Earth Day celebrates the environment and its importance in our lives and is an opportunity for hoteliers to reflect on how their hotels impact the planet. Sustainability is growing increasingly important in the minds of travelers who are more conscious about the environments in which they live, work, and travel. In honor of Earth Day this Sunday, April 22, hotels across the United States and around the world will take steps to reduce their environmental footprints and give back to their communities. Below are just a few examples of hoteliers and hospitality companies that are launching eco-friendly programs and promoting their ongoing sustainability initiatives to travelers seeking greener vacation options.
Cleaning up the Shoreline: Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu, Hawaii
Turtle Bay Resort is home to the largest area of protected swimming and snorkeling waters in Hawaii–Humpback whales, sea turtles, monk seals, and dolphins are just some of the different marine mammals and endangered species that visit the resort’s shores. The expansive beach resort located on Oahu’s North Shore also means that it offers travelers ocean and land adventures through its on-property horse stables, tennis courts, two golf courses, 15 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, daily fitness and wellness classes, surf school, and water adventures including eco-kayaking—making it that much more critical to protect the local resources and habitats.
Resort team members participate in monthly beach clean-ups of nearly five miles of shoreline. In 2009, the resort created a Green Committee to explore ways to reduce the resort’s carbon footprint, such as adding 1,600 solar roof panels in 2013, making Turtle Bay the first resort in Hawaii to complete a major solar project that significantly reduced its carbon footprint. The resort also took on a lighting retrofit initiative to convert nearly 70 percent of lighting to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs, launched resort-wide recycling, and switched to cups in its restaurants and outlets that are either washable and reusable or made from corn-based or post-consumer materials.
Going Hyperlocal: The National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia
New this year and in time to celebrate Earth Day, The National Conference Center enhanced its food and beverage program by partnering with four local Virginia farms: CEA Farms; Silcott Springs Farm; Spring House Farm; and Yohanan Farm. “There continues to be a demand for farm-to-table cuisine, but The National is taking things one step further and going ‘hyperlocal’ working with as many local farmers as possible to source the food,” says Executive Chef Todd Goldian.
The National’s Black Olive Bar & Grill also partnered with Trinity Oaks Vinyard on an environmentally friendly promotion. The restaurant will offer Trinity Oaks wine for $5 a glass during the month of April in honor of Earth Day. Through Trinity Oaks’ “One Bottle, One Tree” program, for every bottle of wine The National purchases, a tree will be planted.
In addition to its food and beverage initiatives, The National participates in the Loudoun Green Business Challenge each year to collaborate on new sustainability achievements. In addition, The National Conference Center is a certified member of Green Seal, which is based on waste minimization, water and energy efficiency, hazardous substance handling, and an environmental purchasing policy.
Hotel-to-Table: The Ranch in Denver, Colorado
Dedicated to preserving and protecting the environment, The Ranch’s Co-Founder and CEO Alex Glasscock incorporates sustainable practices into his company at every opportunity. The Ranch’s exclusively plant-based menu requires less land, water, and energy to produce and the hotel has an onsite, certified organic garden that provides the majority of the food used at The Ranch, as well as a system of bee colonies on property that produces around 500 pounds of honey each year.
Glasscock says that he is constantly reviewing The Ranch’s methods and programming to improve their sustainability practices and be at the forefront of sustainability in the hospitality sphere. He also emphasizes the importance of educating guests at The Ranch and in the surrounding community on the environmental impact of their choices and ways they can support the planet in their daily lives.
Sustainable Suppliers: Canopy by Hilton
Since the launch of Canopy by Hilton in October 2014, the brand has made an effort to incorporate a commitment to sustainability and the environment into its DNA—from adding filtered water stations to its properties to delivering “Break Fast” options in recycled brown bags. The brand also makes an effort to find like-minded sustainable partners, such as TradeCraft, which provides locally sourced coffee and tea; Planet Dog, its ‘Paws in the Neighborhood’ program partner and a member of the Pet Sustainability Coalition; Apivita, a Greek sustainable bath amenities business; and Serta, which makes mattresses from post-industrial recycled steel and wood.
The brand also follows Hilton’s initiatives such as “Lightstay,” a proprietary corporate responsibility performance measurement platform, which includes reducing properties’ environmental impact.
