greening up around the world

May 6th, 2008

As being “green” has evolved from the hot new trend into a conscientious way of life, the luxury travel industry has followed suit.Hotels across the globe have moved beyond posting “Please Conserve Water” bathroom signs to embracing programs, practices, and products that are both eco-friendly and socially responsible.

Walking the Walk

At Anantara Golden Triangle in Thailand, guests can see direct results of the resort’s conservation practices as the hotel actively recycles all organic waste material to use as soil for its lush gardens. Located on 160 acres of natural habitat in the Golden Triangle region, the resort also focuses on local inhabitants of a different breed. Onsite is a camp that provides sanctuary for rescued elephants: the bamboo forest, nature trails, and river banks provide an ideal habitat for 15 rescued pachyderms, and the elephant fodder is even sourced from local farmers and suppliers. Guests are also offered the rare opportunity to learn to ‘drive,’ bathe, and care for elephants in a unique three-day mahout training course. Meanwhile at Uma Ubud in Bali, similar environmental efforts are in place. Not only does the hotel recycle water to hydrate its leafy surroundings, but it looks beyond its perimeter into the local community. The hotel is committed to giving back to the area and its inhabitants: over 25% of the staff comes from local villages. Switzerland could be considered the grandfather of the green movement, with its fresh Alpine setting and lake water clean enough to drink. Park Hyatt Zurich has its own energy conservation committee, which has instituted special sun blinds to cool the building, gas-fired boilers to reduce CO2 emissions, biodegradable cleaning products, and an air-cooling system that pumps cold, fresh lake water. The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek in Colorado recycles water used in the swimming pool and Jacuzzi; re-used leftover furniture from its recent renovation was donated to the Vail Valley Foundation.

How Green Does Your Garden Grow?

What could be more environmentally conscious than turning to the local terroir as a source of food? Chefs are proving one can eat off the land for delectable dishes instead of flying in foodstuffs from distant locales. In Bhutan, the cooking crew at Uma Paro works with indigenous farmers to find the best ingredients year-round to ensure that the food is as fresh, organic, and varied as possible. The hotel’s outreach goes even further – they provide the farmers with seeds to grow the food and then purchase this produce. In Bali, the COMO Shambhala Estate at Begawan Giri similarly employs community members to procure fresh ingredients, working with a local organization that hires women from the surrounding area and offers flexible hours and steady income. The food at these hotels comes from the local environment in every sense of the word.

‘Product’ively Green

Hotels are taking eco-philosophy indoors, applying it to their products and materials. On Nantucket, guests of the White Elephant find the green theme between the sheets. The hotel has commissioned Gayle Warwick Fine Linen to outfit all 53 of its rooms with her hand-embroidered, organic bed linens. The sheets are made from 100% organic cotton percale, eliminating all the pesticides traditionally used in cotton growing that wreak havoc on farmers and on our environment. With a crisp finish and heirloom quality, these linens prove it really is chic to be green. Luxury spa brand ESPA has a line of 70 naturally effective products that contain only the highest quality of natural and organic ingredients. ESPA is found in more than 100 spas in 24 countries, including The Spa at Gleneagles by ESPA in Scotland and the Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa in Interlaken, Switzerland. ESPA espouses that using too many synthetic products only creates more problems for our skin, and that plant and marine extracts and essential oils can heal and strengthen at a cellular level.

Casting a Light Footprint

Live the green life in Switzerland by taking full advantage of the legendary train system. The Swiss Rail System is the densest in the world and makes traveling lightly a breeze. Hop from the Eden au Lac in Zurich to the Palace Luzern to the Bellevue Palace in Bern and get an eyeful of the spectacular Alpine scenery on the way. Another alternative to exploring the countryside by car is by bicycle. The Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa has stocked up on Scott mountain bicycles, so guests can journey deep into the Alpine hills or take a leisurely ride around the two beautiful lakes after which Interlaken was named. Guests of the The Wauwinet on Nantucket can do as the locals do and cycle around the island. The hotel’s bikes are lean and “green” and the perfect way to tool around town – a stylish yet practical option for the savvy traveler! Park Hyatt Toronto respects its eco-minded guests as well: the hotel will valet park any hybrid car for free. And speaking of hybrids, any guest driving one to Santa Fe’s Inn on the Alameda will receive some “green for green.” The “Wholly Hybrid” package at The Inn offers guests a crisp new $50 bill upon check-in for filling the gas tank, and another $20 to use at the nearby water-saving carwash, a way of saying thank you from Mother Earth.

Legacy of Conservation

A pilgrimage to a leafy corner of Vermont can teach travelers about one of the first conservation efforts in the United States. Thanks to an influx of settlers in the area, by the mid-19th century the state had been stripped of its natural resources. Luckily, a legacy of stewardship was instated by three separate families, including the Rockefellers, who donated the land that would become Vermont’s only national park. The Woodstock Inn & Resort still remains a part of the Rockefeller Foundation and provides a perfect home base for exploring all the natural wonders in the area that have been so carefully preserved.

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