10 Eco-Friendly Places to Stay in the U.S.

by Kristin Conard May 3, 2011

Recycling center at Hedonisia Hawaii. Photo and feature: Hedonisia Hawaii.

Every hostel I’ve stayed in used reusable dishes and utensils, and I’ve noticed more and more hotels putting up placards and hang tags encouraging guests to reuse towels and sheets on multi-night stays. But there are some hostels and hotels that are doing more than that.

HERE ARE 10 eco-friendly places to stay in the U.S. that will help you leave a smaller footprint as you travel, with options from spending $25 to $300 a night.

[Prices are for one person for one night and may differ depending on type/size of room requested, number of guests, time of year, and weekend vs. weekday stays.]

For $25-$75

HI in Washington, D.C.
1009 11th Street, NW

The Hosteling International Hostel in Washington, D.C. has renovated the rooms to using low volatile organic compound (VOC) paint. The carpet is recycled. The hostel recycles glass, paper, plastic, cardboard, batteries, ink/toner cartridges, aluminum, and light bulb, and recycling bins are available on each floor.

The paper, including toilet paper, is made from 95% recycled materials. The cleaning products are Green Seal Certified, and low-flow aerators are on all faucets and shower heads. The door of each guestroom has a poster on the environment and recycling, and once a month, they screen an environmental documentary.

The 250-bed hostel has a mix of co-ed and single sex dorms and private rooms, some with private baths.

Hedonisia Hawaii
13-657 Hinalo Street, Pahoa

On the Big Island in Hawaii, Hedonisia Hawaii has “jungle style lodgings.” Previously the area was a car junkyard, now the 3.72 acres has camping facilities, and nine other lodging options, all made of recycled or renewable materials.

A few examples: the “Guava Hut” is made of natural strawberry guava, and the “Love Bus” is a repurposed school bus, set up with a queen bed. I like the look of the “Jungle Hideaway,” which was made by piecing together pieces of old, broken tents with a patch-worked mosquito net screen around the queen sized bed.

The power comes from a nearby geothermal power plant, and the gardens on the grounds are fertilized with natural compost. Bottles, cans, plastic, glass, paper, old clothing, and scrap metal are all recycled. Toilet paper is provided at the eco-friendly toilet in the garden, but guests are encouraged to use the bidet. There’s also a “pee garden” that’s female friendly.

Portland Hawthorne Hostel in Portland, Oregon
3031 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard

The Portland Hawthorne Hostel has a garden on the roof; “The ecoroof is a low maintenance, self-sustaining plant/soil community without need of irrigation, fertilizers, or pesticides….Ecoroofs…soak up the water and eventually return it to the natural hydrologic cycle, through evaporation and photosynthesis.” (Portland Hostel)

The hostel recycles clothes and books left by travelers, along with food, light bulbs, batteries, paper, glass, plastic, and aluminum. The City of Portland has awarded the hostel the RecycleWorks Award, as one of the businesses “going above and beyond recycling by committing to sustainable business practices.”

The common room, Mt. Tabor, uses recycled jeans for insulation, salvaged glass doors for windows, bamboo floors, and recycled paint. The hostel brochures are printed with soy-based inks on recycled paper, and the toilets and showers are low-flow.

Sustainable transport is encouraged: If you bike your way into Portland, you get $5 off the per night cost, and bikes are available to rent from the hostel.

The Hostel in the Forest in Brunswick, Georgia
3901 US Highway 82

Accommodation at The Hostel in the Forest includes eight tree houses/huts, three rooms, and a bunkhouse. The water from the outdoor showers drains directly to the ground below, so guests are asked to use organic soaps. 80% of the wasted produced is recycled, conservation of electricity is encouraged, and dead wood from the forest is used for the stoves in the kitchen.

The hostel has four gardens, and the vegetable and herbs are used in the daily vegetarian meal served each evening. The orchard and large vegetable garden are watered by solar-powered water pump. The hostel aims to teach visitors about sustainable living as well as providing a place to stay.

