DEQ Hopes to Establish Statewide Certification System
By Hannah Northey
HARRISONBURG — The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and state tourism organizations hope to create a program by September that would certify businesses throughout the state as “green.”
The Virginia Green program would create environmental standards for hotels, restaurants, convention centers, wineries, golf courses and other tourism hotspots, said Tom Griffin, the DEQ’s Virginia Green Lodging Coordinator.
“We’re moving toward branding everyone in the tourism industry with the Virginia Green logo, meaning they made an extra commitment to the environment,” he said.
“We’re really gaining steam, and yet we haven’t really over-marketed the program.”
The DEQ presently has a voluntary program in place for lodging facilities to become certified, called “Virginia Green Lodging.”
Griffin will visit Harrisonburg on July 16 to present four certified bed and breakfasts with plaques.
Harrisonburg Goes Green
Janice Fitzgerald, representative for the central Shenandoah region of the Bed and Breakfast Association of Virginia, and the owner of the DEQ-certified By The Side Of The Road Bed and Breakfast in Harrisonburg, said she wants as many Valley B&Bs as possible to be certified.
Griffin said the program is growing quickly in popularity.
“Two to three bed and breakfasts want to join a week,” he said.
Griffin said there are 20 businesses certified by the Virginia Green Building program in the state.
Jerry Prewitt, owner of the DEQ-certified 1848 Island Manor House on Chincoteague Island and treasurer for the Bed and Breakfast Association of Virginia, said his customers are more environmentally conscious by nature.
“Typically, we’re likely to be in environmentally sensitive areas where larger hotels and motels aren’t that viable,” he said. “And our guests tend to be more environmentally sensible.”
Prewitt said more owners of bed and breakfast inns want to be recognized for their environmental efforts and become certified.
Businesses now can volunteer to get certified through the Virginia Green Lodging program, which was established a year ago by the DEQ in partnership with the Virginia Tourism Corporation and the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association.
The DEQ requires hospitality facilities to provide linen services that decrease the use of water, energy and harmful detergents, to provide recycling programs and use environmentally friendly practices when putting on public events.
Businesses also are required to make a commitment to conserving energy and water, and can choose how they meet that commitment, he said.
“The program is really self-policing,” Griffith said. “It’s not a compliance program where I look over their shoulder — we trust the businesses to do it.”
Facilities, for example, can install water-saving faucets, showerheads and toilets, leak detection, and effective landscape watering plans. Energy-efficient alternatives such as compact-fluorescent lighting and efficient heating and cooling systems can also help businesses meet the requirements.
Being Green: A Way Of Life
Wayne Engel and his son Roger, co-owners of the Stonewall Jackson Inn Bed and Breakfast in Harrisonburg, said being green was a way of life long before certification was an option.
Wayne, whose inn was certified last year, said he’s netted savings of about 10 percent a year on business costs by using environmental products, recycling and conservation efforts.
“We’ve been recycling and using organic-based detergents from the start to be kind to the environment,” he said.
Wayne said the inn buys food from local farmers’ markets, and uses their own fair trade, organic “Stonewall Jackson” blend of coffee.
Engel said customers often ask about what environmental practices his inn is using because they’re concerned with climate change and other environmental issues.
“I hope everybody else cares, too,” he said.