Certifiably Green: Hotels That Love the Earth

Find the greenest lodging with this round-up of eco-certified U.S. hotels that care about your well being and the planet.

If you’re environmentally conscious in your everyday life, you won’t give up your eco-values when you travel. The hotel industry—spurred by green guests who demand eco-friendly services—is increasingly understanding the benefits of going green. Organic bath products, fluorescent lighting, free hybrid parking and bike rentals are just a few ways hotels are transforming into sustainable businesses. 

But some properties stand out among the rest, pulling out all the stops on green design. These hotels are eco-certified, having passed rigorous green building and green service standards set by nationally recognized certification programs including the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) (which certifies green building practices) and Green Seal certification (which certifies products, services and construction materials). The hotels also promote sustainable cuisine, local art and natural health and well-being.

On your next eco-vacation, book your stay at one of the following hotels and find out how easy it is to live—and travel—green.

Western U.S. Green Properties

Seattle: Hyatt at Olive8

Seattle’s first LEED-certified hotel (and Hyatt’s first LEED-certified location in North America), the Hyatt at Olive 8 is a brand-new eco-chic addition to the city’s downtown accommodation offerings. Its location—one block away from the historic Paramount Theatre and a short walk to either Pacific Place shopping, Pike Place Market or Capitol Hill—is an ideal base for your Seattle sightseeing ventures.

The first feature that passersby will notice is the stylish, enticing all-glass exterior. You can’t help but peer in and gaze at the aesthetic, natural interior design and watch diners chatting around candlelit tables in the ground-level restaurant, Urbane—which offers sustainable, locally grown Pacific Northwest cuisine, wine and beer. The glass building design combined with energy-efficient lighting infrastructure (LED, fluorescent and cold cathode) and a living green roof help cut water and energy usage significantly—the Hyatt uses 32 percent less water and 20 percent less energy than other buildings of its size. Another construction note: 95 percent of recyclable construction debris was diverted from landfills by being incorporated into the building design!

Room features include Watt Stopper® light controls, Toto® dual-flush toilets and Bricor® water-reducing showerheads. Green housekeeping utilizes chemical-free cleaners. Guests can also learn about LEED certification by viewing the interactive video in the hotel lobby. Rates start at $189 per night. 1635 8th Ave. Tel. 206-695-1234. Olive8.hyatt.com

Portland: Avalon Hotel and Spa

Portland is renowned for its eco-attitude and sustainably conscious residents and businesses, so it’s no surprise to find tucked along the Willamette River, Oregon’s first LEED-certified hotel: the Avalon Hotel and Spa. Located in Portland’s up-and-coming South Waterfront district, the 99-room luxury boutique Avalon combines its green designs effortlessly. The property abuts Cottonwood Bay, an 8,000 square foot protected green space, which provides a conducive habitat for butterflies. Also, the planting of native drought-tolerant plants have reduced irrigation needs by 95 percent.

The Avalon is located one mile from downtown shopping, and close to public transportation, the Portland Art Museum and riverside jogging trails. Rates start at $149 per night. 0455 SW Hamilton Court. Tel. 503-802-5800. www.avalonhotelandspa.com

San Francisco: Orchard Garden Hotel

The green boutique Orchard Garden Hotel lies in the heart of downtown San Francisco—considered one of the greenest cities in the United States—and minutes to Union Square. The hotel is Green Seal-certified and LEED-certified—the first California hotel to receive this distinction.

Orchard promotes alternative transportation by providing bike racks and Zip Cars for guests, and by offering Commuter checks to its employees. Partially used bath products are donated to homeless shelters, recycled carpets are chemical-free and cleaning products are organic and citrus-based.

Orchard also employs an innovative combined key card and lighting system that will save 20 percent of energy costs: As guests enter a room, they place the guestroom key card in a box that triggers the lights to turn on; when they leave with their key, the lights turn off. Also check out Orchard Garden’s sister property, the Orchard Hotel, which is registered to become LEED-certified. Orchard Garden rates start at $179 per night. 466 Bush St. Tel. 888-717-2881. www.theorchardgardenhotel.com

Jackson: Hotel Terra

The Silver LEED-certified Hotel Terra Jackson Hole in Teton Village outside Jackson, Wyo., is the first green hotel launched by the Terra Resort Group—and includes all the eco-bells and whistles imaginable.

