Photo via Whitepod.
Consumer demand for greener hotels has been on the rise over the last few years -- and as a result, many hotels now use green practices as marketing messages, not always truthfully. When it comes down to it, most 'eco' hotels and resorts could be doing more.
Through sustainable design and strict environmental practices and beliefs, these six vacation destinations go way beyond organic hand creams in bathrooms, reusing of towels, organic bedding, and eco-friendly cleaning products, following the dual mission of respect for nature and savvy-design.
1. Whitepod, Aigle, Switzerland
Can igloos actually be comfy and cozy? They can at Whitepod, and they even have access to a ski slopes with private lifts and views of Lake Geneva. Set high in the breathtaking Swiss Alps, Whitepod may draw repeat offenders. The chic, 15 geodesic-dome pods surround a central chalet and are designed to be in harmony with the surrounding environment while resembling boutique hotel rooms inside. Designed to blend with nature, the pods are green-colored in the summer and covered with white canvas in the winter for maximum energy-efficiency. Additionally, they are built on platforms that won't leave a trace on the land.
Each pod is equipped with a terrace to soak in the view, a wood-burning stove, and solar and rechargeable energy that heats and powers them. Be prepared to take in the fresh air, because the zero-impact dome camps are accessible only on skis or snowshoes.
2. ALT Hotels, Quebec and Montreal, Canada
Known for their hip and chic hotels, Le Germain Group recently opened two new locations in Canada, both called the ALT Hotel. The concept is simple: a refreshing alternative experience that combines innovative design and a modern personality, without charging top-tier rates.
According to their Web site, ALT is the first Canadian hotel chain designed to follow the principles of ecological architecture. The one element that they are most proud of is their use of geothermal heating and cooling, which also includes radiant floor heating in the lobby. The hotel's green heating system will reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 430 tons/year, which is an average of 2.7 tons/day or 7 kg/day for each room. Additionally, as we noted prior to the hotel opening, features also include heat recovery from exhaust air, heat recovery from laundry water, energy efficient lighting, and digital controls of ventilation, cooling and heating.
Le Germain believes that attention to energy conservation will become the new standard in the hotel industry. So as a company, being "ALTernative" means caring about the environment and being "eco-proactive."
3. The Scarlet, Cornwall, England
Utilizing the fantastic cliff-top location, all of the rooms are focused around the view, but with varying spaces such as intimate gardens, shell-like viewing pods and wrap around terraces. The design works around clever use of levels, revealing function and glimpses of views, with a central 'wall' to physically anchor the building to the cliff side. The front of the building is stunning, with an organic facade, a sea thrift roof and reclaimed groynes. The coastal landscape is the center of attention and "blurs the boundaries between the indoors and out."
4. Vigilius Mountain Resort, South Tyrol, Italy
Located on Vigiljoch Mountain, the Vigilus Mountain Resort is said to be a "wooden house of modernity." The architect designed the building to resemble a fallen tree lying in the woods -- the wooden lattice facade represents the bark of the fallen tree.
From the nature-based construction methods to the sustainable use of local resources, the Vigilus' commitment to an ecological approach was apparent from the very beginning. And perhaps the most surprising element is that the resort is located in a car-free altitude -- it can only be reached by foot or by cable car. This means there is no traffic or noise, and one hears merely the occasional whisper of the winds that break the silence of the mountains.
With warm colors and materials such as clay, glass, stone, and linen, each room is intimate with vast views as far as the eye can see. The panoramic windows bring the outdoors closer with dramatic views of the woods and mountains. There are no obstructions and with the scent of wood in each room, it almost feels like a tree house.