Reducing Waste One Straw at a Time: Two Roads Hospitality
Lifestyle hotel management company Two Roads Hospitality is practicing sustainability by providing guests with alternatives to plastic straws at several of its managed properties. The company set out looking for a way to reduce plastic straw waste that had a minimal impact on the environment and guest experience. For example, U.S.-made biodegradable, compostable, and customizable Aardvark Straws are in use at several Two Roads properties as a plastic-straw alternative that still holds up in a drink thanks to high paper quality.
Some of the Two Roads Hospitality properties that have started supplying guests with sustainable straw options—from biodegradable materials to reusable bamboo straws—include Thompson Seattle; Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort; Revival at Mount Vernon Place, a Joie de Vivre Hotel; Hotel Kabuki, a Joie de Vivre Hotel; Alila Ubud; Wild Dunes, A Destination Hotel; and Quirk, a Destination Hotel. Two Roads Hospitality also has straw-free hotels such as Thompson Toronto and The Liaison Capitol Hill, D.C., a Joie de Vivre Hotel, while Chicago Athletic Association offers eco-friendly straws if requested by guests.
Eco-Focused Experiences: Auberge Resorts & Hotels
Almost two years after Cyclone Winston caused nearly $1.4 billion in damage in 2016, the archipelago of Fiji is back, teeming with luxury resorts including the all-villa Nanuku Auberge Resort. Set along the coastline of Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, also known as the “adventure capital” of the island chain, this resort blends contemporary luxury and traditional Fijian culture. Nanuku employs an on-site Fijian marine scientist who spearheads hands-on ecological sustainability offerings for guests including planting coral nurseries, reef conservation, and Mangrove replanting. The resort has banned single-use plastics like straws and shampoo bottles.
Mukul—another Auberge Resorts & Hotels property and Nicaragua’s first luxury resort—is a property with a history of environmental consciousness. Built with the use of rainwater catchments, regional materials, and energy-efficient windows, the environmental disturbance of its construction was minimal; builders replanted more than 1,500 trees—including a one-million-pound, 150-year-old Guanacaste—rather than cut them down to make room for construction. The hotel also has an ongoing gray-water program to reduce water usage.
For Earth Day, Mukul is encouraging guests to attach ribbons inscribed with their Earth Day intentions (actions they plan to do while in Nicaragua, such as avoid using plastic straws) on specially designated “Intention Trees” located throughout the property. Mukul will help facilitate these intentions where possible. On the evening of Earth Day, Mukul will also “turn down the power” and ask guests do the same–when the resort is extra dark, a local astronomer will lead an evening of stargazing, pointing out celestial bodies that are extra-illuminated in the darkness.
Conservation Vacation: Nekupe Sporting Resort & Retreat, Nicaragua
Another Nicaraguan resort is celebrating Earth Day with an itinerary of nature-centric activities like bird and wildlife watching, horseback riding through its nature preserve, and taking cooking classes using produce plucked from the resort’s own farm. With just eight accommodations on more than 1,800 acres of nature reserve, Nekupe’s ecological footprint is minimal. Nicaragua’s first luxury countryside resort houses an animal sanctuary and refuge with spider and howler monkeys, deer, foxes, sloths, 78 species of birds, ducks, and 61 species of butterflies. The reserve, which was once flattened plains, contains more than 158 species of plants, more than 34,000 reforested trees, reservoirs developed by a team of local experts and ecologists, a greenhouse, organic farm, and butterfly garden.
Partnering to Protect Local Habitats: Hilton Los Cabos in Mexico
Following a multi-million dollar renovation in 2015 in which the hotel increased its green footprint by 63 percent, Hilton Los Cabos continues its sustainability efforts through its Turtle Protection Program and desalination plant, recycle, and energy conservation programming. As general manager of the resort property, Marco Tabet searches for ways to give back and uplift the local community. Each July through December, the property works with state authorities, PROFEPA (Mexico’s federal environmental protection agency), and the local network for the protection of sea turtles by providing seminars and training on surveillance, nest protection, and a release program.
Hilton Los Cabos is also one of the few hotels in Los Cabos with a desalination plant to provide its own supply of drinking water, which ultimately has less of an impact on the local community’s shortage of water.
Top photo courtesy of Turtle Bay Resort