Eco-minded travelers face an enormous vacation dilemma: Getting to any destination usually involves a long drive or a fuel-guzzling flight. So, how can you tell if a hotel is truly committed to conservation practices, or just “green-washing” its approach? CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg steps into the green lane.
PLAYA VIVA, MEXICO
Eco-luxe isn’t just a buzzword at Playa Viva, which was designed to put environmental concerns in the forefront. For starters, Playa Viva was constructed with sustainable woods and is powered almost completely by off-grid solar power—they use gas only for the kitchen stove and refrigerator. The property also has a working garden and farm, and in addition to sourcing local ingredients, the owners buy fixtures, blankets and organic towels from neighboring communities and craftsmen.
THE PALAZZO, LAS VEGAS
With 50 stories and more than 3,000 rooms, The Palazzo is one of the largest buildings in the world to receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certificate. The Palazzo earned its LEED silver certification in some interesting ways, including conserving more than 41.6 million gallons of water annually. Even its swimming pools and Jacuzzis are heated with solar power, and excess solar energy goes toward the hotel’s hot water system.
THE RITZ-CARLTON, CHARLOTTE, N.C.
To see what makes this hotel—the only LEED gold-certified Ritz-Carlton property as of press time—so green, we should start on the roof. It’s populated with 18,000 plants, the chef’s garden and two beehives (with 50,000 bees each) used to make honey. The hotel uses 30 percent less energy than traditional properties and also aims to improve guests’ carbon footprint: Bikes are available for free and the hotel even has a bike valet. Plus, the hotel encourages hybrid cars—there’s free parking for hybrid vehicles, free hybrid weekend van service and an electric charging station to keep all those green cars going.
KIMPTON HOTELS, NATIONWIDE
Kimpton’s Earth Care initiative goes above and beyond the standard green certifications, and has since 1981. More than 100 different green policies range from standard (low-energy light bulbs and nontoxic cleaners) to more creative initiatives (phone books available only on request, in-house purified water systems instead of bottled water). Individual Kimpton properties offer additional green features and amenities, like hybrid car incentives, recycled clothing hangers and on-site urban gardens where they source their own ingredients.
GREEN TRAVEL TIPS
When you leave the room, draw the blinds, turn off the lights and readjust the thermostat by five degrees.
BANISH THE BOTTLES
Instead, bring your own toiletries. Or seek out properties with larger and permanent dispensers.
TAKE IT OUTSIDE
Is the hotel’s landscaping a water-guzzling field with beautiful but hard-to-maintain flowers, or does it incorporate native flora?
ASK SUSTAINABLE QUESTIONS
Before you book, get the facts. Does the hotel have a recycling program? How does it conserve energy and reduce waste?
Why 2 Broke Girls’ Kat Dennings opted to stay local on her vacation
“The time I had between working on the pilot for our show and the first week of shooting is the only vacation that I’ve had since I was 10 years old! I’ve never had much space between my job and then knowing when the next job was, so this was the first time I had any time to do anything. I have all these ideas about staying home and watching television, reading books and seeing friends. And it was really nice! My mom calls it a staycation.”
Originally published in Watch! magazine, April 2012