What Do You Want in A Green Hotel?

Genie Davis October 21, 2011 No Comments

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When you’re looking for a vacation spot, do you consider the ecological consequences? Are you looking for an environmentally friendly hotel as well as a family friendly accommodation? If you’re buying organic apples and BPA-free canned soup at the grocery store, are you also concerned with whether or not that hotel duvet your child is dozing on was cleaned using harsh chemicals or more organic cleaning products?

All of these concerns are very contemporary of course. Even ten years ago, families didn’t consider the cleaning products, recycling policies, or earth sustainability in hotel or resort choices. Renting hybrid vehicles instead of gas-guzzling mini-vans wasn’t really part of the vacation planning process. But now such considerations are there. Parental awareness of safety hazards for their children simply have to include cleaning chemicals and potentially toxic furnishings. And, as a parent, speaking personally, I know that the environment I leave behind will belong to my children and their children. So whenever possible, we try to support environmentally conscious hotels, when our budget and travel locations allow.

There’s a sea of green-certification policies out there, indicating just how safe and earth friendly hotels, restaurants, and destinations actually are. It can be confusing, daunting, and expensive to negotiate these policies. So we always look at basic sustainable design and with chain hotels, policy commitments to the environment.

Green Hotel with Chemical Free Cleaning

We love staying in boutique properties like this Ojai, CA hotel - and appreciate chemical free cleaning and organic food sourcing.

Eco Friendly Kimpton Hotels

On our recent summer East Coast trip, we discovered some wonderful in-roads have been made in a variety of chains and locations. We were particularly delighted with the Kimpton Hotels properties we visited in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., both of which utilized the kind of general green-guidelines we like our family to follow, and which will keep you and your little ones safe, healthy, and happy when traveling.  Read about our stay at the Kimpton helix in Washington D.C.

One thing we always look for that these properties made possible is a wealth of natural light. We dislike old-style chain hotels with enclosed court yards and no access to sunlight and fresh air, or very limited access through one small back window. Kimpton’s feature a direct sight-line to the outdoors through large, light-giving windows, and make a pledge that ninety percent of the spaces on their properties have this light access. Offering this really brightens a room and your child’s day; it also means that fifteen percent of lighting power has been easily reduced – and the chain stresses that it utilizes high efficiency flourescent lighting to reduce electricity waste still further. This also means less of those high-heat bulbs that can burn curious toddler fingers. Best of all, for us, Kimpton has used paint, sealants and furniture coatings that are designed to meet volatile organic compound standards – meaning no residual toxic odors in their decorating. For us, using eco-friendly non-toxic housekeeping chemicals was a key bonus as well. It’s nice to know that the hotel dresser your child is running his or her tiny hands over has not been just hosed down with a toxic chemical compound. We also liked the chain’s decision to support organic food growers and whenever possible, locally sourced food items.

Kimpton Hotel Recycling Bin

Recycling bin at the Kimpton Hotel in Philly.

Eco Friendly Sheraton Hotels

Like Kimpton, Sheraton Hotels offers recycling bins in the rooms, stresses linen and towel re-use during a stay, and has made a concerted effort to switch to Energy Star energy saving appliances in its hotels. On our recent trip to Raleigh North Carolina, we stayed at the Raleigh Sheraton in downtown which fully used green housekeeping methods and had big, bright windows letting in natural light and air.  Room service breakfast included organic, stone-ground oatmeal and local free-range eggs. Sheraton Tampa Westshore did not feature impressive natural lighting however, and we could not find that particular property’s policy on housekeeping products or food sourcing, which at least at their breakfast buffet did not have a farm-fresh feel to the offerings. You may want to check with individual properties yourself, if a hotel chain does not have complete or inclusive policy statements on its website.

Boutique Properties

Aside from chain hotels, you’ll want to contact individual hotels to find out their specific policies on the independent accommodation scene. The boutique hotel The Lennox, in Boston, featured in-room recycling and provided information on the environmentally and child friendly cleaning products used in plain sight; they were clearly working hard to live up to current green standards. The older boutique property of the Roger Smith Hotel in New York did not offer any indication as to cleaning products, energy saving, or recyling; we had to ask and found out that they are working to provide energy-reducing lighting, and do actively practice water saving techniques. There was no information about cleaning chemicals available, however.  You can read more about our stay at this hotel and our off the beaten track family visit in New York City. Many bed and breakfast options now feature information about their belief in local sourced, organic foods and organic cleaning products; older properties will not be likely to have updated wall paint or carpeting however, so bear that in mind if this is important to you.

In short: read websites, call ahead, and stay green and clean in your family travels. And when you are about to offer your child a bite of one of those shiny apples so many hotel desks offer at check-in? Consider asking if that apple is organic, and a healthy choice – if not, you might want to peel the skin before offering that tasty bite.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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