In support of the United Nation’s 2017 Sustainable Development Goals report, the $3.9 billion global travel industry is making efforts to lower its carbon footprint and reduce congestion in over-touristed areas. Plus, travel companies are aiming to preserve the natural and man-made assets of destinations, improve employee health, education and living conditions and alleviate poverty in local communities. What makes these four hotels noteworthy is their long-standing commitment to sustainability, and the eco-friendly policies that surprise guests.
Cuckoo’s Nest Apartments
Black Forest Highlands, Germany
Germany’s Schwarzwald (known as the Black Forest) is a model of sustainable development, where controlled logging, smart agriculture and public parks have preserved majestic pine forests for generations. In order to maintain the region’s distinctive 18th-century farmhouses, the Hoch Schwarzwald tourist office has built 16 Kuckucksnester Design Apartment units. Some are stylish stone-walled units featuring locally crafted wood furniture, woven straw cushions and water-saving bathroom fixtures, while others are energy-efficient, self-catering apartments in heritage houses.
Plus, the units optimize comfort, with one-bedroom units provisioned with a flat-screen TV, music system, high chair, crib, queen sofa bed, Wi-Fi access and cleaning supplies. Even better, unit refrigerators are stocked with complimentary Black Forest products, such as Rothaus beer, cheese and ham. To spread income from tourism far beyond the main tourist town of Titisee, guests booking a minimum two nights’ stay receive a Red Card that provides free admission to dozens of local activities and up to three hours’ use of an all-electric BMW i3 car for sightseeing. You don’t have to be a Green Party member to appreciate that the region’s capital, the “Green City” of Freiburg, home to the world’s first positive energy house, the Heliotrop, and that the entire Vauban quarter is an award-winning example of environmentally efficient city planning using renewable energy, green walls and incentives to reduce vehicles and increase recycling.
An AAA Four Diamond property, Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay has been committed to sustainability for a decade, having earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Certification in 2008. That means the hotel purchases renewable energy credits to cover 100 percent of annual energy needs, has systemwide recycling and at least 20 percent of employees get to work by alternative transportation. Portola doesn’t advertise that the on-site craft brewery donates brew mash waste to local farmers and ranchers, but you may taste it in the locally sourced, organic produce. Restaurants promote guidelines from the neighboring Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and serve sustainably caught fish from Monterey Bay. The 323 nautically inspired rooms are so comfortable and elegant that you may not notice the LED lighting or organic cotton mattresses with recycled metal springs.
Located next to Monterey’s convention center, Portola is designed to host zero waste meetings for up to 900 business travelers. And while having fun at this waterfront hotel, kids ages 3 to 12 and their families learn all about Monterey on a pirate’s treasure hunt through the hotel’s collection of antique model ships, anchors and maritime photographs.
Kulm and Bellevue Hotels
Mount Pilatus, Switzerland
Eco-travelers looking for transportation alternatives will love the nearly 7,000-foot -tall Mount Pilatus overlooking Lake Lucerne. You can tackle it on foot, but that’s not as thrilling as ascending with the world’s steepest cogwheel train – an original from 1889 — on the 48-degree incline. The Pilatus summit boasts gorgeous views, paragliding lessons, ibex safaris, Lucerne Sinfonie Orchester concerts, plus the modern Hotel Bellevue and its older sister, Pilatus Kulm, whose restored dining room once served Queen Victoria. Environmental conservation is a must in these harsh conditions. Visitors enjoy hearty, locally sourced alpine fare that includes vegetables only transported after having been peeled at sea level, with waste composted. The resort is powered by renewable energy when available and heat recovered from the air-conditioning warms guestrooms. What’s more, LED lighting, even in the 19th-century lamps that make the Pilatus Kulm elegant, as well as low-flow fixtures and climate glazed windows are a given. Faced with too little snow to maintain its ski operations, Pilatus instead uses its sky-high gondola for sightseeing year-round. They also partner with Swiss Travel Pass to encourage use of public transportation with free rides and discounts around the country.
Marriott Indianapolis Downtown
Set in the heart of America’s heartland, Indianapolis thrives on sustainability with a city market featuring local produce, innovative farm-to-fork cuisine, 64 miles of bike paths and a bike-share program. Add to that the Eiteljorg, one of the country’s top collections of Native American art, and a children’s museum that explores social change, for a surprisingly multicultural ambiance. The Marriott Indianapolis Downtown is certified by Green Seal for its sustainability practices, including those that guests now expect: an amenity reuse program, water-saving bathroom fixture and the option to reuse towels. The 20 to 30 percent recycled fibers in toilet and facial tissues, motion sensor and timed lighting in public spaces, recycled plastic guestroom keys, biodegradable pens and Marriott’s worldwide eco-volunteer programs for staff tend to fly under the radar. Guests can walk outside to join the city’s BlueIndy electric car-share program and use the 200-car fleet to sightsee locally, and park at city charging stations.