Traveling Light

Enjoy an eco-friendly vacation at hotels that care for both you and the Earth.

By Allan Richter

July/August 2011

vegas

As the summer travel season gets underway, excursions via car and plane may add depth to your carbon footprint. One way to help offset this effect is by staying at hotels and resorts that make every effort to maintain customer satisfaction along with the planet’s health. Here are a few green hotels around the country to help you nurture your eco-friendly ways while enjoying a fun and relaxing summer.

Avalon Hotel & Spa, Greater Portland

If the free parking for guests who arrive in an alternative-fuel vehicle doesn’t underscore the Avalon Hotel & Spa’s environmentalist credentials, perhaps the recycling bins in your guestroom will.

Nearly half the resort’s power comes from renewable sources. In 2008, it garnered the Pacific Northwest’s first Leadership in Energy and Environ­mental Design (LEED) certification of an existing hotel building and became the world’s second existing hotel to receive the US Green Building Council’s coveted Silver rating.

Set at the edge of the South Waterfront District on Portland’s serene Willamette River, this luxury boutique hotel and spa’s surroundings scream eco-consciousness. The Avalon borders Cotton Wood Bay, a protected green space, which includes over 8,000 square feet of natural habitat that attract scores of butterflies.

The Avalon, embodying the environmentally progressive nature of Portland, Oregon, eliminated nearly all its irrigation by limiting landscaping to native, drought-tolerant plants. The remaining irrigation uses a drip method used twice a week for three months out of the year. In guestrooms, the hotel trimmed its overall water consumption by 22% by installing water-saving aerators, showerheads and toilet flow diverters.

Although hotel vehicles use biodiesel, driving is discouraged. In front of the Avalon is a wooded riverside jogging trail that connects to the Portland Streetcar, a trolley that takes guests to the downtown shopping district. The hotel also arranges bike rentals.

Chef Andy Arndt’s menu at the resort’s Aquariva Italian Kitchen + Wine Bar focuses on fresh Pacific Northwest produce, seafood and meat, and is inspired by seasonal offerings from his garden and local farmers.

You can go green while relishing a soothing massage, too. The Avalon’s spa menu offerings use product lines that are made with botanical, organic or naturally derived ingredients. Visit www.avalonhotelandspa.com.

 

Element Las Vegas Summerlin

The Element Las Vegas Summerlin may be the only hotel whose general manager has a degree in biology and environmental sciences. As travelers become concerned about environmental matters, the manager, David Smith, is finding that those multiple roles can come in pretty handy.

As the hotel pursues its LEED certification, Smith says it doesn’t hurt knowing a thing or two about energy exchange and water evaporation tables. “It helps to have a working knowledge of truly what a green hotel is about,” he says.

Sustainable practices are apparent throughout the hotel, one of nine eco-conscious Element-branded hotels in Starwood Hotel & Resorts’ portfolio.

If you happen to be a guest on the top floor of the four-story Element Las Vegas Summerlin, you won’t have to worry about using excess air conditioning to fend off the area’s triple-digit temperatures—the hotel’s rooftop is equipped with a special white membrane that deflects and resists heat. Carpets are made of recycled content while low-VOC paint maintains healthy indoor air quality.

Guestrooms are outfitted with Energy Star-rated kitchen appliances. Guests arriving in hybrid cars get priority parking. Large windows and open layouts in public spaces bring in plenty of natural light, and compact fluorescent bulbs use about 75% less energy than conventional bulbs. The fitness center is equipped with motion sensors that control lights. Smith says costs per occupied room have dropped by more than $1 over last year, a significant savings in the hotel business.

Waste is kept to a minimum. Recycling bins for paper, plastic and glass are accessible. Recycled paper towels are kept in the kitchen, filter systems for drinking water replace plastic bottles, and silverware and glassware are used instead of disposable products. Showers feature dispensers for shampoo and body wash, rather than wasteful mini-bottles.

The Element has managed to merge its sustainable practices with a sense of warmth and style, all of which you can soak in over a free breakfast of healthy wraps and smoothies. To learn more, visit www.starwoodhotels.com.

 

InterContinental New York Barclay

The InterContinental New York Barclay grows a rooftop herb garden, conducts paperless meetings, recycles extensively and runs fully on wind energy. It’s all part of the mantra that Hervé Houdré, general manager of this 685-room Midtown Manhattan hotel, says he embraces: “Balance the needs of people, profit and planet.”

Endorsing the idea that what’s good for the Earth is also good for its inhabitants, the hotel features its Natural Power Breakfast buffet of mostly organic and locally sourced foods, including fruit and vegetable juices and yogurt smoothies, wild honey, organic Berkshire Mountain Granola from Massachusetts, hormone-free meats and New York State Old Sheppard Farms organic cheeses. Quiche and other baked goods are made with organic flour, eggs and milk.

All kitchen waste is composted. “We want to send as little as possible to landfills,” Houdré says.
While accommodating a number of leisure travelers, the InterContinental hosts more than 1,000 groups and meetings annually. The hotel helps meeting planners reduce their carbon footprints with its free Green Engage Meeting program. Only half the lighting is used when meeting rooms are set up; pads, pens and other leftover conference supplies are recycled; water is served in pitchers, not plastic bottles; and condiments are served in bulk, among other practices.

The InterContinental extends its social responsibility to its staff. Instead of using paper at meetings, they are encouraged to use laptops and make presentations with portable USB drives. And the hotel promotes a healthy workforce by stocking its staff cafeteria with reduced-fat foods and hosts a twice-yearly staff health day with visiting nurses. To learn more, visit www.InterContinental.com.

 

Fairmont Pittsburgh

Set in the heart of Pittsburgh’s business and cultural hub, this 185-room luxury hotel has taken recycling to a new level. Its house-made soap, part of Fairmont Pittsburgh’s environmental stewardship program, uses reclaimed and natural ingredients from the hotel’s kitchen.

Chef Andrew Morrison and his team create the soap using a simple recipe of tallow, water, coconut oil, blended vegetable and olive oil, lye and natural aromatic oils. The tallow, or rendered beef fat, comes from a half cow that Morrison buys each week from a local farm. Nothing is left to waste as the culinary team cuts its own steaks, makes roast beef and ground beef, and uses the bones to make beef stock for Habitat, Fairmont’s restaurant.

“We choose to do it this way rather than buy primal cuts to ensure the best quality and minimize waste,” said Morrison. “Our culinary team utilized every part of the cow except the tallow. We researched ways to use the fat and discovered some interesting soap recipes that actually call for tallow.”

The soap-making process takes about two weeks and is completed in the hotel’s kitchens. Fairmont Pittsburgh sells the soap, available in a variety of scents, as its signature gift.

Fairmont Pittsburgh’s penchant for local sourcing isn’t restricted to Morrison’s purchases of meat and other products from local vendors. The property, which has received a LEED certification at the Gold level, features works from local artists displayed throughout the hotel. And guests are invited to explore artifacts recovered from the site during the hotel’s construction to learn its history. Visit www.fairmont.com/pittsburgh.

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