February 2, 2009

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Gilded Green

Sustainable Lodging Meets the Luxe-boutique

Linda T. Kennedy

February 2, 2009

Put an ecological conscience with thoughts of a weekend trip and one might conjure up images of camping, since using Mother Nature’s products on an overnighter suggests little more than roughing it. Going au naturel now, though, has a luxe connection. Park City-based The Sky Lodge and Salt Lake’s Hotel Monaco are two boutique hotels that are adding a little green to the lavish weekend getaway. “People mistakenly think eco means sitting on a dirt floor in a cave,” says Bill Shoaf, managing director of The Sky Lodge. “You can have an ecological conscience and still have a great experience. I think if you walked around this building, you wouldn’t know [it’s sustainable]—eco-smart is just a fact of life.” After decades of sprawling lodges, resorts and multi-story hotels, eco-luxury boutique hotels are sprouting up across the country, redefining American opulence as something with a social conscience. And, at Utah’s eco-boutiques, environmentally friendly is definitely not sparse. The Sky Lodge The Sky Lodge rises from the remains of Park City’s historic railroad station (Zoom restaurant), rail tact building (bakery) and Lumber Mill (Easy Street restaurant and bar), yet the entire complex is comprised of only 3 percent natural wood, including wood beams brought in from an old railroad trellis near the Great Salt Lake. The steel stud construction eliminated wood framing, and the exterior siding is fiberboard that mimics historic lapboard and does not require painting for 50 years. Also, the concrete used in the building was pre-cast in Salt Lake to reduce the carbon footprint in construction. From Africa comes Ithemba (meaning “hope” in Xosi), the intricate copper wire and bead design in the bathroom’s sliding panel doors weaved by HIV-impacted women. The work was contracted through 3form, a company that works with various groups throughout Africa who help impoverished women find meaningful work. Appointments in all the rooms in-clude high efficiency appliances, recycled carpets and eco-friendly paint. Sustainable practices even extend to the restaurant. “Everything is made on the premises with local products from sources with sustainability in mind, those with fair farming practices,” says Shoaf. Hotel Monaco In a renovated bank building from the early 1920s, Hotel Monaco, owned by Kimpton Hotel properties, is the only Salt Lake-based hotel with Salt Lake City e2 business certification, which recognizes Salt Lake businesses for their environmental efforts, according to Shannon Foster, the hotel’s eco-champion. It’s Foster’s job to make sure everything from floor to ceiling at the hotel retains the sustainable standards that are part of Kimpton’s eco-program. “We have more recyclable trash than regular trash,” says Foster. “And, bins are everywhere including the meeting rooms and employee break rooms.” But, no big, conspicuous containers; a small, brown bucket discretely specifies recycling and is tucked under desks in the room. And if you leave the unused natural L’Occitane cosmetics behind, housekeeping will pack them up and donate them to The Road Home shelter. Offering organic coffee and tea in the lobby, recyclable paper towels in the employee and public restrooms and utilizing low chemical cleaners are some of the mainstay practices at the hotel now, and Foster continues to refine the eco-standards with the smallest details, such as twine-wrapped toilet paper (versus paper-wrapped). However, the conservation is hidden underneath the Hotel’s golden-age-of-Hollywood décor. Both hotels are designed to accommodate the business traveler to families with kids and the emphasis is the homey-feeling factor, which at the Hotel Monaco includes a guppy fish on loan for pet-less guests, and at The Sky Lodge, a cupcake on your pillow with the turn down service. “Some people think they are going to give something up [when they stay in an ecologically sustainable hotel],” says The Sky Lodge’s Shoaf. “They want to have a good time and feel good at the same time and the two do not need to be mutually exclusive.”
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