AAA: Promoting Highway Safety and… Eco-Travel?

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Soon, a Google search for “green travel guides” may produce an unexpected result: AAA. Although it’s among the nation’s leading travel coordinators, the company may not be the first to come to mind when one thinks of sustainability. In upcoming TourBook editions, however, AAA will include “eco friendly” in its list of offerings, designating properties that promote environmental and energy conservation as “green” with an “eco” icon. To think I only associated AAA with my car breaking down….


According to a report by Green Lodging News, the icon will be awarded to properties that are AAA approved (or rated by AAA’s Diamond system, by which the company evaluates hotels and restaurants) as well as “green lodging site” certified “as part of one of a number of state or national eco lodging programs.” Sounds good – but do these requirements really guarantee that a site is sustainable, or is AAA opening the door for false advertising?
A quick look at AAA’s requirements for obtaining “green” status is revealing. To obtain AAA approval, a site does not have to necessarily be sustainable, although it does have to meet other quality criteria. The Diamond rating system, which coincides with its approval system, describes a site’s service, d√©cor, and amenities. So, it appears that these are essentially prerequisites and that, to obtain AAA’s green designation, a site must simply qualify as a “green building site” by state or national standards. To cite the Green Lodging News’ example, an Orlando hotel’s accreditation by the Florida Green Lodging Program would qualify the hotel for AAA’s green designation.
As most people who have sought governmental certification of just about anything will emphasize, obtaining certification requires navigating more than a little red tape. And if clearance of the red tape alone is an indication of a property’s qualification for the certificate, it seems the AAA eco-ranking system may accomplish its purpose.

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.