Google wants to help you travel more sustainably. The tech giant is adding a travel feature into its search tool to help users easily identify resorts and hotels that incorporate eco practices.
The move, announced last week, comes as part of Google’s ongoing sustainability efforts. “We want to make it easier for you to find sustainable options while traveling—no matter what you’re doing or where you’re going,” Richard Holden, Google’s VP of Travel Products, wrote in a blog post.
“We’re working with hotels around the world, including independent hotels and chains such as Hilton and Accor, to gather this information and make it easily accessible,” Holden said.
“To make that happen, we’ve created a new team of engineers, designers and researchers focused solely on travel sustainability. Already, this team is working to highlight sustainable options within our travel tools that people use every day.”
The search for sustainable hotels
A badge will appear next to hotels in Google searches that have verified sustainability initiatives. This “eco-certified” badge is only eligible to qualifying hotels and resorts that have been certified by third-party organizations, Google said.
Searchers will be prompted to click “learn more,” which will take them to the hotel’s website sustainability page. The search engine says there’s not a one-size approach to sustainability; hotel practices can range from offering plant-based meal options to water-saving efforts to alternatives to single-use plastic.
“Making travel more sustainable isn’t something we can do alone, which is why we’re also joining the global Travalyst coalition,” Holden wrote. “As part of this group, we’ll help develop a standardized way to calculate carbon emissions for air travel. This free, open impact model will provide an industry framework to estimate emissions for a given flight and share that information with potential travelers. We’ll also contribute to the coalition’s sustainability standards for accommodations and work to align our new hotel features with these broader efforts.”
Google says it’s accepting certification reporting from several agencies including EarthCheck and GreenKey.
EarthCheck is a benchmarking certification program that has accredited hotels in more than 70 countries. It relies on standards developed by the World Summit for Sustainable Development.
GreenKey has certified more than 3,200 hotels in 65 countries, assessing sustainability efforts across a number of criteria including corporate social responsibility, staff involvement, cleaning practices, and the presence of green areas.
Sustainable driving routes
And if you’re driving to your destination, the tech giant’s travel app will now default to take you on the most sustainable route.
According to Google, It’s more than 150 million Maps users will now have the option take the travel route likely to produce the lowest possible carbon emissions. It will be the app’s new default travel mode, with few exceptions.
“What we are seeing is for around half of routes, we are able to find an option more eco-friendly with minimal or no time-cost tradeoff,” Russell Dicker, a director of product at Google, told reporters earlier this year.
The new travel pre-sets will account for congestion, hills, and other issues that may lead to a larger carbon footprint, the Alphabet Inc. company says. Unless the sustainable route is expected to take significantly longer to get users to their destinations, all suggested routes will be the most eco-friendly possible option.
Google says it’s able to identify these routes by calculating emissions estimates based on types of cars, types of roads, and looking at government data as well as its own Street View cars.
The environmental impact of the new option is not yet known. But according to a study last year in California, it could be significant; map app users in that study were more likely to take a carbon-friendly route if an app made the option clear and didn’t delay their travel.
The Maps app will also soon include environmental impact comparisons between cars, bikes, walking, and public transport. Already, the search engine shows travelers a carbon emissions estimate when searching for a flight.
The announcement comes amid Google’s latest climate commitments, which include warnings to drivers in the EU and UK about low emissions driving zones. In those areas, some vehicles are restricted based on their carbon footprints.
“From Amsterdam to Jakarta, cities around the world have established low emission zones – areas that restrict polluting vehicles like certain diesel cars or cars with specific emissions stickers to help keep the air clean,” Google said in a blog post.
“To support these efforts, we’re working on alerts to help drivers better understand when they’ll be navigating through one of these zones.”