Honeybees, hydraulic elevators, and instant-off lighting. Experts weigh in on what Green Hospitality means to them and how their hotels are helping reduce waste without sacrificing customer experience.

Hospitality has always been a resource intensive and high waste business. Linens to wash, food to prepare, surfaces to clean, and infrastructure to maintain. All that means a lot of potential ground to gain by going green.

Nowadays, there’s a dizzying number of programs and certifications for so-called green establishments. How do consumers and business leaders know which actions are the most meaningful? Does recycled toilet paper mean a hotel is green? Is that better or worse than optional linen service? Or is all of the above just greenwashing unless power usage and building materials are addressed? And how do you make sure your employees come along for the green ride?

Recently, swissnex San Francisco led a visiting delegation from EHL to investigate innovations in Green Hospitality. We spoke with experts from software startups to solar energy insiders to hotel managers. Again and again, it came down to people.

The take-home message: A truly green business must include the whole team in a bottom up approach, with a balanced scorecard for each department and the appointment of green ambassadors. This way, a manager can be sure that he or she creates a culture of change that will continue even if the initiator leaves the company.

After the study tour, I wanted to know more about Green Hospitality here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here’s what five locals say on the subject: