Planning a vacation? Consider staying at an eco-friendly hotel, resort or bed-and-breakfast. Even while providing the finest of luxuries, and while spoiling you with the beauty of their landscapes and seascapes, today's eco-savvy hotels utilize a wide range of impressive green practices, including:
--Water conservation through energy-efficient showerheads, faucets and toilets.
--Printing brochures and room signs on recycled papers.
--Room keys made of 30 percent post-consumer recycled plastic.
--Energy Star appliances.
--Organic bedding and linens.
--Recycling bins in rooms and resort-wide recycling.
--Low-VOC or VOC-free paints.
--BPA-free shower curtains.
--Organic food and beverages in the honor bar.
--Organic and locally sourced food and drinks in restaurants.
--Infrared occupancy/motion sensors to control guest-room HVAC.
--Energy-efficient fitness equipment.
--No individually packaged condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, cream cheese, butter or preserves.
--Carbon offset program addressing hotel's energy use and carbon emissions.
--100 percent organic coffees and teas served at restaurants.
--Organic spa products and treatments.
Eco-friendly hotels and resorts often partner with environmental charities in 5k runs and in festivals to raise awareness of green initiatives and to support their local communities. They aim to be good neighbors and lift up small businesses, artisans and other attractions in their areas.
As you search for the perfect green hotel, bear in mind the importance of any hotel's bearing a recognized certification as a green property. Since any independent hotel can do some recycling and call itself a "green hotel," several agencies have stepped in to provide rigorous inspections, checking to be sure any hotel meets their standards for a true green hotel. One such group is the Audubon Green Leaf program, awarding its title to properties that meet environmental best standards in an array of categories, from water quality and conservation to energy efficiency, recycling and community involvement.
The Green Key eco-rating system checks for a wide range of green practices in hotels throughout the world, and you can search their listings at GreenKeyGlobal.com to find certified Green Key hotel and resort properties.
One such property is Kimpton Hotels, a resort chain that offers all of the objectives listed above, plus many more applied to its behind-the-scenes practices, including carbon-offset objectives for its staff members' commutes.
The travel booking website Travelocity provides its list of Green Guarantee hotels and resorts, calling itself the largest green hotel directory and often offering 40 percent off its green hotel bookings.
Travel + Leisure magazine is known for its World's Best Awards, reporting on its readers' votes for the best properties in every region of the world and by category, such as Best Island, Best Shopping and more. Enter "eco-friendly hotels" in its search engine, and you will find a collection of articles and reviews written about its spotlight eco-friendly hotels all across the globe, as well as eco-friendly restaurants found near those resorts.
If you're looking for eco-friendly bed-and-breakfast establishments, they exist in great numbers, found through BnBscape.com. This site provides listings of bed-and-breakfasts with eco-responsible programs, and some resorts offer a percentage off your stay if you arrive in a hybrid vehicle. The owners of these establishments often hold eco-friendly living dear, inviting guests to tour their organic gardens, taste honey they harvested from their own beehives and join them for organic afternoon tea.
At Caneel Bay, a lush tropical resort on the island of St. John, situated in a protected wildlife preserve founded by Laurance Rockefeller, wild donkeys and deer roam through the grounds, and the award-winning chefs source their tantalizingly fresh seafood and produce locally. There are no televisions or phones in its hotel rooms, which keeps its resort-wide energy use down. Its guided eco-tours -- on land and on water -- educate and inspire. Vacationers are in a natural paradise, experiencing what unspoiled earth, air and scenery can be when great care is taken of the environment.
"We could barely tell we were at an eco-friendly hotel," says vacationer Warren Keith. "I worried about rough toilet paper and weird-tasting food, but there was no 'roughing it,' so to speak, and the food was actually far more delicious than we'd had at other hotels. In the end, we left feeling satisfied and happy that our stay left a barely there carbon footprint. The kids were very happy about that, since they're learning so much about the environment at school."
For more information on green hotels, visit your favorite travel websites to read their reviews of and raves about eco-friendly vacation properties, outings, adventures and eateries.