More and more hotels are going green -- even a two-and-a-half pearl Holiday Inn might have some sort of eco-friendly measures in place. (In fact, the company uses a centralized "Green Engage" program that allows its properties to customize eco-friendly measures to hit certain requirements.) Read on for six signs that your hotel is eco-friendly, whether it's a look at the bed you're sleeping in or the key that lets you in the room.
1. A Sustainable Structure
Let's start with the very first thing you'll encounter at a hotel -- the actual building itself. Today, many new constructions seek LEED certification, proving that the building itself is eco-friendly. Located in Teton Village, Wyoming, and keeping in step with its stunning natural surroundings, Hotel Terra is one of a handful of hotels that starts eco-friendly practices with its exterior. Its structure is composed of recycled material, so a minimum of new material is used in its construction. The rest of the infrastructure gets even better: The LEED-certified hotel uses solar, wind, and hydro power.
2. Locally Sourced Furniture
Shipping enough furniture for a hotel across a country or continent can cause some serious CO2 output, which is why some hotels are going local to source their furnishings. One leader among eco-friendly hotels, the 1 Hotel brand, purchases its furniture -- much of it made from reclaimed wood -- from craftsmen from the area it is building in. 1 Hotels also has other quirky but brilliant green touches: At its Central Park location, guests will have cardboard hangars instead of plastic, do-not-disturb stones instead of paper signs, and hourglasses to time five minutes spent in the shower.
3. Produce Grown On-Site
If your produce tastes especially fresh, you might be lucky enough to be staying at a farm-to-hotel restaurant, where food is grown fresh in a kitchen garden on property. And it's not just at country hotels: You'll find an organic herb garden, established 2008, at the Fairmont Singapore in the middle of the bustling Central Business District. The Crosby Street Hotel, in NYC's SoHo, has a rooftop garden that grows everything from melon to tomatoes just an elevator ride away from the hotel's kitchen.
4. Electricity That Only Works When You're In The Room
One of the most common ways to save on power -- especially in properties outside the U.S. -- is to limit its use to when you're in the room. Some hotel rooms' air-conditioning units and lights will only turn on once your key is in a special little pocket by the door. Take it out when you leave, and the room goes into power-saving mode until you -- and the key -- are back. It's not just fancy hotels, either: Three-pearl chains like Best Westerns in Europe have the key slots.
5. Eco-educational Programming for Guests
Although it's not necessarily a qualifier of being eco-friendly, more and more hotels with a focus on sustainability are also educating their guests about surrounding wildlife and conservation efforts. Six Senses Ninh Van Bay in Vietnam, for example, teaches guests about marine life as part of its effort to protect a coral reef close to the property. It also gathers food from its organic garden, employs locals first, and gives back to the community by providing purified water to residents.
6. Renewable Power Sources
Renewable power is one of the most obvious, but effective, ways to contribute to a hotel's eco-friendliness, and plenty of hotels, especially in sunny destinations where solar panels are a logical pick, are going that direction now. But some are really upping the game. For example, the ultra-luxe Brando in French Polynesia is close to being completely carbon-neutral, thanks to its 100-percent renewable energy plan that draws on South Pacific sun and coconut oil biofuel to power the property. Another local element -- seawater -- powers the air-conditioning, while roof-collected rainwater is used for toilets and laundry. Over in Japan, the Hoshinoya Karuizawa uses the nearby river for hydroelectricity that powers 70 percent of its energy, including floor heating.
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