Some of the coolest green features include radiant-heated flooring in the parking garage (to help retain building heat and cut energy costs), reclaimed lumber lobby pillars, “Eco Shake” roof shingles made of recycled vinyl and cellulose fiber, reflective-coated Energy Star-rated windows, non-irrigated native landscaping, and water-saving systems including dual-flush toilets and waterless urinals in public men’s restrooms that reduce Hotel Terra’s water usage by 34 percent annually.

Hotel Terra also offers eco-amenities such as refillable aluminum bottles for bath products, and 100 percent organic cotton mattresses, bed sheets and towels. Want to take a load off? The Chill Spa treatments feature Eminence Organic Skin Care; a 50-minute massage starts at $135. Gaze out the floor-to-ceiling windows over Jackson Hole Valley as you enjoy a breakfast of organic eggs and all-natural ham at the Terra Café—which also participates in food composting through a local group, Terra Firma Organics. Rates start at $119 per night. Eco-Adventure packages (including a biologist-led wildlife tour, a free Flip Ultra video camera and daily breakfast) start at $174 per night, per person. 3335 W. Village Drive, Teton Village. Tel. 307-739-4000. www.hotelterrajacksonhole.com

Eastern U.S. Green Properties and Beyond

Greensboro: Proximity Hotel

The Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, N.C., is the first hotel in the United States to acquire Platinum LEED certification—the highest rating available by LEED. Going Platinum, by U.S. Green Building standards, means achieving at least 52 sustainable design credits in a variety of green building categories; the Proximity got 55.

More than 70 sustainable features are incorporated into the 157-room Proximity, including energy-efficient materials that use 41 percent less energy and 4,000 square feet of solar panels on the building’s rooftop—which produces 60 percent of the building’s heat. Regional vendors and artists were used to cut down on carbon outputs associated with transportation. The Proximity was built with materials including salvaged wood, 90 percent post-consumer reinforced steel, and recycled asphalt and concrete.

Each guestroom features extra-large windows to utilize natural light, efficient air quality circulation and simple, elegant charcoal-sketch artwork by local artist-in-residence, Chip Holton. Hungry for more? Visit the hotel’s adjacent Print Works Bistro, the first U.S. restaurant to achieve Platinum LEED certification, featuring fresh, local produce, sensor-controlled ventilation in the kitchen and geothermal energy refrigeration. See the extended green list at Proximity’s Web site. Rates start at $249 per night. 704 Green Valley Road. Tel. 800-379-8200. www.proximityhotel.com

New York: New York Westin

The Green Seal-certified Westin New York at Times Square is the first New York City hotel—and the first Westin hotel—to achieve the recognition. Eco-features include paperless guest registration, 100 percent recycled and biodegradable room keys, and recycled kitchen grease that’s used by a local company to produce biofuels.

The Westin’s “environmental initiatives” include green construction designs like low-flow faucets and 1.6-gallon flush toilets to conserve water. But Westin also values simple green efforts: turning off air conditioning when not in use, recycling ink and printer cartridges, reusing pieces of scrap paper and giving uneaten banquet food to staff or to local charities. These subtle efforts imply a group ethos for sustainability: everyone—hotel staff and guests—working together to promote a healthier, greener earth. Rates start at $275. 270 W. 43rd St. at 8th Ave. Tel. 866-837-4183. www.westinny.com

Starwood Hotels: element Hotels

Starwood Hotels is rolling out the green carpet with a new extended-stay property brand, element, a chain of eco-hotels inspired by Westin Hotels and Resorts. The element hotels will feature healthier dining options, spacious lobbies with floor-to-ceiling windows and relaxing, energy-efficient guestrooms. Most importantly, all element hotels are pursuing LEED certification.

Eco-conscious travelers can find such room amenities as recycling bins (for paper, glass and plastic) magnetic Do Not Disturb signs, filtered water and soap dispensers to eliminate plastic bottle waste. Rooms also feature full kitchens, healthy food pantries and ergonomic desk chairs. Hybrid drivers get priority parking.

The first element hotel to open was the element Lexington in the summer of 2008; other open locations include element Arundel Mills, element Las Vegas Summerlin and element Houston Vintage Park, with 21 more properties slated to open through 2011—including one in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates. Rates vary depending on location; element Lexington rates start at $179 per night. www.starwoodhotels.com

Destinations: Greensboro, New York City, Portland, Seattle, Jackson, San Francisco

Themes: Ecotourism

Activities: Sleep

User Comments

I have worked in many hotels in Manchester over the last ten years and only in the last two years I have seen a surge in hotels spending money on improving their energy consumption and such. This is all good new off course. Hotels are realising that customers will pick a hotel who boast to do their bit for the environment.