10 Innovative Green Hotels in the U.S.

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10 Innovative Green Hotels in the U.S.

It's becoming easier to make eco-conscious choices as you hit the road, since more hotels now incorporate green practices into their business. In the past year, the number of hotels with LEED certification, an official designation from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), has jumped from 120 to 170, with another 950 in the process of seeking status. Hotel owners understand that there is growing demand for going green," says Jacob Kriss, media associate at the USGBC. A 2009 study by Deloitte found 40 percent of business travelers are willing to pay more for a green hotel and 38 percent of business travelers actively seek information on green hotels. In honor of Earth Day, here's a look at 10 hotels that have gone beyond the buzzwords to offer green-thinking guests a stay that's more sustainable.

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Certification: Gold
What makes it green: Built by Conrad Hilton in 1939, the Hotel Andaluz underwent a complete restoration in 2008 that maintained the historic property's charm yet added modern infrastructure. Boutique touches include bamboo furniture in the guest rooms, cork tabletops in the hotel's restaurant Lucia and live plants that are watered by captured rainwater. Local artwork evoking Spain and Morocco graces the hallways.

Location: Sausalito, California
Certification: Gold
What makes it green: Once known as Fort Baker, Cavallo Point Lodge was the first national park lodge – the building is in the middle of Golden Gate National Recreation Area – and first hotel on the National Register of Historic Places to be LEED-certified. The family-friendly property, which has both historic and modern rooms, extends green awareness to dogs with the in-room Eco Luxe Pups program, which provides super-absorbent pet towels, custom pottery food and water bowls, and organic cookies and treats.

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Certification: Gold
What makes it green: It may seem counter-intuitive, but Las Vegas leads the way in green-conscious construction; there are six hotels on the Strip that have LEED certification. Three of them, Vdara, the Mandarin Oriental and Aria -- the world's largest gold LEED-certified building -- are in the 18-million-square-foot CityCenter complex. At Aria, guests can "gamble green" at energy-efficient slot machines where the base doubles as air conditioning, and still live the high life with stretch limos fueled by compressed natural gas. Hey, it is Vegas.

Location: Snowmass, Colorado
Certification: Gold
What makes it green: Many skiers at this popular winter destination near Aspen have no idea that some of the dirt on the mountain came from the construction site of this luxury hotel. To prevent plastic bottle waste, reusable, stainless steel washable water bottles are provided at check-in, and refill stations are found throughout the property. The Viceroy Snowmass also has a state-of-the-art pool that creates its own chlorine through the use of salt and electric current, perfect for après-ski.

Location: Lexington, Massachusetts
Certification: Gold
Why it's green: An offshoot of Westin, the Element brand has been billed as the eco-friendly arm of the Starwood chain. Six of its hotels are LEED-certified, with this property outside Boston earning a gold rating. Besides an indoor saltwater swimming pool and energy-efficient appliances in the rooms' kitchens, the hotel does its best to make guests aware of the environment at every turn. Even the workout bikes in the fitness room have a green twist, as guests are encouraged to charge their electronics as they pedal to raise awareness of energy costs.

Location: Portland, Oregon
Certification: Silver
Why it's green: As befits this eco-conscious city, The Nines – a Starwood property – has options for environmentally friendly weddings that include a Zipcar and light rail passes for out-of-town guests, sustainable centerpieces and a program that donates leftover food to a local homeless shelter. The bride and groom can even purchase carbon offsets to create a "carbon neutral" event. The hotel also stocks products made by BeeKind, which supports honey bee and sustainable pollen research, in the bathrooms.

Location: Syracuse, New York
Certification: Platinum
Why it's green: The Hotel Skyler, a former synagogue not far from the Syracuse University campus, was the country's third to reach platinum certification. It did so without compromising its historic attributes. A geothermal heating and cooling system maintains its temperature. People familiar with the European-style key card electric system will feel at home here, as most outlets and lights power down when guests leave the room.

Location: New York
Certification: Gold
Why it’s green: Although it’s in the middle of SoHo, this boutique hotel channels the country, with a rooftop garden that includes melons, blueberries, tomatoes and herbs, as well as a chicken coop (The Crosby Street Hotel's green roof also helps cut down on heating and cooling costs by absorbing heat from the sun and preventing storm runoff).The green continues inside as well: The hotel’s Meadow Suite has full-sized glass windows overlooking a courtyard with over 50 varieties of native plant species. 

Location: Seattle, Washington
Certification: Silver
Why it's green: This green building in downtown Seattle earned a cameo in Season 10 of Top Chef as the living quarters of the cheftestants, who took over the penthouse during their stay. The Olive 8, which makes up the first 17 floors (floors 18 through 39 are condos), has eco-efficient bathrooms that include showerheads that use 1 gallon per minute less than traditional showerheads, and dual-flush toilets that use 29 percent less water than traditional toilets. Good news for allergy sufferers: All rooms are also hypoallergenic, and the hotel promotes environmentally friendly cleaning practices.

Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Certification: Platinum
What makes it green: Not every green hotel has to break the bank, cost-wise. Case in point: this boutique hostel, one of only four lodging options in the U.S. to reach LEED's top certification category (and the only hostel). Set up to let guests take advantage of nearby outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking, Crash Pad supports local organic bakeries and products. It also has solar insulation, and its wooden bunks (surrounded by privacy curtains) are made from a structure that was on the hostel's grounds. A night starts at $27.

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