| Deal of the Day: 6 Earth-Friendly Places to Stay
By Lisa Scherzer, SmartMoney.com
April 24, 2008
"ECO-TRAVEL" USED to conjure thoughts of cold showers and a 10-square cap on toilet paper use. But now, as a growing number of travelers clamor for "greener" alternatives, environmentally-friendly travel doesn't have to mean sacrificing creature comforts.
Both here and abroad, the lodging industry is polishing up its green credentials, offering everything from organic breakfasts and fair-trade coffee to low-flow sink aerators. Not only do such measures help eco-friendly hotels cut operating costs (i.e; less dependence on pricey oil and electricity), but they also help them lure in a growing number of green-leaning customers. According to a survey by the Travel Industry Association and ad agency Ypartnership, more than half of U.S. adults say they'd be more likely to select an airline, rental car or hotel that uses more environmentally-friendly products and processes.
"Everybody is taking a look at this. Every hotel company has an environmental officer, who works with the design and engineering departments to come up with programs that are specific to their brand," says Joe McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
Unfortunately for travelers, there's no uniform set of standards for what makes a hotel truly green. Various organizations give hotels their own green stamp of approval, but it's ultimately up to the consumer to seek out what they deem important, whether it's a hotel that offers carbon-offset programs or simply recycles. "I advise travelers to do a little bit of due diligence," says Brian Mullis, president of Sustainable Travel International, a nonprofit that supports ecotourism.
Here are six reasonably-priced hotels that are teeming with eco-friendliness.
Proximity Hotel, Greensboro, N.C.
Rates: $199-$500 a night
Named after a cotton mill central to Greensboro's history, this 147-room hotel opened in November. Aiming to be the first U.S. hotel to attain the Platinum level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the hotel boasts more than 70 sustainability practices. The hotel is built from mostly-recycled materials and 100 rooftop solar panels heat 60% of the water in the hotel and restaurant. The restaurant's tabletops are made of salvaged walnut trees that came down through sickness or storm and room-service trays are made of bamboo plywood. Even trips from your room to the lobby and back are energy-efficient: The Otis Gen2 elevator generates electricity as the car descends and feeds it back into the building's internal electrical grid.