With so many people—and companies—“going green” these days, it’s hard to know who’s in the Eco Revolution for real. When it comes to buildings, however, there is one way to be certain: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The strict guidelines developed by the U.S. Green Building Council focus on construction and energy consumption. In the world of travel and hotels, this seal of approval helps separate serious change agents from so-called green properties touting towel re-use programs. Every little bit helps, but there are shades of “green” to be sure.

To date, there are only 16 LEED hotels in the U.S., with a handful more pending the arduous certification.

On October 1, Ritz-Carlton will open its first-ever LEED-built property in Charlotte, North Carolina’s Uptown neighborhood. (We even hear the president, CEO, and founding chairman of the USGB, Rick Fedrizzi, will be doing the ribbon cutting.)

The 146-room hotel—which expects to have final LEED building certification in February—will have a whopping 13,000-square-foot wellness center and a truly impressive list of feel-good features and amenities, including:

  • Uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles (yes, you read correctly)
  • Saline-treated swimming pool
  • Trek bikes and bike valets
  • Free parking for hybrid vehicles
  • Sustainable organic cuisine (including an outpost of Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Steak)
  • Green roof with 18,000 plants to insulate the building
  • Water purification/container system that will divert 73,000 plastic bottles from landfills, save more than 104 barrels of oil, and eliminate 49 tons of CO2 emissions

Next up on Ritz-Carlton’s greening agenda? Lake Tahoe. The new California eco-resort opens in December.

One thing is clear: the hotel industry’s definition of luxury is evolving. Let’s hope more top brands take Ritz-Carlton’s “LEED.”

Adrien Glover is the online deputy editor at Travel + Leisure.