A Green Night’s Sleep for Travelers; Pioneers Show the Way to Eco-Friendly Stays

"When your company motto is ‘true to nature’, you have to follow through,” says Tom Tabler, director of sales and marketing for the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. “We look at everything, from the biodegradable ink pens in the guest rooms to the staff’s summer uniform.” Managers’ sport coats consist of lightweight plastic fibers and rubber from recycled materials.

“They breathe fine, are comfortable and look great,” Tabler remarks.

Hotel construction adhered to eco-friendly practices. A 100-acre bird sanctuary followed the onsite discovery of endangered golden-cheeked warblers. The 36-hole golf course is certified by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program and deemed the most eco-friendly in the United States by the PGA Tour. The hotel’s four pools and a lazy river for tubing honor the region’s dry climate; water reclamation via closed loop natural catchments and rain retention ponds keep guests afloat and the golf course green.

Also in Texas, the Four Seasons Hotel Austin has a “zero waste” goal, requiring the recycling of 90 percent of all onsite waste. Shadowboxes above trash cans show guests examples of what is and isn’t recyclable, while unused soap and other toiletries are donated to local women’s shelters.

“We have placed sufficient containers, so there’s no excuse not to recycle,” says Kerri Holden, senior director of public relations. “In April, we were at the 70 percent compliance mark. We hope to reach our 90 percent goal by year’s end.” She notes that after management cancelled weekly dumpster service, only one six-by-six-foot trash container remains. Even worn linens become cleaning rags. The saltwater swimming pool uses soda ash, rather than harsher chlorine chemical treatments.

Kitchen scraps are composted and become fertilizer for the hotel’s herb and vegetable garden and flowerbeds. Natural compost bags in guest rooms collect banana peels, apple cores and other organic food waste. At the end of the year, guests that composted during their visit receive a thank-you letter and The Nature Conservancy plants a tree in their name in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s most endangered tropical forests (PlantABillion.org).

Boston’s Colonnade Hotel, built in the 1970s, grows greener with each upgrade. “We replace systems with the greenest possible solutions,” explains Keith Alexander, director of property operations. Guest room windows have been replaced with filmed and insulating twinned panes to save power year-round. Electrolyzed water is now used for cleaning; a higher pH works as a nontoxic degreaser, while a lower pH turns water into a sanitizer, eliminating the need for chemical cleansers and gloves. Next, the hotel plans to install a large commercial dishwasher that will use electrolyzed water instead of chlorine-based cleaners.

In Big Sur, California, the awardwinning Post Ranch Inn specializes in repurposing materials. Wood from old growth redwood wine casks accent walls in guest rooms. Fallen trees become benches dotting walkways. Dinnerware is made from recycled glass and any broken plates are recycled again. The honey used for a special spa facial treatment comes from 18 onsite beehives.

Daily updates on energy savings via the Inn’s 208 kW, 990-panel solar power system can be viewed at Tinyurl.com/PostRanchInnMonitor.

Oregon’s The Resort at the Mountain, in Welches, installed an additional 11,000 indigenous plants throughout its 300-acre property in 2009, in the spirit of the nearby Mount Hood National Forest. The mountain is home to the only ski lodge certified by the Sustainable Travel Institute, using United Nations criteria.

“We are a base camp for skiers, hikers, off-road bikers and fly fishermen,” says General Manager John Erickson. “Our ‘field to stream’ menu features northwest products and of course, fish.”

The resort’s golf course, following the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, uses natural methods for weed control. “We pull them up,” says Erickson. “Wildflowers get to stay where they are.” Golfers and fishermen volunteer to help keep the course in good shape and the water channels clear for salmon and steelhead. From the golf course, visitors can see the salmon swimming upstream. “Most of the fishermen catch and release,” says Erickson. “We want to be good stewards of the land.”

Connect with freelance writer Avery Mack at AveryMack@mindspring.com.

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