In celebration of Earth Day, we are dedicating the month of April to sustainability awareness in the industries we touch. Each week, we are going to take a look at how businesses are making a positive impact on the environment through both design and human behaviors, starting with the hotel and resort industry.

But first, a primer on Earth Day itself:

The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, and involved 20 million Americans protesting against the deterioration of the environment and led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and legislation such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. Today Earth Day is celebrated by more than a billion people—the largest civic observance in the world! Last year, 192 countries participated in activities that aided the environmental movement.

The hotel industry has been a leader in green initiatives since the 1990s due to a number of significant motivators, including cost savings, regulatory compliance, consumer demand, customer loyalty, increased brand value…and, of course, doing the right thing.

Many hotels have helped green their properties by introducing water-saving techniques like reusable linen programs and installing water-efficient plumbing in bathrooms; installing energy-efficient lighting; and replacing high-waste products with recycled or reusable items. While these are great starting points, some hotels have taken their sustainability efforts to a whole new level.

The LEED Gold-certified H2hotel in Healdsburg, California, was built on the site of a former gas station. To make the land healthier, the property owners removed contaminated soil, restored the creek bed, and employed an erosion-control plan to minimize runoff. To reduce energy consumption, H2hotel installed solar panels to heat the pool and water in guest rooms and opted for energy-saving elevators that use 60 percent less electricity than standard elevators. On top of that, the elevators do not require oil to run, removing the risk of soil contamination and fire.

LEED-certified Hotel Terra in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, uses recycled or reusable products throughout the property—a practice that started from its earliest days. During construction of the hotel, the owners used 80 percent recycled steel and reused or recycled 50 percent of the waste it produced. Reclaimed glass is used in every bathroom countertop and soap dish, and the roof is made from 100-percent recycled Eco Shake shingles. Even the elevators tiles are made from tannery scraps that use 99.8 percent of the products input in the manufacturing process. As a guest, you won’t find plastic water bottles at Hotel Terra; instead, you’ll be offered aluminum water bottles that you can refill at water stations throughout the hotel.

Proximity Hotel is the first LEED Platinum-certified hotel in the U.S. They have more than 70 sustainability practices in place, including the Otis Gen2 elevator, which captures energy created on decent and feeds it back into the electrical grid. Local artists, vendors, building materials, and furniture were used to reduce transportation and packaging. To help connect guests to the outdoors, 97 percent of all regularly occupied spaces have large energy-efficient “operable” windows with views and abundant natural lighting. To top it off, they have an education center for sustainable practices, an outreach program for students, and bicycles for guests to ride on the nearby five-mile greenway that connects to more than 75 miles of trails.

Distinguished Programs supports the green efforts being implemented by the hospitality industry and others. We have enriched our insurance program by supporting those that implement environmental initiatives through Association of Green Property Owners and Managers (AGPOM). AGPOM is a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization that helps property owners and managers realize the value of environmentally friendly pursuits while offering incentives that stimulate participation. For more ways to implement green behaviors in your hotel, see the AGPOM Green Property Plan for Hotels and Resorts.