Green Hotels

These resorts and properties turn eco-friendly thinking into innovative practices.

By Allan Richter

July-August 2013


It’s not unusual for many hotels to equip their properties with more efficient lighting and low-flow toilets. Such moves are good for business and the environment. Some hotels and resorts take environmental stewardship well beyond those basics, rolling out innovative programs in sustainability. We profile several of them here.

Chatham Bars Inn
Chatham, Massachusetts

This Cape Cod resort, set on 25 landscaped acres overlooking Pleasant Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, recalls a luxurious yet simple era when today’s environmental concerns didn’t exist. Guests of this turn-of-the-century landmark are privy to some of the Cape’s most panoramic ocean views and gentle sea breezes.

A new farm-to-table effort at Chatham Bars Inn is enhancing that experience. In a move that is healthy for its guests and the environment, the luxury resort’s owners bought a farm in nearby Brewster that is supplying its restaurants with lettuce, tomatoes, microgreens and other produce.
“We’re not certified organic, but we use organic practices, no pesticides, with all of our farming,” says Todd Ledin, Chatham Bars Inn’s property operations director. The resort creates compost from its kitchen waste and tills it into the farm’s soil.

This is the first year the resort is utilizing the farm, with crops on three of the farm’s seven acres. Because the soil on additional land that the resort is clearing is not yet rich enough, Ledin says, workers are growing “cover crops”—buckwheat, clover and the like. “Those will get tilled into the soil and produce the nutrients the soil needs to sustain growth for the produce we want to grow.” Chatham Bars Inn also plans to open a farmers market for locals.

During the winter, cool temperatures do not permit growth of larger produce, but the farm can sustain microgreens such as sunflower shoots and sprouts. Come early spring, the farm grows impatiens and other flowers for the inn.

Chatham Bars Inn’s farm is part of a long list of eco-friendly initiatives. Among these, Ledin says, the resort plans over the next nine months to upgrade its motors to operate at 70% higher efficiency than its current devices. The resort will also install wireless thermostats to efficiently regulate temperatures by occupancy.

Yotel
New York City

This 669-room hotel near New York’s Time Square boasts a Japanese minimalist design sensibility with a decidedly hip, smart vibe. That is all evident when you enter Yotel’s public spaces, bathed in purple light, and encounter the robotic arm that stores and retrieves your luggage.

Yotel also boasts LEED Gold certification, awarded by the US Green Building Council last September, and a host of out-of-the-box green efforts.

Topping Yotel’s 27 floors is a roof lined with reflective material to cut heat absorption and cooling costs. The roofs and terraces, one by a fourth-floor public area and outdoor bar and another alongside eighth-floor guest suites, have floor drains to collect rainwater. “Instead of the rainwater going out to the sewer systems of the city, that water goes to a storage tank,” explains Tom Scudero, Yotel’s engineering director. In turn, the rainwater fills the hotel’s irrigation system, which feeds bamboo on terraces. A sensor disables the system in rain.

Yotel deploys sensors throughout the building, including guestrooms and public spaces, where they detect occupancy and control lighting and temperature. “They detect infrared motion. It needs to be a warm object moving,” says Scudero. “Even if the curtains are blowing, these won’t see that because a warm object needs to be moving. It also picks up sound.”

Temperature control systems and water pumps are equipped with variable frequency drives. Rather than turning on a system at full power or shutting it down completely, the devices allow the system to slow down, Scudero says, depending on the number of people it is serving.

One of Yotel’s most unique features is its robotic luggage self-storage and retrieval system, called Yobot. A guest who arrives before check-in, for example, can store luggage by selecting a bin size, setting luggage down and watching the automated arm store a suitcase. “Yobot gives you a printed receipt with a bar code,” Scudero says. If that sounds like wasted energy, consider that Yobot goes into energy savings mode when not in use.

 

The Westin Kierland
Phoenix-Scottsdale

Temperatures in the southwest can easily fluctuate 40 degrees over the course of a day. “It was 76 degrees this morning, and we should top out around 112 degrees today,” observed Bob Cisco, engineering director at The Westin Kierland, which has met the challenge of temperature management. The property won the 2012 Certified Green Lodging Award issued by the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association.

Before you arrive at The Westin Kierland, which opened in 2002, the temperature in the empty room you will check into is probably near 80 degrees, saving cooling costs. When you check in, the point-of-sale system at the front desk signals the room’s temperature controls, and by the time you enter the room it will be a more manageable 73 degrees. You can then adjust the temperature from there.

“By installing systems such as these, I went from 101 kilowatts per occupied room down to 96 over one year,” Cisco says. “When I opened this resort, I was at 114. Last year I finished at 95. There’s a track record.”

The resort has managed to reduce its energy consumption even as its added space—two new ballrooms totaling roughly 80,000 square feet, for instance—and amenities. Those include a refrigerator in every room and a FlowRider surfing simulator. “It loves electricity and water,” Cisco says.

The resort touts a robust recycling program, too. Last year, it recycled more than 522 tons: all golf course compost and most waste from the resort. “We recycle everything with the exception of food, and we’re trying to find an opportunity for that,” Cicsco says. “It’s just so hot, food waste spoils so quickly and there aren’t many vendors that will take it.”

To rid the property of plastic bottles, The Westin Kierland installed 36 reverse-osmosis water drinking stations within its common areas so guests can get cold filtered water (guests can buy aluminum bottles). Further, the banquet department uses glass water bottles
or pitchers.

Seaport Hotel
Boston

From the beehives on its roof to the free charging stations for electric cars in its lower-level garage, the Seaport Hotel is environmentally conscious from top to bottom.

Honey from the 270,000 bees it keeps in seven hives on the fifth floor eco-friendly roof makes its way into recipes in the hotel’s Aura restaurant and TAMO bar & terrace, including cocktail recipes. The honey is also an amenity for guests.

Residing with the bees is a rooftop herb and vegetable garden the hotel expanded into an organic garden. The growing area provides fresh produce during the spring and summer for Seaport Hotel’s restaurants.

The hotel’s green efforts are apparent in just about every mode of transportation available to and from the property. In addition the providing the electric-car charging stations, the Seaport Hotel has negotiated rates for its guests to use Seaport Water Taxis, a zero emissions fully-electric water taxi. The taxi is a partnership between the hotel and Rowes Wharf Water Transit.

The hotel sports bicycles and helmets guests can use for free, helping it garner a number of Boston’s Bike Friendly Business Awards and Boston Green Business awards.

Couples who want to celebrate their commitment to each other and their concern for the environment can have a Seaport Hotel green wedding with organic, fresh and local ingredients. Vegan and vegetarian menus are available, as are fair-trade coffee; organic beer, wine and soda; and soy-based votive candles on dinner tables. A donation can even be made to the New England Wind Fund in the couple’s name to offset electricity used during the wedding.

With its robust sustainability program, Seaport Saves, the hotel has recently been awarded the “Good Earthkeeping” Award from the Massachusetts Lodging Association and last year was named one of North America’s Five Greenest Hotels by Fodor’s.

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