greenRapidly growing concerns related to environmental protection have resulted in regulations affecting nearly every industry in the United States and its territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands. The hospitality industry is no exception, and it has been the focus of a great deal of attention from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other regulators.

The hospitality industry is vital to the U.S. Virgin Islands economy, but certain practices by hotels and resorts have come under increased regulations, particularly over the last several years. When it comes to using resources, adhering to safety standards and meeting consumer demands, organizations in the hospitality sector need to pay close attention to how environmental issues relate to their businesses and how they serve customers and guests.

Both the federal government and local agencies in the U.S. Virgin Islands help determine specific safety and regulation standards related to hotels and restaurants. Non-governmental organizations also pressure government agencies and businesses to adopt new industry-wide environmental protection practices. Investors are concerned about the success of a company as a whole, but are also sensitive to public relations, consumer demands and sustainable practices that can actually increase profitability. Finally, consumers are increasingly demanding to know whether businesses are “green” and eco-friendly, especially in the relatively new phenomena known as “eco-tourism.”

Environmentally friendly practices primarily address aspects of the hospitality industry that have historically been wasteful or damaging to the environment. In fact, the industry used to have a significantly negative reputation for waste. Recent solutions, which have become widely accepted, have attempted to tackle problems like excess waste and the over-consumption of resources. This includes the incorporation of careful food sourcing, increased recycling efforts, low-energy light bulbs and low-flow toilets and showers.

In a way, sustainable tourism has become a frontline related to how environmental issues and the hospitality industry are connected. Hotels, resorts and restaurants must become more sustainable to receive certain certifications — such as EcoGreen Hotel and Green Globe — that show guests that the place in which they’re staying has a minimal impact on the environment. And if previous trends tell us anything, it’s that these types of demands eventually turn into required government regulations.

The U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association is hoping to implement the Green Key Program with the Foundation for Environmental Education. Green Key is an eco-label program for tourism and leisure establishments such as hotels and resorts.

For hotels and resorts that have not yet engaged in industry certifications for sustainability, there are a number of basic federal requirements they must meet under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation & Recovery Act and Toxic Substances Control Act, among others. Business and organizations that need to learn more about environmental issues and regulations related to the hospitality industry should speak with a skilled hospitality law or environmental regulation attorney.

BoltNagi is a widely respected and well-established environmental regulation and government relations law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.