The wine is green at Kimpton

If you’re into wine and also into taking care of our planet, consider Kimpton Hotels and restaurants for your next jaunt out of town.

As an addition to their lauded EarthCare program, Kimpton restaurants have been refining their wine lists to provide us with more sustainable sustenance. By January 2010, participating restaurants in 21 cities will be stocking a minimum of 30 percent eco-friendly, biodynamic, and organic wines.

So, is green wine any different from regular wine?

“Yes, I find that they’re better wines. I think that extra level of care really translates into the product,” says appropriately named Kimpton master sommelier Emily Wines.

Wines told all about how wine can be made greener — she especially recommends Oregon house Sokol Blosser, where they keep an eye on the local salmon, and rather than air conditioning their cellars, they built a hill over them to keep the wine cool.

To find a participating Kimpton restaurant (maybe even in your own town), visit the website!

Hyatt at Olive 8 is the first LEED certified “green” hotel in Seattle

Green is in – we’ve been covering green travel all month, and as August slowly comes to an end we’ll take a close look at some impressive green properties that deserve extra attention.

The Hyatt at Olive 8 in Seattle opened in January, and received their LEED Silver certification in July. This marks two firsts – the first LEED certified hotel in the Hyatt chain, and the first LEED certified hotel in Seattle.

The hotel offers 346 rooms, including 13 junior suites, a governors suite and a presidential suite. As is expected from any modern hotel, all the rooms are outfitted with flat panel TV’s, iPod docking alarm clocks, as well as wired and wireless Internet access. Rooms also have floor to ceiling windows, which means lots of natural light.

The “green” features of the Olive 8 are pretty impressive:

  • Low-flow plumbing (which saves 2.4 million gallons of water each year)
  • Dual mode toilets use 29% less water (when compared to single mode flushers)
  • 20% of the building was constructed using recycled materials
  • 75% of the interior space has access to daylight
  • The entire hotel was built using virtually no VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds)
  • Rooms use key-controlled light switches from WattStopper Inc.
  • All cleaning products are low-VOC and 100 toxin free

Rooms at he Hyatt at Olive 8 start around $190/night. The hotel has its own restaurant (Urbane, also LEED certified), a spa, 24 hour fitness and almost 18,000 square feet of meeting space.

The hotel pool deserves some special attention – it is a 65-foot saline pool, which means the hotel does not have to use chlorination chemicals to clean the water.

The Hyatt at Olive 8 is located at 1635 8th Avenue, Seattle, WA.

Great Lakes Brewing: Saving the planet one beer at a time

At a recent farm dinner I attended, a multi-course meal of farm-fresh, organic ingredients was paired with beers from Great Lakes Brewing. As we dined and drank, we were treated to an informal lesson on brewing from owner Pat Conway, who also gave us the lowdown on the many greet initiatives that Great Lakes has undertaken in an effort to be environmentally responsible while producing top-notch beer. It’s a philosophy that the company calls a “triple bottom line” – a mission to run an environmentally and socially responsible business while still turning a profit – and it seems to be paying off.

The Cleveland, Ohio, brewery opened in 1988 as the state’s first micro-brewery and has been growing, and racking up awards, ever since. The Dortmunder Gold, one of the brewery’s first beers, was originally called the Heisman. After it won a gold medal in the Dortmunder category at the Great American Beer Festival in 1990, the New York Athletic Club noticed that the Heisman name was be used and requested it be changed. Other beers are more fancifully named and reflect the brewery’s location in the Great Lakes Region. There’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, honoring the boat that famously sank in Lake Superior; Eliot Ness, named for the man rumored to be responsible for the bullet holes in the brewery’s bar; and Burning River, a nod to the infamous burning of the Cuyahoga River in 1969.

But what makes these beers so special, aside from the quirky names and indisputable quality (each has won numerous Gold Medals at competitions around the world), is that they are produced using so many green and sustainable methods. The owners, brothers Pat and Daniel Conway, say they take a full-circle approach to reduce waste and make the company more efficient. This approach has filtered down to all levels of staff, and dictates the methods used in all aspects of the business.

The brewery’s delivery truck and shuttle bus run on recycled restaurant vegetable oil, and they require that the trucks used by their distributors do the same. All cardboard, glass, aluminum, paper and brewer’s barley is recycled. Newsletters, napkins, and menus are printed on recycled paper, all beer packaging is done with unbleached “eco-carton” and Pat says they even go so far as to re-use the blank sides of printer paper for internal documents. The brewery cooler features skylights and sensors to reduce electricity used for lighting, and the cooling system brings in cold air from outside in the winter to reduce the amount of energy required to keep the temperature constant.

Great Lakes works with local organic farmers to serve only the freshest food in their restaurant. Currently, 60% of their food supply comes from local and organic sources, though Pat says they are striving for 100%. They recently contracted with an Amish farmer who will provide the kitchen with meat from animals that graze on the brewery’s own barley waste. Spent grain goes to a baker who makes pretzels and beer-bread served at the restaurant, and another local farm uses brewery grains to fertilize the organic mushrooms they grow and then sell back to Great Lakes for use in entrees. Other organic waste is fed to worms. In a process called vermicomposting, the worms turn the waste into fertilizer, which is used to grow herbs in the brewery’s garden. Even the low-fill beers (beers that aren’t quite filled to the top by the bottling machinery) are saved and used for sauces, salad dressings, and soups. The low-filled Edmund Fitzgerald Porter bottles are used by a local ice cream shop to make chocolate chunk ice cream.

