I have to confess that I have a lot of cynicism about hotels and their efforts to help the environment. There's hardly a hotel that I visit that doesn't give me the opportunity to save the earth by opting not to have my sheets and towels replaced, which does indeed save on water and detergent, but, I know it also saves the hotel serious dollars. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against win-win situations, I'm just not getting too many green good vibes if doing less laundry is the only earth-friendly step that a hotel takes.
In fairness, it's often hard for a guest to tell what a hotel is doing for the environment, because most of the heavy lifting comes behind the scenes -- in the hotel's construction, energy supplies and so on. Here are a few fabulous properties that are also doing right by the planet, in ways you might not recognize.
- The Nines in Portland, Oregon. In the renovation of this hotel from its previous life as a department store, 90 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills for reuse or recycling. In addition, housekeeping employs green cleaning products and the hotel gets 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources including wind power and carbon offsets.
- The Westin Riverfront Beaver Creek, Colorado: This hotel just received Silver LEED certification, and it's saving energy in a variety of ways, including a building control system that allows the front desk to adjust the temperature in guest rooms so unoccupied rooms aren't heated or cooled unnecessarily. The hotel also donated a 5 acre zone along the Eagle river as a permanent public open space.
- The Ritz Carlton Highlands, North Lake Tahoe: This soon-to-open hotel was built with environmental factors in mind, from careful site planning designed to spare as many trees as possible, to the introduction of underground parking, which reduces the use of asphalt, allowing snow melt and rain to return to the water table. What's more, Northstar Resort, which the Ritz is a part of, is the first ski resort to be entirely LEED certified.
- Harbor View, Martha's Vineyard. One of the most luxurious places to stay on Martha's Vineyard also has a serious commitment to the environment, from its use of low-flow plumbing, to energy efficient appliances, to an active recycling program that includes replacing the distribution of plastic water bottles with reusable water bottles and water stations.