Credit: Jeff Zelevansky

The 11 U.S. resorts operated by Madison, Wis.-based Great Wolf Resorts Inc., recently received Silver certification from Washington, D.C.-based Green Seal. The certification influenced the chain to make green buildings part of its existing commitment to deliver sustainable tourism to its guests.

The Green Seal certification includes 36 environmentally responsible criteria for lodging properties. As part of the certification process, each resort underwent an operations audit that needed to be verified by a certification board. Certification components cross several categories: equipment and systems; waste and energy management; facility operations, maintenance and services; food and food service; office products and communications; personal care and consumer packaged goods; and transportation and utilities. Implementation of all Green Seal standards for certification took more than one year; additional audits will be conducted annually to ensure compliance.

Water consumption at the lodges is reduced through guest-linen recycling, low-flow fixtures, waterless urinals, and laundry and pool-filtration systems that recycle most water used in the systems. For example, Great Wolf Lodge, Pocono Mountains, Pa., saved nearly 9 million gallons (34 million L) of water in one year by installing low-flow plumbing fixtures.

Recycling bins are placed in all public areas, guest rooms and employee areas, and all unused food items are composted or donated to local charities. Appliances certified by the Washington-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star and energy-efficient light bulbs and HVAC equipment reduce energy consumption. All paper products are post-consumer recycled, dishwashing and laundry detergents are biodegradable, and paints are low in VOCs.

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky

Although Green Seal certification addresses environmental issues relating to the lodging business, it does not address the water-park portion of Great Wolf Resorts’ business. Therefore, Great Wolf Resorts executives unveiled the company’s environmental program, Project Green Wolf, which all company properties are participating in.

Nearly all the operational procedures manuals for each lodge were rewritten for Project Green Wolf, which covers indoor and outdoor water parks and on-property restaurants. Specific details vary by property, but most locations focus on management of fresh-water resources; waste minimization, recycling and reuse; energy efficiency; environmentally and socially sensitive purchasing; and guest education. Under Project Green Wolf, water from the resorts’ water parks undergoes an extensive filtration process on-site before it is recirculated back into the pools.

In addition, Great Wolf Resorts is educating kids about sustainability by partnering with National Geographic Kids, Washington, to develop national environmental-education programs. For adults, the lodges feature a Green Wolf TV channel. Interactive Web content about the lodges’ green initiatives are available at www.projectgreenwolf.com. Through its on-site operations and national outreach, Great Wolf Resorts demonstrates even a commercial chain can successfully implement environmentally friendly practices.