There are some 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.
The hotel's many eco-friendly initiatives earned it the Silver LEED certification in 2010, becoming the sixth hotel in the U.S. to attain it in the "Existing Building" category. The Portola makes use of several energy-efficient technologies, such as Energy Star flat-screen TVs in every room and enzyme-based detergents. Plus, Jacks Restaurant and Peter B's Brewpub serve organic, local and sustainable food, and use compostable take-out containers. In addition to other eco-conscious initiatives, the hotel produces hot water with a cogeneration that simultaneously generates electricity on-site.
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.
A completely "green" property, the Hyatt at Olive 8 was the first LEED-certified hotel in Seattle. It is top-to-bottom eco-friendly, with everything from a sustainable-foods restaurant and recycled writing pads, to a non-chlorinated saline lap pool, water-reducing shower heads, and energy-efficient light fixtures.
A legitimately green hotel, the Aria has achieved the LEED Gold status and received five Green Keys, the top honor from the Green Key Eco-Rating Program. Part of the eco-friendly City Center complex, the property has high energy efficiency programs across the building, as well as low-flow fixtures and a fleet of 26 limousines that operates on clean-burning compressed natural gas.
The quietest hotel in the City Center, the Vdara has the same "green" policies as the other hotels in the complex: low-wattage lighting in all rooms, public spaces and garages; use of wood products form responsibly managed forests; native and drought-tolerant plant species used in the grounds; and a comprehensive recycling program.
The most luxurious of the three hotels in the City Center complex, the Mandarin Oriental has the same environmental commitment as the Aria and the Vdara, with low-flow fixtures, low-wattage lighting, and other eco-friendly features. During construction, 85 percent of the materials from the old Boardwalk Hotel and Casino were "reused of recycled", making it the most sustainable construction site in Las Vegas.
The 136-room Aloft Ballantyne has an ultra-contemporary, minimalist feel, though, packs in a lot of color with funky furniture, and has a pool table, a 24-hour mini-mart, and a bar. Catering to business travelers, the hotel is the tenth Starwood Hotel and Resort property to receive LEED certification.
The W Austin is part of the city's Block 21, a mixed-use development, making it the first block and structure of its kind to gain LEED certification with its Gold standing. The hotel features a minimalist design that incorporates elements of southwestern decor, and its 251 rooms are housed on the first 16 floors of a hotel-and-condo tower.
Gorgeous and hip, Hotel Andaluz is a downtown boutique housed in a historic building with a luxe vibe and eco-friendly focus. Originally built in the late 1930s by Conrad Hilton (making it one of the first Hilton hotels in existence), the Andaluz is one of the few historic hotels in the country with a Gold LEED-certification.
A sleek, eco-minded alternative to the grandiose resorts, the element (with its intentional, lower-case "e" for style) is a great pick in the quiet suburb of Summerlin, near Red Rock Canyon. The LEED-certified hotel's green intiatives include in-room recycling bins, energy-efficient light bulbs, and charging stations with specially-reserved parking spots for hybrids.
This 36-room boutique hotel in the heart of Healdsburg in Sonoma County is a good pick for eco-conscious folks looking for something convenient to wineries with a modern, hip, relaxed vibe. With a LEED Gold certification, the H2 features green amenities such as loaner bicycles, lots of open spaces, and a green roof.
One of the first LEED Gold-certified hotels in New York City, the luxurious Crosby Street Hotel is an eco-friendly option in the trendy SoHo neighborhood. The building itself is new construction, so the designers and were able to incorporate some ambitious eco-friendly features such as a "green" roof (for growing some of the restaurant's fruits and vegetables).
This LEED Gold-certified hotel includes eco-friendly amenities such as low-flow faucets (which saves about 1.35 million gallons of water per year), environmentally-friendly cleaning products, and free parking for guests who arrive in high-efficiency vehicles.
This LEED Silver-certified hotel features the Kimpton brand’s EarthCare program, which includes more than 100 eco-friendly products and operating practices. The Hotel Wilshire also has a rooftop pool area with restaurant and bar, ample lounge space, and panoramic views of downtown and the Hollywood Hills.
This LEED Gold-certified hotel features the Kimpton brand’s EarthCare program, which boasts over 100 eco-friendly products and practices. The 230-room Palomar near Rittenhouse Square Park is one of the city's chicest boutiques, with bold, sleek style, excellent service, and contemporary rooms with plush, comfortable beds.
This chic, 164-room beach hotel opened in 2011 with a prime location across from the Santa Monica Pier and a block away from shopping and entertainment on Third Street Promenade. The building's sleek, eco-friendly U-shape design helped it achieve LEED Gold certification by maximizing natural heating and lighting. And the Shore was built with the Earth in mind, constructed entirely out of recycled materials and outfitted with locally-sourced, organic goodies, from the gym water fountain that measures bottle savings, to recycling bins in all guestrooms.