, they found a local artist who created a sculpture of a seabird out of the straws. The original piece of art is now displayed in the lobby of the hotel to raise awareness on plastic pollution.

Mostly birds and sea animals suffer from plastics - they perceive it as a food, eat it, and die in terrible agony. Moreover, many birds are already on the verge of extinction and are included in the red book. It is a symbol of freedom, hope, new life, which must be protected.

- The Radisson Blu Hotel, Kyiv-Podil

Copyright: Radisson Blu Hotel, Kyiv-Podil

Copyright: Radisson Blu Hotel, Kyiv-Podil

Copyright: Radisson Blu Hotel, Kyiv-Podil

Copyright: Radisson Blu Hotel, Kyiv-Podil

XL Green Key Cartoon makes visitors curious about sustainability

The interactive science centre Hidrodoe in Herentals, Belgium came up with a creative and fun way to inform their guests about sustainability and Green Key.


At Hidrodoe, visitors can learn everything about water - from Roman baths to water in space -in a fun and interactive way. The science centre is an initiative of the Flemish water company Pidpa to raise awareness about the importance and value of water. The centre has more than 150 interactive exhibits, covering indoor and outdoor activities.

One of their newest additions is an XL Cartoon that shows the centre with all it’s environmental initiatives, for example their bee hotel, the electric bike charging station and the fair trade café. A Green Key logo on each of the illustrations indicates that this is part of their environmental agenda. At the same time, visitors learn about Green Key and it’s requirements. The creators compare the comic with the well-known “Where’s Wally” children illustrations.


Due to its high environmental ambitions and creative ways to engage visitors in environmental issues, Hidrodoe won the Belgian Energy and Environment award for Sustainable Education in 2018. Moreover, Hidrodoe has been Green Key awarded for 7 years in a row.


The restaurant A Cozinha por António Loureiro wins Best Practice Competition 2018!

Each year, Green Key runs a best practice competition to encourage its awarded sites to present their most inspiring sustainability stories. And today on World Tourism Day we announce our winner: A Cozinha por António Loureiro restaurant (Portugal). Finishing second and third were Sinatur Storebælt (Denmark) and STF Lugnåsbergets vandrarhem (Sweden).


This year, Green Key’s best practice competition focused on how to inform and involve guests in sustainability. The theme relates to SDG 12 “responsible consumption and production” to ensure “sustainable consumption and production patterns". Not only does Green Key help consumers to identify responsible tourism establishments, but awarded establishments also have to inform their guests about sustainable practices during their stay. Furthermore, Green Key awarded establishments are encouraged to engage their guests in their sustainability actions through activities, events, rewards etc.

At ‘A Cozinha’ , Chef António Loureiro and his team are totally committed to sustainable eating and also strive to pursue a policy of near-zero waste. An integrated approach considering several practices was implemented since the opening day. António, awarded Portuguese Chef of the Year in 2014, is well-known for his high quality gastronomy that combines tradition and innovation. He mainly uses regional or local products and the motto “cooking what Mother Nature is offering” has become an integral part of every menu he creates. To prevent food waste, António uses the entire product that is bought, cooked and combined in different ways.

As a part of the restaurant’s mission towards sustainability, António opens his kitchen for several initiatives to inform the local community and children about food waste. For example, in the activity “be a chef for a day”, or "team building with a cooking experience" guests have the chance to have a hands-on high level experience where they learn how to respect the products, how to promote the local economy with their choices and how to plan a week menu without creating a big amount of food waste.

In addition, António has adopted the ‘Eco-Cooks’ initiative which is part of the Eco-Schools programme in Portugal promoting healthy and sustainable food in schools.


Château de Namur hosts local sustainable development award in Namur, Belgium

On 26 April, the hotel Château de Namur hosted the local sustainable development award "Prix du développement durable de la Province de Namur" only shortly after the hotel received its own sustainability award – the Green Key.


With this award, the Province of Namur wishes to highlight and, as a result, help raise awareness of existing sustainable development initiatives in Namur. And which venue would be better for a sustainability award ceremony than a Green Key hotel?

Château de Namur itself received its Green Key award in February 2018 due to its excellent environmental performance. The hotel strongly focuses on organic and local food products which becomes both evident from the restaurant menu and the refreshments offered in the guest rooms. Latest technologies in the hotel ensure that resources like energy and water are saved to a maximum. Guests can support the sustainability efforts of Château de Namur by using the offered electric bikes or the charging station for electric cars right outside the hotel. Furthermore, the hotel engages their guests by providing plenty of information about their environmental initiatives and environmental tips for their stay.

For its environmental committment, Château de Namur not only received the Green Key, but also the sustainable tourism award in the framework of a contest organised by the city of Namur.

Great results for the good of the environment at Green Key awarded Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna Mikkeli

Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna in Mikkeli (Finland) has been Green Key awarded since December 2016 and has integrated environmental perspective deep into their daily operations. Hotel Manager Hanna Coker-Appiah presented their vast variety of Green Key efforts to Finn Bolding Thomsen from Green Key International.


Vaakuna started their journey with Green Key in the autumn of 2016 to prepare for a Green Key application. Environmental work was nothing new for them, but with Green Key, it became more consistent and the awareness of the impact of different daily actions increased. Small modifications were also made. For example, the shower heads in all rooms were replaced with more eco-friendly ones. This repair investment was already in the plans and new shower heads on their way. Two different kinds of shower heads were tested by staff and the final selection was made based on these results.