The brewery’s outdoor beer garden is also eco-friendly. Rather than let the space go to waste during Cleveland’s bitterly-cold winters, the Conway brothers decided to cover it with a retractable canvas roofing, packed straw bales into the walls for insulation, and added a fireplace to warm the space. They were using wood logs for the fire, until one employee had a bright idea. Instead of composting the spent cinnamon sticks used to make the Christmas Ale, why not compress them into logs to fuel the beer garden fireplace? The result of all these features is that, even on the coldest days of winter, it costs just $8 per day to heat the beer garden.

The result of all these sustainable efforts is staggering. Great Lakes Brewing, a $25 million business, has zero waste bills. Pat says he looks at waste removal as “waste opportunity” and is always searching for new ways to make the business green, and keep it growing. But the brothers aren’t just pocketing all that profit. The company also contributes to the community. Every year they participate in the Great Lakes Burning River Festival, which raises awareness and funds for environmental cleanup in the Great Lakes Region. An environmentally responsible company that gives back to the community and makes delicious craft beer – I think we can all cheers to that.

If you can make it out the Cleveland brewery, in addition to dining in the brewpub or enjoying drinks in the beer garden, you can take a guided tour of the brewery facilities, attend “beer school” to learn all about the brewing process, or enjoy a multi-course Brewmaster’s dinner paired with beer. You can also find Great Lakes beers in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

Go Green in Washington DC’s Fairmont

Feeling a little drained from your time on the hill? Fear not, brave traveler — nothing washes the grime from the road off better than a fresh, green hotel. Washington DC’s Fairmont, winner of Mayor Adrian Fenty’s Environmental Excellence Award, will do just that.

Premium visitors can luxuriate in a Lexus Hybrid Living Suite (pictured above and below), an environment meticulously crafted for the eco-conscious traveler, with green amenities such as organic wine and design inspired by Lexus Hybrid Living. And while it’s true that guests won’t get the company of a luxury sedan inside of their proper room, the hotel has an LS 600h L that’s available for complimentary guest use.

Everyday hoteliers can still benefit from Fairmont’s green initiatives by enjoying the fresh honey harvested on the building’s own roof. In response to the national bee shortage this summer, Fairmont installed a battery of beehives on the outside of the downtown hotel, and as summer plods along, the 100,000 bees are hard at work producing delicious, succulent honey.

Other tweaks to DC Fairmont make the property even eco-friendlier without sacrificing a shred of the brand’s quality. Upgrades include:

  • Low-flow shower heads
  • Low wattage compact fluorescent light bulbs
  • Digital thermostats
  • Natural and healthy choice restaurant menu selections
  • Greenhouse gas offsets from select building compartments
  • Courtyard herb garden for local restaurant flavoring

Rooms at the DC Fairmont start at just over $125, while the suites and Lexus Suite are respectively more expensive.

If packages are your fancy, two new deals that the Fairmont hosts are The Eco Power Package and the Green Washingtonian. With the former package guests get to stay in the Lexus Hybrid suite (with free access to the hotel LS 600h!) nestled in style, while the hotel respectively donates $100 to the National Geographic Society for each stay. The Green Washingtonian hosts organic cocktails for guests

Each package can be booked on Fairmont’s Travel Green promotion page.

Australian eco spa resorts going green in the wilderness

A recent poll shows that Australia is, once again, the top destination for American tourists (outside the US, when cost is no consideration). The country has some of the most amazing scenery in the world, and some beautiful spa resorts taking full advantage of that scenery.

Here are three of the most impressive, and eco-friendly resorts in Australia.

Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

The first of these three resorts won’t be open till October, but when it does, it’ll provide 40 free-standing suites nestled between two national parks. built within a world heritage area. The hotel is located in Wolgan Valley, about three hours from Sydney.

Suites offer private decks and pools. Activities in the area include Aboriginal interpretive tours, nature walks, AWD wildlife safaris and horse riding.

Some of the green credentials of the Wolgan Valley resort & spa include rainwater collection, full domestic water recycling, heat exchangers, solar heated water, over 100 solar panels for electricity and wind powered water pumps.

The resort is part of the Emirates hotel and resorts group (yes – that Emirates). Reservations are being accepted for stays starting on October 1st, and rooms start at AUD1490 (about $1250). For rates, reservations or to learn more about the new Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, click here.

Eco Beach Wilderness Retreat

The Eco Beach Wilderness Retreat is located one hour south of Broome, on the western Australian coast.

The resort consists of 25 “eco villas” and 30 safari style “eco tents”. The resort offers a safari, whale watching tours, cave exploring, fishing and of course, an on-site spa.

The Eco Beach Wilderness Retreat reduces its impact on the planet through solar power, low-flow faucets and toilets, waste water recycling and a full assortment of natural products in all bathroom and spa products.

Off season rates start at just AUD130 ($110). For rates, reservations or to learn more about the Eco Beach Wilderness Retreat, click here.

Pinctada Cable Ceach

The Pinctada Cable Beach Resort & Spa opened just 3 months ago. Like the previous resort, it too is located on the western coast of Australia.

The 72 room intimate resort features a massive “asymmetrical pool with spa nooks and waterfalls”. Its spa offers Vichy shower treatment rooms (a 5 head massaging shower table), a juice bar, sauna and hair salon.

Its restaurant serves dishes created by award winning Melbourne chef Greg Malouf, where you can dine on spiced sautéed pearl meat, a nod to the long standing pearling tradition in the area.

The green initiatives at this resort include a full-resort grey water management system, solar heating as the primary source of hot water and a carefully planned natural light layout.

Rooms start at AUD420 ($350). For rates, reservations or to learn more about Pinctada Cable Beach, click here.