Recently I received a press release from Wagstaff Worldwide that did not go to the trash bin but peaked my interest. “The Intercontinental Chicago earned the Green Seal Silver Certificate for Eco-friendly initiatives and highly efficient energy use as well as an EPA Energy Star Certification.” www.icchicagohotel.com
I remember signs in hotels telling guests to put towels back on the rack and to note they didn’t want the sheets changed every day but I assumed that was just to save the hotel money on washing and paid no attention to the signs. What exactly were green hotels and did they really do anything for the environment? I sent out a notice through the Adventure Travel & Trade Association asking for information and the next day the e-mails start arriving. The following is by no means a complete listing but were culled from the information I received.
The Green Hotel Association- www.greenhotels.com; finding green hotels- www.istaygreen.org and information about green hotels- www.greenlodgingnews.com were all useful in my research. “Green hotels are environmentally-friendly properties whose managers are eager to institute programs that save water, energy and reduce solid waste- while saving money- to help PROTECT OUR ONE AND ONLY EARTH. Being green goes directly to a higher long-term value of ones property. Being green goes directly to the front doors which opens wide to bring guests back again and again. Being green goes directly to keeping staff long-term because management clearly cares for their health and well being. Fluorescent bulbs, ceiling fans, linen cards, lights off cards, motion sensors for public rest rooms, meeting rooms and exercise rooms all help reduce energy bills. Low-flow showerheads and toilets, serving water on request only in restaurants, waterless urinals all reduce water bills. Recycling and avoiding wastefully packaged products can reduce waste hauling. Minimal wrapping of delivery items and delivering products one day and picking up the packaging material the next day cuts expenses. Being green means guests, staff and management are healthier. When odors, fumes, soot and residues of toxic, poisonous chemicals are not in the air, on the food or on anything we touch, we are not absorbing or breathing them. Green properties will demand a higher price. The Green Hotel Association brings together hotels interested in environmental issues and they research environmentally-friendly energy and water-saving products and choose the best for their members.”
Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago announced his city has the most Green Seal certified hotels (5) in the nation. “71% of green house gas emissions in Chicago result from buildings.” A 300-room hotel switching to a bath tissue with 100% post-consumer content would save approximately 4 tons of virgin paper, 48 trees, 16,400 kwh of electricity, 28,000 gallons of water and 240 pounds of air pollutants annually. The above mentioned Intercontinental Chicago has adopted 30 earth-friendly practices including: a recycling program, donating guest room amenities to local shelters and installing low-water-usage to shower heads and motion-sensor controlled thermostats in all guest rooms to minimize energy use. www.cityofchicago.org
Three Camel Lodge, an eco-lodge in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, uses solar and wind power. Local artisans and workers crafted the roofs of the buildings in accordance with the cannons of Mongolian Buddhist architecture, without using a single nail. They fund and organize nature conservation clubs for local children including collecting litter, cleaning and protecting mountain springs, planting native trees and bushes. www.threevarmellodge.com
Lapa Rios Ecolodge is the first Costa Rican hotel to earn a “five leaves” rating in sustainability. This 16-bungalow ecolodge has conserved over 1,000 acres of rain forest. Environmental education is fundamental to the 50-plus staff members and they have funded the local primary school as well as using biodiesel-powered electricity. www.laparios.com
Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain Georgia was built on the idea of green in the 1930’s before it was “cool” to be green. They are a 501c3 that happens to own a resort. They have a LEED certified lodge & spa and a EarthCraft House certified residential community. They offset 100% of their electric use with Wind Power Credits. www.callawaygardens.com
The Samoset Resorts “Go Green” package includes a sampler of local Maine products and a $25 per guest donation to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust a statewide land conservation organization dedicated to protecting the character of Maine for future generations. www.samosetresort.com
Zibadianja Camp in Botswana, southern Africa is a luxury camp in the middle of nowhere with no access to traditional electricity. It is generated from the sun via a bank of solar panels, which deliver 220-volt electricity on demand 24 hours a day. In addition, no cement was used to build the camp. Flowing canvas and recycled hardwoods and commercially grown softwoods were used. www.selindareserve.com
River Dance Lodge in Idaho is a small log cabin resort built 4 years ago from scratch. There are no phones or TV’s in the cabin, which means less electricity usage but also encourages people to connect with each other, spend time outdoors and relax in nature. They have on-demand propane water heaters rather than hot water tanks. Energy is used only when people are using hot water. They have their own septic system. They have their own well and no chemicals are added to the water. Recycling bins are placed in each cabin. www.riverdancelodge.com
Gibb’s Farm is a five-star eco-lodge in Tanzania, East Africa. Its 20 new luxury eco-cottages utilize alternative energy, local furnishings, artwork, materials and labor. Gibb’s has the second largest solar panel array in Tanzania. All grey water from bathtubs, kitchens and laundry rooms is recycled and irrigates Gibb’s gardens. Their organic farms and gardens provide 90% of the ingredients for their meals. www.gibbsfarm.net
NYC’s Benjamin Hotel has a 5 Globe Ecotel certification. One globe is issued for each of the following: Environmental commitment, solid waste management, energy efficiency, water conservation and employee education with community involvement. www.thebenjamin.com
