A lot of hotels claim to environmentally-friendly, but how is an eco-conscious traveler to know what hotels are truly green, and which are green-washed -- purporting to be green for good press, without making significant efforts? With so many types of eco initiatives and so many organizations granting green certification, it can be extremely difficult to figure out what's real, and what's just branding. To help you make informed decisions, we're launching a new series to explain the various eco initiatives that hotels take -- including recycling, water efficiency, and energy conservation programs -- and we'll spotlight a couple of great hotels that really go the extra mile in each category. Of course, succeeding at one initiative does not a green hotel make, and at the end of the day, a hotel is sometimes more part of the problem than the solution. But we think it's worth pointing out which hotels are making good-faith efforts to change that, one step at a time.
That being said, there are a few hotels that are truly green all around -- those that have been certified by the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Submitting a hotel for LEED consideration is prohibitively expensive for some smaller properties, and only a precious few that can afford it actually make the grade -- only a couple dozen in the United States have been certified so far. But if you want to feel completely confident you're making an environmentally-conscious choice, booking a LEED hotel is the way to go. Check out our list of LEED-certified hotels reviewed by Oyster after the jump.
Las Vegas is a case study in conspicuous consumption, and it seem surprising that a hotel here could make this list. But Las Vegas is actually at the forefront of green building, and the Palazzo is one of the largest hotels in the U.S. to receive LEED certification (along with the huge Aria and Vdara City Center hotels). Ninety-five percent of the building's structural steel and 26 percent of its concrete is recycled material, and the swimming pools are heated by solar power; the hotel claims to save enough energy annually to light a 100-watt light bulb for 12,100 years.
The Ambrose, which recycles or composts 75 percent of its waste output, was the first hotel to receive the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Silver Certification. All of its appliances are Energy Star rated; 15 percent of guest rooms use Clean and Green Wind Power; bath tissues, copy paper and napkins are made from recycled materials; and toilets and faucets are water efficient.
Most LEED-certified hotels are constructed from the ground up with LEED certification criteria in mind, and the W San Francisco is one of only a handful of hotels to achieve LEED certification for an existing structure. The hotel replaced its HVAC cooling unit with an energy-efficient model, uses energy-efficient lights in 70 percent of its guest rooms, and is considering installing wind turbines on the roof.
This affordable (if slightly boring) boutique near Union Square and Nob Hill with low-flow toilets and showers, chemical-free cleaning products, recycling policies, and energy-efficient practices was the first hotel in San Francisco to achieve LEED certification.