Eco-friendly hospitality on the rise
by Neha M. Shah
The hospitality industry is constantly evolving, particularly in these challenging times. Reinventing, redeveloping and repackaging are all ways in which the old can become new again.
One such trend that’s likely to stay no matter the state of the economy, though, is eco-hospitality.
While travelers have increasingly demanded amenities such as high-thread-count sheets and free wireless access for some time, today’s hotel and restaurant guests have a new standard that includes a need for green when spending their own green. They’ve taken a more environmentally friendly approach to their stays, and many in the hospitality business are happily following suit.
LEED-ing the way
While charm, character and ambiance still are considered important, today’s travelers want to see more, and that can include certification through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) benchmark helps guests determine which hotels have succeeded in eco-friendly design, construction and operations.
To attain LEED certification, a site must meet certain pre-requisites in six key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selection, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design. Different levels of certification can be awarded, depending upon how many credits a hotel receives in each category. Levels include certified, silver, gold and platinum.
Part of the rationale behind travelers seeking eco-friendly hospitality ties into value. While everyone is seeking the most quality for their discretionary dollar, it is reassuring and fulfilling to learn that a business is modeling — where possible — the same methods of green living that the traveler is practicing at home.
LEED-certified hotels already in operation in the U.S. are increasing, with most located in major metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and Las Vegas. Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide recently introduced a new brand, element by Westin, with plans to open approximately 20 properties by the end of the year; element is the first major hotel brand to mandate LEED certification for every newly built location.
A greener stay
While eco-friendly hospitality has grown nationally and globally, the Triangle has its own share of environmentally friendly options.
For example, Durham’s Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center has been recognized by the North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts for “exemplary stewardship in conservation benefitting the environment and citizens of North Carolina.” The award recognizes the hotel’s ongoing commitment to water conservation and recycling of all cardboard, newspaper, office paper, aluminum cans, and glass and plastic bottles.
In Pittsboro, Fearrington Village’s AAA Five Diamond Fearrington House Restaurant recently was certified by the Green Restaurant Association. Such establishments must use a comprehensive recycling system for all products that are accepted by recycling companies, eliminate Styrofoam products and commit to completing four additional eco-friendly steps each year in accordance with the organization’s environmental guidelines.
According to Kirsten Lindgren, director of public relations, Fearrington Village is fertile ground for eco-friendly hospitality, with a residential community that has its own set of green practices. These include the Fearrington Farmers Market, now in its 20th year, as well as the village’s own gardens and greenhouses, which produce local fare.
The Country Hearth Inn and Suites in Siler City offers EcoRooms, which feature energy- and water-efficient, waste-reducing, nontoxic, and biodegradable products for guests. Each room also includes a recycling bin.
In Greensboro, the Proximity Hotel and its Print Works Bistro recently were awarded LEED platinum status by the USGBC. The hotel, which opened in 2007, observes more than 70 sustainable practices, including utilizing solar energy to heat approximately 60 percent of its water. About 87 percent of construction waste has been recycled, diverting 1,535 tons of debris from landfills. Shelving in guest rooms is made from 100 percent post-industrial recycled wood, the restaurant’s tabletops are made from salvaged walnut trees and room service trays are made from bamboo plywood. To explore its nearby five-mile greenway, guests are invited to use the hotel’s complimentary bicycles.
Even smaller inns operated by a sole proprietor serve guests with conservation in mind. For example, Chapel Hill Bed and Breakfast offers sanitized air and linens throughout the establishment.
Whether big or small, every environmental effort seems to make quite a difference with today’s eco-savvy guests. It’s a growing movement for the hospitality business that’s bound to last.
Neha M. Shah is a freelance writer based in Cary.
The 11,000-square-foot clubhouse at Briar Chapel — a 1,589-acre, environmentally friendly, new-home community near Pittsboro — recently earned silver LEED status from the U.S. Green Building Council for its sustainable building practices. Ninety five percent of space in the clubhouse — which was constructed using materials such as composite woods, agricultural fibers and paints with low volatile organic compound (VOCs) — is daylight-accessible; water consumption has been reduced by 40 percent through low-flow toilets and showerheads; and landscaping has increased in efficiency by 50 percent through the use of indigenous plants and a rainwater harvesting system.
Additionally, the community’s builders comply with rigorous green building standards, as well as third-party testing through Southern Energy Management’s Green Building Initiative. The community has preserved approximately 900 acres of open space and is completing a 24-mile trail network.
To learn more, call toll-free (888) 249-9429 or visit www.briarchapelnc.com.