The focus is on quiet and community, no cell phone calls can be made around others, excessive drinking will get you kicked out, and everyone staying “will be asked to be a part in helping out by doing a daily chore consisting of something like sweeping the deck…working in the gardens, [or] feeding the chickens and ducks.” (Requirements)

The hostel also runs a sweat lodge nearly every full moon, and they also run workshops on living medicine and healthy cooking.

For $100 to $200

The Q Hotel & Spa in Kansas City, Missouri
560 Westport Road

Opened in 2007, The Q Hotel & Spa has in room recycling bins for glass, plastic, paper, and aluminum. Unused paper is given to a next-door elementary school. All the paper products, including toilet paper are made of 100% post consumable recycled paper. Eco-friendly bath products are used with bulk dispensers in the shower, and leftover individual amenities are donated to the Westside C.A.N. center.

Organic wine and coffee is available, and leftover food is donated to a local organic farmer for composting. Condiments are bought in bulk, instead of individual packets. Low-flow faucets, toilets, and laundry service reduce water consumption, the lightbulbs are compact fluorescent, and the cleaning products are Green Seal approved.

Bicycles are available for guests to borrow, and shuttle service to and from area attractions is via hybrid car.

Hacienda Nicholas in Santa Fe, New Mexico
320 East Marcy Street

The adobe Hacienda Nicholas has 11 unique guest rooms. A drip system waters the garden with the greywater: waste water from the laundry and dishwashing. The toilets, faucets, and showers are low-flow. The little plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and other bathroom items have been replaced with refillable dispenser bottles.

Rooms are painted with non-VOC paint, and the garden fertilizer is non-toxic. The stationery is recycled paper, printed with soy-based ink. The light bulbs are compact fluorescent, and they recycle glass, paper, and plastic.

Fairfield Inn & Suites in Baltimore, Maryland
101 President Street

Fairfield Inn & Suites is Baltimore’s first LEED-certified hotel.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. (USGBC)

Once a beer storage tank, the 30-foot grain silo captures rainwater that’s then used to water the lawns. The courtyard has flooring made with recycled tires, and the green roof insulates the building. Biodegradable and natural products are used for cleaning and laundry. Bikes are available for those who stay in the eco-suites, and bike racks are available for all guests.

For $200 to $300

Hotel Terra in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
3335 W. Village Drive

LEED-Silver certified Hotel Terra Jackson Hole in Wyoming is less than a mile away from Grand Teton National Park. The recycled roof shingles are made from reinforced vinyl and cellulose fiber. The elevator walls are decorated with recycled leather tiles, the mattresses are made in part from recycled steel springs, and the entire building was made with 80% recycled content in the steel.

The bath products, coffee, sheets, towels, and bathrobes are all 100% organic. There is an in-room recycling program, and the food from the café is composted. Guests can use aluminum water bottles and water stations to avoid plastic water bottle use. There are dual flush toilets, waterless urinals in the men’s public bathrooms, solar-powered faucets in the public bathrooms.

Hotel Palomar in Philadelphia
117 S. 17th Street

The LEED-Gold certified Hotel Palomar in Center City, Philadelphia is a Kimpton Hotel property, many of which are eco-friendly. Every room includes information on suggestions and reminders for how guests can help reduce their energy use – adjust the thermostat when not in the room, reuse towels, etc.

The mini-bars are stocked with organic options, and the coffee and tea are organic and/or fair-trade. Those driving hybrid vehicles get a discount on parking.

They recycle cups, clothes, hangers, batteries, paper, plastic, and aluminum, and there are in-room recycling bins. Low flow toilets, showers, and faucets, and the cleaning products are eco-certified. Partially used or unused bath products are donated to local organizations/charities.

The Orchard Garden Hotel in San Francisco, California
466 Bush Street

Near Chinatown, the LEED-certified Orchard Garden Hotel was built in 2006 with environmentally friendly and recycled materials. The key card controls the power in the room, so if you’re gone, there’s no way you will have left any lights on. The bath and cleaning products are organic, and partially used bath products are donated to homeless shelters. All paper, from menus to toilet paper is recycled, and any ink used is soy-based.

The restaurants use organic and local produce when possible, and waste material from the kitchen is composted. The lighting is LED or compact fluorescent, and the faucets and toilets are low-flow.

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