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Across the U.S. hotels, inns and resorts are starting to think more about their footprint on the planet. Some are taking their first baby steps—sourcing food locally, recycling, landscaping with some native plants, installing bathroom fixtures that use less water. A few are really upping their game with multiple initiatives and and promoting their efforts to becoming more sustainable, hoping to have an impact on guests as well as the climate. They include destinations as different as a multi-season outdoor activities resort in Massachusetts, an inn on the coast of Maine and a luxury hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Those looking for an active and fun vacation in New England that doesn't put a strain on the environment should check out the Berkshire East resort in the hilly northwest Massachusetts town of Charlemont. It offers 45 ski and snowboard, a tubing park and a "mountain coaster," a hybrid of an Alpine slide and a roller coaster. In the summer it there are zip line tours that soar over its heavily forested landscape. Sitting in the middle of that hilly, wooded terrain is the resort's 900 kilowatt wind turbine. That and its 1,800-panel 500 kilowatt solar array provide all the power for the resort. Berkshire East says it is the first ski facility in the world to generate all of its energy onsite from renewable sources.
"In this era of global warming, we want to put our money where our mouths are," they say. "These machines generate electrons that otherwise would be produced by greenhouse gas-producing power plants. Consider the solar and wind turbines our attempt at increasing distributed renewable generation so that the next generation of skiers can enjoy winter the same way we do."
For $10 you can take a tour of the turbine, including a mile-and-a-half hike to the site from where you'll be shuttled to the top of the hill. A guide provides information about the turbine and sustainable energy.
The main attraction at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth just outside Portland, Maine isn't the opportunity to maybe break your neck on a ski slope, but rather the chance to relax with a good book and a glass of wine on a porch overlooking rolling green lawns and the Atlantic. Instead of sports, Inn by the Sea boasts about its full-service spa, leisurely strolls along the beach and gourmet cuisine prepared with fresh local ingredients including catch purchased from local fishermen.
The Inn says it is inspired by its beautiful natural surroundings to practice "both outstanding hospitality and environmental preservation." It heats the facility with biofuel, uses solar heating in its indoor pool and its spa is the first in New England to be Silver LEED-certified. It was also the first hotel in Maine to become carbon neutral through offsets, which it did in 2007. And it uses recycled and nontoxic products for virtually every function. It's also pet-friendly and provides a sanctuary for New England cottontail rabbits, an endangered species in Maine. We're not sure how those two things coexist but, apparently, they do.
The Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina promotes its lavish amenities and its sustainability at the same time. While talking up its well-appointed guest rooms, its elegant event facilities and its upscale restaurant, it also brags about being the first Platinum LEED-certified hotel in the U.S. Built to use 40 percent less energy and 30 percent less water than a hotel of similar size and amenities, it incorporates more then 70 sustainable practices including 100 solar panels on its roof which heat its hot water supply.
The hotel posts its sustainable practices initiative, which it says, "considers how our decisions affect current and future generations" by reducing use, recycling, using less energy and buying more local food, among other things. Unsurprisingly, it also has a fairness statement, outlining its efforts to reach out to the African-American, Latino and LGBT communities.
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