Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New hotels: part of going green

As the valley's cities and residents contemplate how to reduce their carbon footprints and contain sprawl, they should look to new resort hotels in Ketchum.

Despite the apparent Band Aid approach of door hangers in modern hotels that exhort visitors to save water and the planet by air drying and reusing linens, well-located and well-built hotels can genuinely be considered green development, particularly in resort areas like ours.

With their high densities—hundreds of visitors packed into relatively small areas of land—compact hotels use land frugally compared to other kinds of development that tend to sprawl and to under-use land and buildings.

Hotels have a high space utilization rate compared to other kinds of resort accommodations. Good hoteliers are professionals at marketing and attracting successive groups of visitors. Rooms and suites do not sit idle for months at a time consuming energy just to keep the plumbing from freezing and the lawns green. This makes them a good use of the timbers, bricks, metal and glass that go into their construction.

In this age of travelers with short time frames, who want to pack as much into a day as possible, the best hotels are well located relative to an area's attractions. Thus, hotels served by buses and taxis—or better yet, footpaths that lead to area attractions and shopping—can cut carbon emissions by reducing the need for visitors to drive cars after they arrive. No one, but no one, wants to spend a vacation driving in unfamiliar territory if they don't have to.

Unlike other developments in the Wood River Valley to date, modern destination hotels are more likely to house employees on site or nearby. That reduces the need for employees to commute great distances to and from work—count more carbon savings.

Thoughtful and conscientious hotel owners will also want to incorporate energy savings into their designs. Use of solar or geothermal technology could well turn into marketing bonuses as global warming persists, because they will allow hotels to reach out to the growing numbers of environmentally conscious travelers who generally have no desire to contribute to the destruction of the beautiful places they visit.

Acknowledging the green benefits of new hotels will require a shift of consciousness in local residents who today act and speak as though new hotels in Ketchum will be the end of life on Earth.

In fact, well-planned new hotels in Ketchum and at the base of the ski mountain may well be the beginning of a better, more compact, and eco-friendly way of doing business in resort towns.

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