It's easy staying green

New England offers a variety of eco-friendly lodging options
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  June 9, 2008

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This summer, don't leave home without your environmentalism — when planning a vacation, make reservations at one of New England's eco-friendly lodging establishments, where you can enjoy the natural beauty of the region while doing your small part to ensure that it stays this lovely for quite some time.

When it comes to going green, our hotels, motels, inns, and B&Bs increasingly have more to offer than just the thriving ecosystems around them. Some focus on providing a truly local experience, serving fresh, locally procured meals at their house-run dining rooms (and thereby cutting the carbon emissions that would come from shipping food over long distances). Others home in on energy efficiency, using compact-fluorescent light bulbs, Energy Star–certified appliances, or solar power. Still others have unique eco-friendly promotions that make sense given their location or target customer base. Simple changes can make surprising impacts — for example, many hotels now use off-white linens to eliminate the need for chlorine bleach, which can pollute water systems when it swirls down the drain.

In making these changes, the hospitality industry is supported not just by the ever-growing public interest in all things environmental, but also by several government- and corporate-run programs that encourage the lodging industry to reduce its carbon footprint. Several New England states — Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont — have formal green-certification processes that encourage hotels and inns to take certain steps toward sustainability. Connecticut is on its way to implementing such a program. And in Massachusetts, the state tourism agency, the hospitality trade association, and the Boston Green Tourism initiative have teamed up to green up the Bay State's accommodations.

So what does all this mean for us, the simple lodgers, those who would have our vacations and save the Earth too? For the most part, we don't even notice the changes, and if we do, the eco-ambiance translates into nicer accommodations, better meals, and a cleaner conscience. Even better, eco-friendly adjustments don't necessarily translate into summer-campy accommodations (although those are certainly available, if that's your thing). Green lodging choices range from basic to luxurious — they're just a day trip away, but that saving-the-Earth feeling you get will make you want to stay longer.

Connecticut
— 5 Energy Star establishments
— The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection is working to implement a program like Maine’s

The Nutmeg State has little in the way of on-the-books eco-encouragement, although Kim Trella of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection says the state hopes to launch a program modeled after Maine's in October. Five establishments are already compliant with the federal Energy Star qualifications, which means they are among the top 25 percent of commercial and industrial facilities in the country for energy conservation and efficiency.

Of those, the posh SAYBROOK POINT INN AND SPA earns particular accolades for its energy-efficient lighting, heating, and water-conservation technologies, which include a "heat exchanger" to raise water temperatures while saving heating oil. This 80-room resort (rates start at $279 per night) is located on the Connecticut River; its 250-slip marina has been recognized for its pollution-mitigation practices.

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Related: Eating righteously, It is the heat, 30 ways to have fossil-free fun in Boston this Summer, More more >
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