Ecocamp Patagonia Chile has compost toilets, solar energy, waste management procedures and is carbon neutral. The basic premise on designing the EcoCamp was to maintain the nomadic spirit of the ancient inhabitants that moved along the dismembered coast looking for food and shelter. This people lived in harmony with “Mother Nature” and built their huts out of wood, furs and leathers, all organic materials they found on site. www.ecocamp.travel
Discovery at Marigot Bay on the island of St. Lucia recently launched the Caribbean’s first solar powered ferry. The ferry is used to transport guests of the hotel around Matigot Bay. They use hormones which target only the species that bite and fogging is done with geranium oil rather than petroleum-based pesticides, which could negatively impact the delicate fish spawning areas and mangrove eco-system of the bay. When farmers deliver local produce to the hotel they also collect the used cooking oil. The hotel provides the farmers with chemicals to convert the cooking oil into bio diesel, which is used to run farm equipment and the vehicle used to deliver the farm goods. They have a Zenon sewage/grey water treatment system, which recycles all grey water and converts it into clean water, which is used to irrigate the landscape. www.discoverystlucia.com
The Eagle Mountain House & Gold Club in New Hampshire uses CFL lighting and has saved in excess of 100,000-kilo watt-hours per year. Dimmers are used in most areas. Food waste is given to local pig farmers, which reduces the impact on landfills. Cooking fats are recycled and become part of the bio-diesel fuel mix. Recycling waste bins are in all guest rooms. Newspapers, office paper and cardboard are recycled. Low volume toilet tanks and low temperature dish washing is used. Insulated blankets are installed each night over the heated swimming pool to conserve energy. Reusable place-mats instead of table cloths save water in the laundry. Guests are encouraged to take their used soap and a small plastic bag is in each bathroom. www.eaglemt.com
The Inn by the Sea in Maine has been traveling a green path for over 7 years. Solar panels, recycled sheet rock, recycled rubber and cork floors, low VOC paint, and Maine fare with food fresh from local farms and the sea. First to be Carbon neutral in Maine, first to have dual flush toilets in New England and first to heat with befoul in Maine. Voted a Top Ten Green Hotel in the US by Forbes Traveler. They have 5 acres of indigenous landscaping, use paper key cards and have a program to save the endangered Monarch butterfly. www.innbythesea.com
Virginia Green is a statewide program that works to reduce the environmental impacts of Virginia’s tourism industry. The program awards Virginia Green Certification to tourism-related business such as hotels, restaurants and attractions taking voluntary actions to reduce harmful impacts on the environment. Steps include: Optional linen service, recycling, eliminate/minimize Styrofoam disposables, water and energy conservation and sponsoring green events. You can check for green places to stay, green restaurants & meeting places that are green. www.virginia.org/green
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building-rating system is the national benchmark by which guests can determine which hotels has succeeded in eco-friendly design, construction and operation. www.usgbc.org There are six key areas a hotel must meet to obtain LEED certification: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selection, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design. Levels include Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. The world’s first gold-certified LEED hotel is the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel & Spa uses wood-based materials, recycled carpets, tiles and granite and low-flow toilets and shower heads. All natural chemical-free fertilizers are used in the landscaping. There are kiosks with “green touch screens” showing the water and electric saving methods. www.gaianapavalleyhotel.com
Starwood Hotels & Resorts is opening Element by Westin as the first major hotel brand to mandate LEED certification for every property. There will be in-room recycling bins; water filters that eliminate the need for bottled water and eco-friendly paints, carpets and furniture will be used. They will buy wind-powered electricity to reduce carbon emissions and use only energy-efficient appliances, both in their restaurants and rooms. www.starwoodhotels.com/element
The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas is the largest building (50 stories & 3,066 rooms) in the world to receive LEED certification. Sensors detect when guests are in their rooms and the temperature automatically adjusts. There is valet bicycle parking and racks for staff and guests. Five percent of the total parking spaces are reserved for car and van pools. www.palazzolasvegas.com
www.bedandbreakfast.com has made donations to eco-friendly organizations to offset guests’ carbon footprints and installed solar heating systems. There is recycling, towel replacement services, water & energy conservation programs, local purchasing and use of non-toxic cleaners. The Arroyo Vista Inn in South Pasadena www.arroyovistainn.com have solar panels that provide all their electric needs. Additionally, low-flow toilets, environmentally friendly room amenities, an active recycling program and fresh flowers in the rooms help round out the eco-offering here. The Berry Manor Inn, LimeRock Inn and Captain Lindsey House are known as the Historic Inns of Rockland Maine (I stayed in two of them) www.historicinnsofrockland.com and are the first known B&B’s dedicated to sustainable eco-tourism. There is a compact fluorescent light bulb given to each guest. Old towels, clothes, shampoo and soap are donated to local charities. The inns make a donation in every guest’s name to eco-friendly local organizations to offset their own carbon footprints. The Cotton Tree Lodge in Belize (I know the owner) www.cottontreelodge.com uses solar power and hires local agricultural extension staff that work directly with low-income Belizean families in promotion of improved nutrition, reforestation and organic agricultural techniques.
These are only a small sampling of the responses I received. I know there are thousands of other examples out there. But, this piece has come to an end. I have given websites after each example for you to read more about the green effort in hotels and resorts.