How to find an eco-friendly hotel

You reduce, reuse, and recycle at home. And when it’s time to stay in a hotel, your desire to be as good to the planet as possible doesn’t go away. But finding an “eco-friendly” hotel can be a challenge. There’s a lot more to reducing a property’s environmental footprint than asking guests to reuse their towels. Hotels need to find ways to conserve energy, reduce water use and waste, source products from local vendors, and eliminate items like single-use plastic.

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It’s important to be on the lookout for buzzwords and claims that can’t be backed up with receipts. Some hotels might tout themselves as being green, but their only offering is an electric vehicle charging station. A property that is actually walking the walk will explain its initiatives and share its water and energy reports, which will detail how much of each is saved.

There are other questions to ask about an eco-friendly property: What is its waste management plan? Does it source its food and other products locally? Does it give back to its local community and pay its staff a fair wage? Does the hotel have LEED certification from the U.S. Building Council, or other official accreditations? If you want to know more or need clarification on any topic, call the hotel and ask to speak with someone who can answer your queries. 

Here are a handful of hotels working to reduce their environmental footprints:

1 Hotel San Francisco

At 1 Hotel San Francisco, sustainability meets luxury. The property, open since June 2022, is inspired by nature, and embraces the idea of indoor/outdoor living, with preserved plants and driftwood in the inviting rooms and public spaces. Joel Costa, director of sales and marketing at 1 Hotel San Francisco, told The Week designers utilized locally sourced and repurposed materials for the property, with the lobby flooring comprised of 7,000 square feet of reclaimed barn wood and each guest elevator landing made of redwood lumber from the original San Francisco Bay Bridge. There are also gentle reminders for guests on steps they can take to conserve water, like the 5-minute timers in the showers, and through the 1 Less Thing program, they can leave behind extra clothing and accessories, which is donated to the St. Anthony Foundation, a local social services organization.

The hotel’s restaurant, Terrene, primarily uses ingredients sourced from within 100 miles, “and we’re fortunate to be in Northern California, where this is possible,” Costa said. The greens don’t have to travel far — they come from the chef’s rooftop garden —  and several of the cocktails on the menu are zero-waste. “In the kitchen, we divert about 71 percent of our waste out of landfills,” Costa said, through composting and recycling. The 1 Hotel San Francisco is under certification review for an LEED gold standard hotel.

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Catherine Garcia was a guest of 1 Hotel San Francisco. Nightly room rates start at $490.

The Nature Inn at Bald Eagle

Located inside the Bald Eagle State Park, the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle offers a one-of-a-kind experience. There are lake views, forest views, and garden views, all from the comfort of this LEED Gold property in Howard, Pennsylvania. The hotel uses GeoThermal heating and cooling, and its 2,800-gallon rain water harvesting system is used to flush the toilets. Several of the windows are made from fritted glass to reduce bird strikes, and Forest Stewardship Council certified white oak grown in the state was used to create the mission-style furniture found throughout the property. The patio furniture is made of recycled aluminum, and the counters at the front desk and library were constructed from sunflower seed hulls.

Nightly room rates are seasonal, and start at $115 in the winter. 

The Allison Inn & Spa

The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Oregon, is a well-oiled green machine. It received its LEED Gold Certification less than a year after opening in 2009, and since then has been adding to its eco-friendly initiatives. The hotel, which uses solar panels to heat the water used in the spa and across the property, has eliminated use of plastic bottles and Styrofoam, focuses on bulk products rather than single-use items, and instead of air conditioners, turns to Mother Nature, opening windows so breezes can cool things down. At the on-site Jory Restaurant, many of the dishes contain ingredients from the 1.5-acre chef’s garden and greenhouse, a welcome addition to the already lush grounds.

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Nightly room rates start at $555.  

Inn by the Sea

Right on the coast, the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, with its lovely gardens that serve as habitat for wildlife and butterflies, is a charmer. The hotel has Silver LEED certification, and the goal of maximizing its eco-friendly offerings in order to minimize its footprint. The pool is heated by solar panels, while the spa’s sheet rock walls and cork flooring are made of recycled materials. The on-site Sea Glass restaurant works with local fishermen and farmers to get sustainable fish from the Gulf of Maine and organic produce, and all food waste is composted. The Inn by the Sea also partners with local schools by purchasing books from their wish lists and makes donations to local environmental organizations.

Nightly room rates start at $284.50. 

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