The Best Eco-Friendly Hotels in the U.S.

Find out why going green comes naturally for these hotels.

In today’s modern technology-dependent society, it’s no surprise that people are craving nature and the outdoors more than ever. This is evident in many ways—from the increase in farm-to-table restaurants to the colors and accent pieces used in home and business décor. In fact, Pantone’s 2017 color of the year is Greenery, which is a yellow-green shade that, according to the Pantone website, “evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive, restore and renew.”

This increase in interest in nature and the environment is also reflected in the way people travel today. There is a rise in ecotourism, which is a form of responsible, minimal-impact travel to exotic natural environments to help support conservation efforts, sustain the well-being of the local people and learn about wildlife. In fact, ecotourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism industry. A 2015 study from consulting firm, Deloitte, found that sustainability is increasingly seen as a prominent factor in hospitality decision-making, and 95 percent of business travelers surveyed believe the hotel industry should be undertaking green initiatives.

While ecotourism is a great way for people to travel the world and learn about an exotic location’s natural environment, it’s not always an option for many people. Fortunately, eco-conscious travelers can do their part to help the environment by staying at one of the many eco-friendly resorts that are popping up throughout the U.S.

“Today's traveler looks for authenticity and unique experiences that connect them to the destination in a personal way,” says Rauni Kew, green program manager at Inn by the Sea (Cape Elizabeth, Maine). “Their hotel should be part of that experience, helping to expose the soul of the destination and capturing the spirit of the place with a celebration of all things local. Guests often love the places where they vacation. Travelers want to know their hotel is supportive of its community and traditions, protects the natural environment and conserves resources, ensuring the destination they love will be there for future generations.”

Here are a few eco-friendly resorts that provide their guests with a truly memorable experience while doing their part to help preserve and protect the environment.

Photo Credit: Hotel Terra

Hotel Terra (Jackson Hole, WY): As a LEED (an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver hotel, Hotel Terra works to preserve and protect the indoor and outdoor environment in a number of ways. Fluorescent light bulbs are used in many of its fixtures to use less energy; all power at the hotel is offset with the purchase of solar, hydro and wind energy; and windows are Energy Star-approved and energy efficient. Additionally, the steel used throughout the hotel’s building structure is 80 percent recycled, and 50 percent of the construction waste from the hotel’s construction was either reused or recycled. Low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) carpets and pads, sealants, paints and adhesives can be found throughout the hotel; and guestrooms feature 100-percent organic cotton towels, bath mats and robes, along with natural and organic mattresses that are free of pesticides, dioxins, formaldehyde and other chemicals. What’s more, hotel guests are offered aluminum water bottles, water stations for refills and aluminum pump bottles for bathroom amenities to reduce plastic bottle use.

Photo Credit: Inn by the Sea

Inn by the Sea (Cape Elizabeth, Maine): Inn by the Sea boasts indigenous gardens that provide food and habitat for wildlife; all-natural room amenities that are made in the U.S., packaged in recyclable containers and displayed on recycled glass trays; an electric vehicle car charging station; a LEED Silver spa that features recycled sheetrock walls, clean air with air-to-air heat exchangers, recycled cork floors in treatment rooms, dual flush toilets; and so much more. The hotel, in collaboration with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and Maine Bureau of Parks and Land, created a “Rabitat” area intended to help restore the habitat for the endangered New England Cottontail Rabbits at Crescent Beach State Park. Here, invasive, non-indigenous plants such as bamboo, were removed from the park, and indigenous shrubs were replanted to create a safe habitat for the cottontail rabbits. Also, the hotel hosts a number of educational programs to help teach guests of all ages about ecosystems and the environment. Families can enjoy beach ecology walks with a naturalist and learn about how important sand dunes are in protecting against beach erosion and providing habitat for nesting sea birds. Other cool family fun activities include guided walks around the 125-acre freshwater pond and the chance to venture out on Casco Bay in a real lobster boat to learn about sustainable lobstering.

