Something weird happens to people when they put on their vacation hats. Be it straw, trucker, mesh or Indiana Jones-inspired fedora, the moment we don our preferred crowning glory, common sense begins to fly right out of the window. Things that were once very important to us back in the real world, like embracing a sustainable way of life, typically don’t hold a candle to the no-holds-barred gluttony and sheer excess that a long-awaited international getaway can provide. Hotels have long catered to this mentality by offering a host of distinctively cushy yet mostly eco-hostile touches that (despite making us feel like royalty) we’d never think of reenacting in our own homes. How about perpetually brand new rolls of toilet paper with triangular-folded edges (where do the semi-used castoffs go?), one-time-use personal body care products, scores of fluffy bath towels that are laundered on a daily basis and lavish buffets that test the true extent of our eyes being way bigger than our stomachs? Given the general crème de la crème precedent that hotels set (catering specifically to travelers’ grand “excess” expectations), sustainability isn’t really the first word that comes to mind in this complex dynamic. Nevertheless, there are a growing number of luxurious accommodations around the world, such as Costa Rica’s Tabacón Grand Spa, Denmark’s Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers and Switzerland’s Whitepod Resort, that are now taking great measures to green up their act. One such establishment can be found right in Boulder, CO.
Boulder's St. Julien Hotel & Spa
Nestled amid the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, St. Julien Hotel & Spa has a lot to live up to, given that it’s right in the middle of one of the most environmentally conscious cities in America. Fittingly, this swanky-looking “home away from home” pulls out all the eco-stops to get things just right, beginning with ample bicycle parking out front. The trend continues with an on-staff “green committee” and hotel-wide zero-waste aspirations that enable the 201-room eco-sanctuary to rise to the formidable challenge presented by accommodating countless local and international guests. The hotel is so determined to streamline the amount of waste that must ultimately be landfilled that specifically appointed staff members sort through every garbage can on site, ensuring that biodegradable and recyclable items (such as metal, glass, plastic and various types of paper and cardboard) are appropriately diverted. Employing a precycling policy, Styrofoam is completely off limits while compostable food and beverage serving ware such as bamboo and cardboard are the norm (when reusable versions aren’t an option). The hotel’s green commitment is readily apparent, from easily recyclable paper-based room keycards and guest room recycling bins, to organic cruelty-free spa products, complementary bicycles for guests, organically maintained on-site gardens, hotel-wide water conservation efforts and kitchen-grease-to-biofuel reclamation. Even behind the scenes, staff members maintain the green momentum by repurposing old menus as makeshift notepads, donating “seen better days” linens to area animal shelters, exclusively using washable mugs/plates/silverware during all mealtime breaks and using public transportation via Boulder County’s Eco Pass. Like many other competitors, St. Julien Hotel employs hallmark techniques to reduce its overall energy usage, such as double-paned windows, motion sensor-controlled lobby lighting, CFL lighting in guest rooms and LED lighting in exit signs, but it goes above and beyond the call of duty by addressing the smaller details that could easily be dismissed without anyone being the wiser. Everything from spent batteries and light bulbs, to e-waste, plastic wrap, carpet and shipping pallets are recycled. St. Julien even reupholsters furniture rather than replacing it with upgraded versions. And how many other hotels do you know of that make a conscious effort to donate partially used toiletries to local homeless shelters? Furthermore, the hotel seems especially sensitive to the ethical side of the environmental movement, not only by passing on all leather décor products and non-lethal forms of pest management. It also donates funds to the Prairie Dog Coalition, a nonprofit organization that strives to educate the community regarding the integral role that the region’s much maligned prairie dogs play in the ecosystem (going as far as to humanely relocate colonies displaced by developers when necessary). For a great green experience that isn’t at all short on luxury, St. Julien Hotel and Spa is well worth consideration. The somewhat pricey rates are certainly justified in light of the extensive environmental initiatives, and you’ll leave with a noticeable pep in your step knowing that your hard-earned money has bankrolled so many thoughtful and worthy eco-programs.