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Top 10 Eco Friendly hotels

Eco-consciousness is reaching new heights nowadays, especially in North America. PlanetOut has made up a list of the top 10 eco-friendly properties of 2008.

1. The Orchard Garden Hotel
San Francisco
This LEED-certified with nontoxic paints, glues and varnishes, energy-efficient lighting.

2. 70 Park Avenue
New York City
In addition to Kimpton Hotels' company-wide EarthCare eco-program, 70 Park Avenue goes one step further with the repurposing of kitchen oil in biodiesel.

3. Gaia Napa
American Canyon, Calif.
Constructed with as many recycled materials and as little energy as possible. Recycled carpet content and low-emission paint.

4. Zion Lodge
Zion, Utah
Green Suites (including sustainable features such as bamboo floors, recycled carpet content, organic linens and key card lighting controls) are testing grounds for the ambitious project of making all 5,000 Xanterra-operated rooms as environmentally sustainable as possible.

5. Hotel Triton
San Francisco
Hotel Triton started with an eco-floor back in the 1990s; this spread to all floors in 2003

6. Hilton
Vancouver, Wash.
This hotel just across the bridge from Portland, Ore., recycled 75 percent of its construction waste.

7. Marriott
Bethesda, Md.
The blueprint for future green Marriott hotels, this was the first hotel and conference center in the United States to win LEED certification for its environmental design.

8. Hotel Monaco
Green hues into his kitchen, from eco-initiatives such as recycling, composting food and using organic, local foods and sustainable seafood, to making the switch to recyclable or recycled to-go containers.

9. Hotelito Desconocido
Jalisco, Mexico
Solar power and candles are used instead of electricity and accommodations are bamboo, palm leaf,and clay huts in a protected wetland estuary overlooking the Pacific.

10. Habitat Suites
Austin, Texas
Natural pesticides (ladybugs!), cooling shade trees and a substantial amount of its power from a photovoltaic system, feature at the Habitat Suites.

Honorable mentions:
Maho Bay Camp, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islandds

DoubleTree Lloyd Center, Portland, Ore.

The Equus Hotel, Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

Solage, Calistoga, Calif.

Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui, Hawaii

The Woodstocker Inn, Woodstock, Vt.

Ambrose Hotel, Los Angeles

Seaport Hotel, Boston;

Ahu Pohaku Ho'omaluhia, Kohala, Big Island, Hawaii;

Inn by the Sea, Cape Elizabeth, Maine;

The Meaning of Green

The Hilton Portland & Executive Tower in Oregon meets the Green Seal standard; cards issued by the "Green" Hotels Association; a hotel chair by Furnature, billed as organic and chemical-free. As more hotels try to become more environmentally friendly, in part to satisfy customers they say are increasingly demanding it, they find themselves in unfamiliar territory cluttered with "green" products and hype -- but without many reliable guideposts for what's effective.

Major corporations including Marriott International Inc. and Hilton Hotels Corp. are studying options as they make decisions on far-reaching environmental initiatives intended to appeal to consumers with a conscience -- and at the same time save on water, energy and waste, without downgrading the quality of service.

Some hotels have turned to established programs in their efforts to go green. Marriott, for example, in 2001 joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program, which has given it public recognition for using lower-energy flourescent lighting and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Marriott touts its accomplishments on its Web site under the heading "Green Marriott."

A handful of hotels have gotten certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit group in Washington that grades commercial buildings on areas such as water efficiency, energy use, building materials and indoor air quality. Among them are a Hilton in Vancouver, Wash., and a Marriott at the University of Maryland. But the standards aren't designed specifically for hotels, and retrofitting older hotels to qualify can be prohibitively expensive.

Among other options, Starwood is considering getting certification for its first Element hotel, scheduled to open next July in Lexington, Mass. Depending on what's decided, green measures could add 2% to 4% to the planned $16 millon budget for the hotel, Mr. Lakas estimates.

Green Seal, another non-profit organization in Washington, has an extensive certification program for hotels and motels. The evaluation takes up to three months and costs from $1,950 to $3,000 annually, depending on the size of the hotel. Only 43 hotels nationwide have the certification. The group says interest is picking up, and it is hoping to have another 20 hotels in Chicago certified by this fall.

The "Green" Hotels Association, a Houston-based professional group that charges hotels $100-$750 a year to join, offers a list of approved vendors for products including water-saving toilets and chlorine alternatives. But they aren't vetted beyond a requirement that they send company literature explaining how the product is green. "We take their word for it," says Patty Griffin, president and founder of the association, which has also since 1993 sold a cards to hotels that nudge guests to reuse towels.


Value of Green Hotels

As president of Atman Hospitality, Wen-I Chang built the first LEED Gold-certified hotel project in the US, the 133-room Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa in American Canyon, CA. The project opened in November of last year. Chang said that constructing the Napa Valley property to LEED Gold standards added about 15% to the development costs. However, he noted that he has a second project now under construction in which the premium to build with environmentally friendly specifications will be between 6% and 8%.

