5 Green Luxury Hotels for Ecoconscious Travelers

These ecofriendly hotels conserve and preserve by saving water, reducing energy use, and cutting down on solid waste.

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It's a simple fact: Most hotels wreak havoc on the environment. Take the daily washing of sheets, towels, and tablecloths; an endless supply of tiny soaps, shampoo, and other bath accessories; and lights, air conditioning, or heat left on continuously. These are just a few of the crimes that hotels commit, gobbling up water and energy and generating massive amounts of paper, food, metal, plastic, aluminum, and glass waste.

But some hotels are taking great strides to becoming greener. A "green" hotel uses resources wisely, and conserves and preserves by saving water, reducing energy use, and cutting down on solid waste. Incorporating these waste reduction techniques into hotel operations is a win-win for the environment and the hotel. Not only will greener hotels save resources and reduce pollution, they will also cut down on operating costs while increasing profit margins. U.S. News takes a look at five green and sustainable luxury hotels:

1. Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, Sonoma, Calif.

In 2006, the hotel replaced 4,440 incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent lighting. It uses organic products in its spa and offers food from local business and food providers. And if you drive a hybrid car, you park for free. Fairmont annually diverts thousands of pounds of glass, aluminum, plastic, newspaper, cardboard, compost, and other materials to recycling depots. It also donates used soaps and amenities to local shelters and charities.

2. Orchard Garden Hotel, San Francisco

San Francisco's greenest boutique hotel is a great model for any hotel trying to go green. Built to the national standards for green buildings developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, Orchard Garden offers guests a key card that turns on the lights, air conditioning, and heat when you enter the room so that no energy is wasted while you're away, an in-room paper recycling system, chemical-free cleaning products, water-efficient bathroom fixtures, and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

3. InterContinental Chicago, Chicago

Last year, this downtown Chicago hotel received an Energy Star award for its superior ecofriendly initiatives and efficient energy use. The hotel has recycling programs for hotel waste (recycling paper, plastic, aluminum cans, cardboard, and grease), paper, light bulbs, and batteries. It also has a towel and sheet reuse program, changing every three days unless a guest requests otherwise, and it uses coreless toilet paper rolls to reduce unnecessary cardboard waste.

4. St Julien Hotel & Spa, Boulder, Colo.

This downtown Boulder hotel has a slew of initiatives that reduce the hotel's carbon footprint on the community. Some of the initiatives include reducing water use, conserving energy, and reducing waste. St Julien offers low-flow toilets in public areas and guest rooms, and guests have the option of reusing their linens and towels during their stay. In addition, all guest room windows are double-paned to minimize energy loss, and motion sensors control lighting in low-activity areas. A plus: No Styrofoam is used at the hotel.

5. The Lenox Hotel, Boston

There are green hotels on the East Coast, too! Some of the environmental initiatives in place at The Lenox include: hybrid car service for hotel guests, over 4,800 super efficient light bulbs, ecoconscious cleaning products, double-paned windows that reduce energy, drafts, and noise, as well as waterless urinals.

A hotel can begin its greening process by something as simple as setting out recycling bins, or asking guests to have their towels and linens washed once every few days and requesting that they turn off the lights and air conditioning in their rooms when they leave. Small but significant steps.