Sustainability in Sonoma County: Green Lodging

Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa is one of Sonoma County's many sustainably run (or green) lodgings

At Sonoma County Tourism, we champion local green lodgings that honor the three Ps of sustainabilityPeople, by fostering positive community connections; Profit, by sharing their success by sourcing products and services from other local businesses; and Planet, by serving as good stewards of their surroundings.

The three Ps of sustainability are People, Profit, and Planet
The three Ps of sustainability are People, Profit, and Planet

sustainability logoIn keeping with these three Ps, our Sonoma County green lodging partners also make concerted efforts to minimize waste; recycle and reuse resources; increase energy efficiency; protect their land; safely manage hazardous materials; purchase environmentally and socially responsible products; and support the health and safety of their community and clientele. 

But maybe you’re still wondering: What specifically makes Sonoma County’s green lodgings, well … green? 

Green Actions of Green Lodgings

In order to achieve these multi-pronged efforts toward sustainability, green lodgings might opt to purchase reclaimed building materials, energy-efficient lighting, and low-flow water fixtures. A property’s water might be recaptured and used as “gray” water for plants, toilets, etc., or guests might be given the option to reuse their towels and/or linens.

Solar arrays power the electricity at Mine + Farm
Solar arrays power the electricity at Mine + Farm in Guerneville

Guest rooms might be stocked with refillable toiletry dispensers and recycled paper goods, and housekeeping staff could use only nontoxic cleaning products. Hydration stations might be provided to encourage the use of refillable containers, and properties could be outfitted with solar panels and electric-car charging stations.

The Astro Motel in Santa Rosa used reclaimed wood and other recycled materials in its guest rooms
The Astro Motel features reclaimed materials and local artists’ work in its guest rooms

With a property’s wider community in mind, a portion of a night’s stay could contribute to local charities (e.g., Kind Traveler hotels). A lodging’s restaurant could serve locally sourced farm-to-table cuisine, and interiors and onsite gift shops could feature goods made by local artisans and creators. 

And in a green lodging’s landscaping, invasive plants could be controlled by grazing animals, native plants could be used to encourage pollinators, and soil-enriching compost might be made from food scraps and landscape trimmings. 

Bathrooms at Hotel E in downtown Santa Rosa use low-flow toilets and shower fixtures
Bathrooms at Hotel E in downtown Santa Rosa use low-flow toilets and shower fixtures

In Sonoma County, lodgings that aspire to be more sustainable can seek help in their eco-friendly efforts from two local agencies:

The Sonoma County Energy Independence Office provides free commercial energy and water audits with energy cost-savings reports, technical consultation and advice, and rebate and incentive facilitation. The Sonoma County Water Agency has programs for lodgings looking to specifically save water in their office operations, guest rooms, landscaping, onsite restaurants, spas, and more. 

Sustainable Hotel Certifications

While some green lodging properties might simply employ some of the above practices, others seek official certifications for their efforts. These certifications are not only a means of encouraging a lodging’s commitment to environmental and social accountability, it could also earn them tax credits and purchasing rebates, and be shared in their marketing efforts.

Vintner's Resort holds California Green Lodging's highest level of certification
Vintner’s Resort holds California Green Lodging’s highest level of certification

Sustainable hotel certification bodies typically require a property to submit self-assessments identifying specific actions it commits to taking to meet the certifier’s conservation goals (e.g., waste minimization, energy efficiency, etc.).

Once this application is received and processed, the property must schedule a visit by an accredited third-party reviewer, who will evaluate the property and its sustainability efforts based on the certifier’s scoring system. The property’s final score will determine if they’ll be awarded certification and/or provided with suggestions for improvement. 

In order to have any sustainability certification renewed, lodging properties must be re-evaluated every three to five years, and demonstrate improvements. Green lodgings are thus incentivized to not simply maintain but ultimately surpass their efforts toward sustainability.

California Green Business Program

California Green Business Program logoThis certification is a partnership of area government agencies and utilities that assists, recognizes, and promotes small- to medium-sized consumer-oriented local businesses that volunteer to operate in a more environmentally responsible way. To be certified, participants must be in compliance with all environmental regulations and meet the program’s standards, which adhere to the 3 Ps of sustainability and champion eco-friendly efforts like waste minimization and resource conservation. 

California Green Lodging Program

California Green Lodging ProgramAn initiative of the California Department of General Services, the California Green Lodging Program certifies lodging properties that can demonstrate their efforts toward sustainability. These efforts can include improving energy efficiency, creating a recycling program, reducing kitchen and office waste, supporting landscape regeneration, and careful water management.  

Energy Star

Energy Star logoA popular certification from the US Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Star hotels must report 12 months of energy-consumption data to be verified by a professional engineer or registered architect. On average, Energy Star hotels use 35% less energy and emit 35% less carbon dioxide than similar buildings.

Green Seal

Green Seal Certified logoA Green Seal on a hotel’s website and other marketing materials means that at that property, you’ll find a recycling program, energy-efficient laundry and kitchen appliances, and biodegradable cleaning products. Bonus: If the hotel has an onsite restaurant, this seal indicates the kitchen donates leftover food to local food pantries.

Sonoma County Green Lodging Partners 

Sonoma County Life Opens Up logoYou can also keep things simple by checking out some of the sustainability-focused green lodgings we partner with here at Sonoma County Tourism:


Written by Melanie Wynne

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