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Greening Hotels

Pioneers Share Ideas and Show the Way

by Avery Mack

Green Hotel Room“When your company motto is ‘true to nature’, you have to follow through,” says Tom Tabler, director of sales and marketing for the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. “We look at everything, from the biodegradable ink pens in the guest rooms to the staff’s summer uniform.” Managers’ sport coats consist of lightweight plastic fibers and rubber from recycled materials. “They breathe fine, are comfortable and look great,” Tabler remarks.

Hotel construction adhered to eco-friendly practices. A 100-acre bird sanctuary followed the onsite discovery of endangered golden-cheeked warblers. The 36-hole golf course is certified by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP) and deemed the most eco-friendly in the United States by the PGA Tour. The hotel’s four pools and a lazy river for tubing honors the region’s dry climate; water reclamation via closed loop natural catchments and rain retention ponds keeps guests afloat and the golf course green.

Also in Texas, the Four Seasons Hotel Austin has a “zero waste” goal, requiring the recycling of 90 percent of all onsite waste. Shadowboxes above trash cans show guests examples of what is and isn’t recyclable, while unused soap and other toiletries go to local women’s shelters.

“We have placed sufficient containers, so there’s no excuse not to recycle,” says Kerri Holden, senior director of public relations. “In April, we were at the 70 percent compliance mark. We hope to reach our 90 percent goal by year’s end.” She notes that after management cancelled weekly dumpster service, only one six-by-six-foot trash container remains. Even worn linens become cleaning rags. The saltwater swimming pool uses soda ash, rather than harsher chlorine chemical treatments.

Kitchen scraps are composted and become fertilizer for the hotel’s herb and vegetable garden and flowerbeds. Natural compost bags in guest rooms collect banana peels, apple cores and other organic food waste. At the end of the year, guests that composted during their visit receive a thank-you letter and The Nature Conservancy plants a tree in their name in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s most endangered tropical forests (PlantABillion.org).

Boston’s Colonnade Hotel, built in the 1970s, grows greener with each upgrade. “We replace systems with the greenest possible solutions,” explains Keith Alexander, director of property operations. Guest room windows have been replaced with filmed and insulating twinned panes to save power year-round. Electrolyzed water is now used for cleaning; a higher pH works as a nontoxic degreaser, while a lower pH turns water into a sanitizer, eliminating the need for chemical cleansers and gloves. Next, the hotel plans to install a large commercial dishwasher that will use electrolyzed water instead of chlorine-based cleaners.

California’s Cavallo Point Lodge, near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, opened in Sausalito in 2008 as the newest national park lodge and the only one with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. It was built in the early 1900s to house Fort Baker’s military families.

While renovations have enlarged the rooms, wood door framing maintains the rustic appearance and the wood floors are either original or made from repurposed wood. “We learned a lot while updating the lodge,” says General Manager Euan Taylor. “We discovered that the tin ceiling tiles were painted with lead-based paint.  Instead of using harsh chemicals, we froze each tile, gave it a slight twist and the paint fell off.”

Unsurprisingly, food for the lodge restaurant and onsite cooking school is purchased from local farmers.

In Big Sur, California, the award-winning Post Ranch Inn specializes in repurposing materials. Wood from old growth redwood wine casks accent walls in guest rooms. Fallen trees become benches dotting walkways. Dinnerware is made from recycled glass and any broken plates are recycled again. The honey used for the special spa facial treatments comes from 18 onsite beehives.

Daily updates on energy savings via the Inn’s 208 kW, 990-panel solar power system can be viewed at Tinyurl.com/PostRanchInnMonitor.

Every day, 2.6 million bars of soap are discarded from 4.6 million U.S. hotel rooms. The Global Soap Project (GlobalSoap.org) and Clean the World (CleanTheWorld.org) both process used bars into new soaps. Some are donated to domestic homeless shelters. The rest go to more than 45 foreign countries; in developing countries, sanitizing with soap can make a life-and-death difference.

The Resort at The MountainOregon’s The Resort at the Mountain, in Welches, installed an additional 11,000 indigenous plants throughout its 300-acre property in 2009, in the spirit of the nearby Mount Hood National Forest. The mountain is home to the only ski lodge certified by the Sustainable Travel Institute, using United Nations criteria.

“We are a base camp for skiers, hikers, off-road bikers and fly fishermen,” says General Manager John Erickson. “Our ‘field to stream’ menu features northwest products and of course, fish.”

The resort’s golf course, following the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, uses natural methods for weed control. “We pull them up,” says Erickson. “Wildflowers get to stay where they are.” Golfers and fishermen volunteer to both help keep the course in good shape and the water channels clear for salmon and steelhead. From the golf course, visitors can see the salmon swimming upstream. “Most of the fishermen catch and release,” says Erickson. We want to be good stewards of the land.”

Connect with freelance writer Avery Mack at AveryMack@mindspring.com.

More Sustainable Ideas to Share

While many hotels are implementing energy- and water-saving measures and recycling, some are taking even more Earth-friendly steps in their operations and services.

  • Best Western Plus Boulder Inn, in Boulder, Colorado, is solar powered and supplies bicycles for guests.
  • Forty 1° North, in Newport, Rhode Island, provides in-room electronic newspaper delivery via iPads, saving 700 pounds of waste per month.
  • Hyatt at Olive 8, in Seattle, Washington, has an 8,355-square-foot living rooftop that provides an urban habitat for birds, bees and butterflies and reduces storm water runoff to city sewers.
  • The InterContinental New York Times Square has two green rooftops that feature low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants to help regulate the building’s temperature. A resident beehive produced 40 pounds of locally sourced honey in its initial harvest.
  • Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco, in Portland, Oregon, offers guests a 50 percent discount on parking for hybrid cars, plus complimentary electric car charging.
  • Shore Hotel, in Santa Monica, California, offers a Green Concierge program with information on local farmers’ markets, eco-friendly shopping and fair trade espresso spots, plus access to hybrid taxis, bicycles and walking tours.
  • In the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York, the Hotel Skyler, a former temple and theater, the third in the U.S. and 10th in the world to achieve Platinum LEED certification, is heated by a geothermal gas pump and outfitted with salvaged architecture.
  • Element hotels [Colorado, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey and Texas] offer green kitchens, spa baths, in-room recycle bins, magnetic guest room door signs, electric vehicle chargers, in-room filtered tap water and bikes to borrow.
  • Chicago’s Hotel Felix, built in 1926, has gone so green that even its sculptures are made from reclaimed materials.
  • Houston’s Magnolia Hotel provides bus passes for employees.
  • In Massachusetts, the Inn at Field Farm, in Williamstown, and the Inn at Castle Hill, in Ipswich, are owned by a statewide land trust and nonprofit conservation organization, The Trustees of Reservations.
  • The Omni Hotel in Dallas is largest gold-certified LEED hotel other than those in Las Vegas.
  • Pennsylvania’s Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia relies on microturbines to provide 100 percent of the daily hot water needs and 15 percent of heating requirements.
  • The W Austin Hotel uses only recyclable containers—no Styrofoam allowed.

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