The two tested shower heads also complied with the Green Key requirement that in at least 75% of showers are with a water flow of max. 9 litres per minute. Modern shower heads, as the new one Vaakuna chose for their hotel rooms, limit the water flow onto an ecological level without compromising guest satisfaction. Vaakuna’s guests have been happy with the choice the hotel made for new shower heads and have been also able to know about their environmental impact. Vaakuna follows water consumption carefully and was happy to share good results after their first Green Key year: the amount of water saved each month equals the water consumption of an average household for a year.

Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna Mikkeli actively encourages also guests to make an ecological choice. The bikes available at the hotel are hugely popular and the guest can enjoy local products such as the famous delicacy Karelian pies, local bread or taste the local beer named after the great Marshal Mannerheim. A welcoming letter in the rooms informs the guest of the environmental efforts at the hotel and provides easy, practical tips how to make ecological choices. The guest can sort waste or save water and energy by using the towel again. The hotel is also situated conveniently with an easy access for trains and buses – even a bike taxi in the summertime!

The whole staff in Vaakuna is involved in the work for the good of the environment. The kitchen keeps a close eye on energy consumption of ovens and the nightclub strives to reduce the use of plastic. Housekeeping uses microfiber cloths and 100% of daily chemicals are eco-labelled.

Finn Bolding Thomsen, Green Key International Director, visited the hotel in January 2018 and was very impressed with the environmental efforts at the hotel. He also very much appreciated the way that Sokos Hotel Vaakuna informs the guests about their environmental work both in the carpark of the hotel, in the hotel lobby and in the guest rooms.

However, new things are constantly under development. The next one will make the overnight at Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna in Mikkeli a memorable environmental experience. But this will be something to be revealed a bit later – so to be continued…


Auberge de Jeunesse de Namur - local hot spot for outdoor activities and sustainability supporters

The youth hostel in Namur, Belgium offers both guests and locals many opportunities to discover the surrounding natural areas and enjoy local products and services. 

paysans artisans2.jpg

Auberge de Jeunesse de Namur, Green Key awarded since December 2012, cooperates with many different local stakeholders to offer their guests and also local residents the opportunity to enjoy the natural areas in and around Namur and to buy local products.

Together with the local organisation Empreinte the hostel develops and promotes nature and environmental education tours with the objective of promoting outdoor activities among children and adolescents and of raising awareness about different aspects of the urban environment. Furthermore, the hostel cooperates with Pro Velo, an NGO promoting bicycling and bicycle tours. Guests can rent bikes directly at the hostel and get plenty of ideas for cycling routes right at the reception. 

After spending the day in the outdoors, guests can enjoy a local beer or wine at the bar of the hostel. The establishment is in close cooperation with the local breweries and in general tries to offer as many local products as possible.


Moreover, the hostel has a collaboration with Paysans Artisans, an association of local farmers. Residents can order organic "food boxes" once a week from the local farmers which are then available for pick up at the youth hostel. In addition, the hostel organises an organic food market twice a year where the products of the Paysans Artisans and of other local producers are being sold.

paysans artisans.jpg

Elite Hotel Ideon Lund in Sweden prioritises environmental and social responsibility

Green Key awarded Elite Hotel Ideon Lund has modern sustainability standards in addition to effortlessly working with more ways to upgrade its commitment to environmental and social responsibility.

Elite Hotel Ideon Lund hour glass shower.jpg

Elite Hotel Ideon Lund is a relatively new built hotel in Lund in Southern Sweden. The hotel is equipped with modern sustainability standards, and it has achieved the LEED Platinum certification for its exclusive energy efficiency standards. In 2017, the hotel received the Green Key award for its high standards.  

The hotel is constantly looking for new ways to continue their commitment towards environmental and social responsibility as well as sustainability awareness.

In order to save resources, the hotel has recently replaced individually packaged shower gel and shampoo by dispensers in most guest bathrooms. The installed dispensers nicely compliment the general appearance in the bathrooms, and the reactions from the hotel guests have been positive.

It is a general feature of the hotel that it is important to engage guests in its sustainability efforts. All rooms have an hourglass set for five minutes next to the shower. The hourglass is an encouragement for guests to consider limiting the shower period.

Additionally, the hotel is prioritising its local social engagement through successful work internships for persons having challenges entering the labour market and by purchasing locally produced items as presents for loyal customers. Where possible, the hotel donates used or forgotten items to charities.

The latest goal for Elite Hotel Ideon Lund is to continue the improvement of the waste recycling standards by facilitating waste sorting for staff in the kitchen and for guests by the hotel entrance. 

Finn Bolding Thomsen, Green Key International Director, visited Elite Hotel Ideon Lund on 7 March 2018. He was impressed to know how the hotel, despite already having high sustainability standards, continues to look for ways to further commit in relation to environmental and social responsibility.

Green Key in Flanders (Belgium): a new chapter lies ahead

After 12 years of Green Key in Flanders (Belgium) being run by Bond Beter Leefmilieu, the umbrella organisation for the environment, Green Key Flanders starts a new chapter from 2018 with the organisation GoodPlanet taking over the management of the Green Key programme.


One of the new challenges that lie ahead is to recruit candidates for the new category 'restaurants' that is now also offered in Flanders (Belgium). Three restaurants have already signed up and will serve as models for other restaurants wishing to follow. Green Key Flanders sees a lot of potential in this new category, especially when it comes to tackling food waste and promoting sustainable food.  

The region of Flanders now has 129 of the 204 Green Key awarded establishments in Belgium, which is a fairly high number relative to the size of the region. The 129 Green Key establishments (including ten new establishments) were awarded the Green Key on 26 February 2018 during an event taking place in Martin’s Klooster, a four-star hotel and meeting location that offers its clients the possibility to offset their carbon emission.