As concern for the environment grows, travelers are increasingly looking for ways to lessen their carbon footprint without having to rough it à la Swiss Family Robinson.
With that in mind, Travel + Leisure found four hotels chock full of luxury which, despite their relative infancy—they’ve all been open for less than two years—are already green-certified by The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and a fifth is close to certification. LEED is a third-party program that not only designates buildings as green but also provides businesses with the resources and know-how to make the necessary steps to go green.
Becoming a LEED-certified hotel is quite a feat, especially when you consider that there are only 1,900 buildings—and we’re not just talking hotels here—around the globe that have met the conditions and necessary standards for true green certification.
Without asking guests to do away with luxuries or amenities, these hotels found a way to provide them while still keeping the environment in mind. Want proof?California’s Venice Beach Eco Cottages features organic linens and custom—and surprisingly chic—décor accented with reclaimed objects and recycled materials (think birdcages, old-fashioned milk jugs).
Another, the Stowe Mountain Lodge in Vermont, was mostly built from, and uses, materials and ingredients found within a 200-mile radius—from the Adirondack granite it quarried for its lobby to the locally tapped maple syrup it uses to braise short ribs at its restaurant.
The Lodge at Sun Ranch in Montana, which only accommodates a maximum of 18 guests on their 26,000 acres at any one time, has the space to expand but chooses instead not to encroach on land still inhabited by wild elk and wolves.
That being said, these hotels not only excel at being green, they do it without making guests give anything up…well, except for a few CFCs.
Three solar-powered bungalows, a five-minute walk from the pounding Pacific and the boutiques of Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
Green Cred: Each of the individually designed one-bedroom cottages (Papa Hemingway is Craftsman-style; Aunt Zoe’s Place is 1940’s; Le Bebe is mod-baroque) has standard-issue green touches complemented by quirkier surprises. Kitchen appliances and washer-dryers (for longer stays) are certified by Energy Star; bedrooms are decked out with 300-count organic Gaiam linens; and, in the bathrooms, guests will find Seventh Generation paper products and Kiss My Face toiletries. Throughout, vintage pieces have been reimagined in cheeky ways: a bright red birdcage in Le Bebe was reconfigured as a swivel chair, and the exterior of the hot tub on the deck of Aunt Zoe’s Place was made from old-fashioned milk jugs.
Who’s Behind It: Actress Cynthia Foster and her environmental economist husband, Karel Samsom, who have pledged a percentage of their profits to local charities, including the Boys & Girls Club. Doubles from $250.
A luxury camp—sleeping just 18—on 26,000 acres in the Madison River valley.
Green Cred: Guests have the run of a “holistic” cattle ranch that crosses a major migration route: up to 1,500 elk winter here, and a resident wolf pack is carefully monitored. High-style-homesteader digs (rooms, suites, cabins, and tents) are fitted with fair-trade, organic-cotton linens and offer stunning views of the mountains and creeks. Once or twice weekly, guest speakers lead discussions about Montana topics and travelers’ philanthropy. And all ranch activities—from fishing to horseback riding—have sustainability as a focus.
Who’s Behind It: Silicon Valley entrepreneur Roger Lang owns the hotel, runs a green construction company, and oversees the Sun Ranch Institute, a nonprofit that works with concerned citizens and other organizations to maintain healthy land. Doubles from $300.
The state’s newest slopeside hotel is about as eco-friendly as ski resorts get.
Green Cred: There’s not much here that doesn’t originate within a 200-mile radius. In the 5,000-square-foot lobby, the granite came from a quarry in the Adirondacks and potted birch trees were salvaged in Quebec, less than three hours north; the bar pours Hourglass Ale, a regional microbrew; and Solstice, the restaurant, serves maple-braised short ribs from Wood Creek Farm, in Bridport, Vermont. All 139 rooms have olive-oil–based Mario Russo bath products, and some hotel areas make use of light- and climate-control sensors. Outside, the 6,400-yard golf course is an Audubon sanctuary that’s home to nesting kestrels, hawks, and peregrine falcons.
Who’s Behind It: Financial company AIG put $400 million into this Stowe Mountain development. The final phase will be completed in five years. Doubles from $435.
Starwood’s first LEED-certified extended-stay hotel, in the quiet Boston suburb of Lexington.
Green Cred: From the outside, this 123-room property may look like your average business traveler’s hotel, but the difference is in the details: oversize windows make use of natural light; the pantry is stocked with treats from the Lexington Farmers Market; hybrid cars get prime spots in the parking lot; and the gym overlooks a solar-heated indoor pool. Rooms are Ikea-style minimalist, with smart space-saving touches such as a recycled-quartz kitchen table that doubles as a desk, and faux-leather stools. Free bikes are available for guests, but the hotel’s splashiest achievement is the inclusion of low-flow waterfall showerheads.
Who’s Behind It: Starwood. Next month, Element Hotels will open in Summerlin, Nevada; Irving, Texas; and Houston’s Vintage Park. Doubles from $159.
Portland, Oregon, is already known for its heavyweight green hotels, but the recently opened Nines (as in “dressed to the…”) promises to raise the bar: it’s set to be the country’s most luxurious urban eco-property. The 331-room soon-to-be LEED Silver–certified hotel, on the top floors of the Meier & Frank building (a former department store), recycled 90 percent of its construction debris; the on-site steak house uses local ingredients; and the lobby art, including a wooden stiletto shoe, is by Portland sculptors. Doubles from $279.