Gary Golla, an associate with the Portland, OR-architecture firm SERA, said he has seen two studies on the issue. One said the cost to go green increases construction costs by 5%, while another says it has no significant impact. Therefore, he said the cost probably falls between those two estimates. The expense, he added, further depends on the level of LEED certification the building aspires to and where the project is being constructed. His firm is currently involved in the development of two hotels in Portland--the 331-room the Nines, part of the Starwood Luxury Collection, and 256-key Courtyard by Marriott--using green principals. Golla pointed that Oregon has “great incentives” to go green.

Hotels check in to being green

Kona Village in Hawaii is over the top when it comes to recycled materials. The roofs of its restaurant, fitness center and bungalows are made from the dried fronds of coconut palms found on the property. Ceiling fans eliminate the need for air conditioning, and there are no radios, televisions or telephones in the rooms.

•Proximity Hotel, being built in Greensboro, N.C., has raised the bar on “green” construction. The hotel will use 100 rooftop solar panels to collect solar energy and is recycling 75 percent of its construction waste. It will use only 45 percent to 55 percent of the energy consumed by a conventional hotel. The property is capturing rainwater to irrigate the gardens. And it is restoring 700 linear feet of a stream on the property.

•Tarrytown House Estate in New York dug a well on its property to supply water for landscaping. It installed motion-sensitive thermostats in rooms so heating and cooling are not in heavy use when the room is empty. Water coolers are installed in meeting rooms, and all paper left behind from meetings is shredded and recycled.

•Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming uses wind, geothermal, biomass and hydro power to operate — equivalent to planting more than 5,000 trees over three years. It also offers bus passes to employees so they don’t have to drive their own cars from town. It spends more than $85,000 a year on the bus passes.

•Vermont’s new Snow Mountain Lodge, scheduled to open for the coming ski season, has installed just about every “green” practice a hotel can offer. It uses eco-friendly cleaning products (as many hotels now do), fluorescent bulbs, recycled paper products (such as notepads), in-room recycling bins, low-flow shower heads and toilets and motion detectors in public spaces to determine the need for air conditioning or heating. The lodge also is constructing a transfer lift between base areas so buses don’t have to run skiers back and forth.

•Kimpton Hotels’ Earthcare program includes using environmentally safe cleaning products, soy ink and recycled paper in its offices and water-saving bathroom fixtures, among other things, in all 42 properties.

•Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Granby, Colo., uses geothermal radiant heat in all of its new buildings. Its fireplaces are EPA-approved, and only environmentally sensitive cleaning and spa products are used.

•Le Meridien Hotel on Bora Bora has an established turtle sanctuary. Jumby Bay in Antigua also provides a safe haven for the endangered creatures.

•The White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine, keeps auto emissions down by shuttling guests from place to place in small electric cars.

•The Hotel Monaco in Denver donates all partly used bath amenities to a local women’s shelter. Besides recycling and other in-house programs, the hotel donates $10 of every night’s stay to the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation group.

Low impact living assesmet

LEED Rated Hotels: The Platinum Standard

The nationally recognized standard for the design, construction and operation of green buildings, LEED takes a “whole-building approach” to sustainability by setting benchmarks in five areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

In practice, a building can be certified at one of four levels: certificate, silver, gold, or platinum. There are minimum requirements in each of the five categories, with the opportunity to accrue additional points to achieve higher ratings.

Currently, the highest rated hotel in the US is the LEED Gold-certified Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa (pictured above) in the wine country of Northern California (pictured above). Built of wood harvested from sustainable forests, the hotel also features carpets and tiles made from recycled materials, as well as solar panels for electricity generation. Compared to traditional hotels, the Gaia Napa Valley uses 26% less energy and 45% less water. The rooms even contain a copy of Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth, (in addition to the traditional Bible, of course).

There are three other LEED certified hotels in the US: The Inn & Conference Center in College Park, Maryland, the Hilton Vancouver in Washington, and The Orchard Garden Hotel in San Francisco (pictured at left). For those adventurous souls among us, there is also a LEED certified hotel in Dambulla, Sri Lanka: the Kandalama Hotel.

The Green Hotel Association

Hotels need not be LEED certified to have adopted green practices that can make a real difference. Many hotels have joined the Green Hotels Association. These hotels have adopted practices or technologies that reduce their impact on the environment, often well before it was common in the industry. To find green hotels across the U.S., visit our Travel & Tourism Section.

For example, Sadie Cove Lodge in Alaska, built in 1972, uses its own hydroelectric system to generate all of its own power, making it completely “off the grid”. Other hotels might use strategies that aren’t so obvious, like the use of local, native plants that require little watering, or a reflective roof that dissipates and reflects heat, reducing the “heat island” effect common in urban areas. Other green practices include using ecologically-sound cleaning products, instituting recycling and composting programs, and buying local food. The possibilities for hotels to improve on business as usual are endless!


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