The concept of a 'green' Inn is an interesting one. As with most things the big boys have the advantage and usually get all the press. If Hilton installs T-8 fluorescent lights in the lobby of every hotel, it's news - just because of the sheer magnitude of the Hilton chain. But what can the little guy do? We don't own 1000 or more properties (or even a 1000 rooms) but we can and do make a difference.
Here's what's been done at our place, the Old Town GuestHouse in Colorado Springs. No one item is outstanding but the aggregate, we think, is significant:
- The Inn was built (1997) using the best insulating materials and techniques available. Walls are thicker and window exposures are West and South. We also use high-efficiency double insulated glass window panes.
- Our 8 lovely rooms all have individual Heat/AC, reducing the need to manage temperatures in unused space.
- We have 8 gas fireplaces providing the ambiance our discriminating clientele want without the energy loss of conventional wood burning chimneys and flues. These fireplaces also provide an energy efficient source of supplemental heat on really cold nights.
- Our hot water system is oversized, gas fired and well insulated, of course, but we also employ a constant hot water circulation system throughout the guest rooms. This system not only provides nearly instant hot water - even on the third floor - but it eliminates the need to run a few gallons of water down the drain waiting for the hot water to arrive.
- Lighting, where possible, is either low-voltage (gift shop cabinets, accent lighting) or fluorescent (security lighting, non-dimmable fixtures). Where possible we employ motion sensors to turn lights on and off automatically. Dimmable fluorescents are prohibitively expensive but will be introduced to the Inn as soon as practical. In the meantime, wherever possible we have removed our dimmer switches and deployed fluorescent lights.
- Laundry, of course, follows all of the now traditional cost, energy and water saving measures. It's done in-house, and only when dictated by use or direct guest requirement. Guests may request fresh linens daily but are encouraged to re-use twoels that are still servicable - like they would at home.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - doesn't everyone? Well, apparently not in Colorado Springs. Here there is no curbside pickup and no bottle recycling whatever. At the Inn, therefore, we have adopted our own recycling procedures. Naturally, wherever possible, we Reduce using less (our new high-efficiency clothes washer is an example) and we Reuse (glass & plastic containers, soap & lotion dispensers as well as real linens, dishes and tableware). We buy in bulk, wherever practical, saving on cost for sure but also saving on redundant packaging and requiring fewer trips to the store.
We have collection bins for cardboard, plastic and metal, carting it all off, ourselves, to the local recycling plant whenever another errand takes us to the area. We collect all non-reusable glass and bring it to a Denver recycling facility periodically (they DO recycle glass there). Newspaper and magazines go to our flower vendor (the Colorado Correctional Institute) to be used as mulch. These efforts have reduced our trash output by over 50%.
- Food products are more difficult (we can't reuse anything that's been served to a guest) but there are a couple of things we can and we do. We manage portions by consulting with our guests as to their dietary concerns. We allow our guests to opt out of breakfast altogether or eat a lighter continental style meal. Our evening reception is served sparingly, with frequent replenishment, guaranteeing freshness but limiting the amount of food thrown away at the end of the day.
AND we compost! With the help of our employees, and our own small garden, we are able to dispose of most of our food waste (meat excepted) without running our garbage disposal (almost never used) or filling up our trash receptacle. We end up with beautiful healthy gardens and we have saved a bit more energy and waste processing.
- Future projects include more fluorescent and, hopefully, solar panels.