On April 27, the hotel will host a beach cleaning, a lecture on endangered species and provide refreshments served on the hotel’s lawn. “We are very proud of our community collaborations with Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland where we foster dogs on site; our Rabitat Habitat Restoration Program; our collaboration with fishermen and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to serve and market lesser known, abundant seafood fresh from the Gulf of Maine to help expand markets for local fishermen and support the health and biodiversity of the Gulf of Maine,” says Kew.

Mohonk Mountain House [Photo Credit: Jim Smith Photography]

Mohonk Mountain House (New Paltz, NY): Since it first opened in 1869, Mohonk has remained committed to helping guests enjoy nature through its many Earth-friendly activities, design features and green initiatives intended to help preserve the surrounding land. The hotel was even recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme for its leadership and commitment to the protection and enhancement of the environment. Such eco-friendly programs and features include nature programs for all ages, miles of hiking trails, on-site rock scrambles and guided rock climbing on the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge, which is considered one of the Last Great Places on Earth by The Nature Conservancy. In addition, the building itself boasts a spa with many responsible design features, such as a geothermal heating and cooling system that moderates the temperature of the spa using the constant temperature of the earth to create an emission- and noise-free zone and a “green roof” garden terrace that helps insulate the building and reduce energy use and water runoff. In fact, when constructing the spa, the 600 tons of Shawangunk Ridge rock that was excavated during construction were reused to build several areas of the spa. What’s more, guests can enjoy the benefits of the natural environment during meals, as the hotel supports local farms by using their produce in season, and also when opting for some spa services, like the Shawangunk Grit Mineral Body Treatment, which uses indigenous quartzite rocks crushed to a powder in a scrub that exfoliates the skin and helps improve circulation.

Photo Credit: The Ritz-Carlton

The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte (Charlotte, NC): As the first LEED Gold hotel in the greater Charlotte area and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, this hotel offers many eco-friendly features and practices, including a green, vegetated roof; two fully contained rooftop beehives (the 100,000 inhabitants assist in pollination and provide natural honey for the hotel); dining and beverage menus that incorporate organic, local and 100-percent natural products with a focus on local freshly grown foods; a bike valet; an electric vehicle charging station; and complimentary parking for electric and hybrid vehicles. In addition, the hotel building incorporates many sustainable design and construction features, such as high-efficiency plumbing, which saves approximately 700,000 gallons of water per year; 80 percent of the hotel’s construction waste was recycled, eliminating 3,900 tons of debris from area landfills; a hotel-wide recycling program; and regularly planned community activities focused on environmental conservation, including city clean-up projects and community recycling days for consumer electronics, used athletic shoes and bicycles. “The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte is ideal for eco-conscious guests because it allows them to participate in, as well as simply witness, environmentally-mindful actions,” says David Rothwell, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte.

Photo Credit: Terranea Resort

Terranea Resort (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA): This resort has many eco-friendly features, from energy-efficient compact fluorescent lighting and low-voltage devices throughout the resort to shuttle services for its guests using hybrid and low-emission vehicles. In addition, the resort is situated on close to 15 acres of restored native habitat areas and the native plant material is locally cultivated from a Palos Verdes seed bank and grown by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy. In honor of Earth Month, Terranea is offering its guests a number of events to help them enjoy and learn about the natural environment. Such events include a farm-to-table dining experience with a seasonally themed menu; an Earth Month-themed party just for kids where they can plant seeds and learn about the plant cycle; moonlight yoga; wine tasting; and oceanside painting. What’s more, on Earth Day, visitors can enjoy workshops discussing how to recycle and compost at the on-property Educational Green Wall; take part in a coastal kayak tour to help pick up trash and clean the waterways and de-clutter the resort’s surrounding kelp forest; plant wildflowers; and enjoy an Earth Day hike. Plus, with a purchase of any coffee, the on-property café will offer a bag of coffee grounds for guests to use as compost in their gardens when they return home from the resort.

Given the recent and encouraging boom in ecotourism and the many financial benefits and incentives it brings to eco-friendly resorts, it’s clear that this forward-thinking business model is not only sustainable (pardon the pun), but it’s a grassroots movement that provides resorts with a way to be good stewards of the environment, while simultaneously increasing profits and cultivating goodwill within their community.

If you want to preserve the environment and get in better shape, go for a walk! Find out how a simple walk around the block can put you on a much healthier path through life.