Can Luxury Really Be Green?
As the co-owner of the Green Leaf Inn, a green luxury boutique hotel being built and billed as the first net-zero energy hotel in North America – I am at a cross-roads in my green visions. How do I walk the line which continues to be drawn between luxury and ethical green standards? My current dilemma; water conservation…
Americans use anywhere from 80 to 100 gallons of water a day – most without even thinking about it. Awareness is growing though, and changes are beginning to be made in energy production, manufacturing and building construction, even personal behavior in this country. We are behind most other countries in our awareness – Australia and Japan are already well into a crisis and are working on solutions. But I do see a real concern starting to grow here, and with that, hopefully a revolution in water saving technologies to follow.
At the Green Leaf Inn, we are doing well when it comes to re-use as well as the reuse of the water’s thermal energy. In-ground heat pump systems, in-ground water reservoir tanks, thermal storage units, radiant heat, grey water re-use, rain gardens, aerobic sewage treatment – all of these systems will be present at the inn and teachable to those who want to learn about them. But what can we do to actually limit the amount of water used? After all, we are promoting ourselves as a luxury boutique hotel. We can talk about limiting the amount of water all of us use each day in our personal lives, but what are we to do when it comes to our guests – time everyone’s showers? Allow them a maximum in water usage and no more? The guest bathroom is a danger zone for water conservation.
Everyone right now is touting low-flow shower heads – as well as faucets. This is what every hotel must install to limit guest water use. But do you realize that these are nothing more than slightly updated versions of the familiar faucet aerator – which has been around for decades? I am happy that these new improved versions help reduce water use by providing a smaller gallon-per-minute flow than their ancestors. However, one has to wonder why more advances have yet to be made.
The only significant new product I have found on the market comes from Delta with their new H2Okinetic™ technology; producing plumped-up water droplets in a unique and dense wave-like spray pattern, thereby creating a feeling of more water than a standard shower. What I really like is that this technology is available for various price points, from the low-end consumer to the high-end user, providing everyone with something of interest. Strangely enough for many manufacturers, it seems that the high-end user gets the absolutely amazingly beautiful fixtures, but they’re rarely green. Luxury versus green…again.
Now let’s look at faucets. The latest technology was first introduced for the commercial market and the public bathroom; the no-touch faucet that automatically goes on and off, sensing your hands as they come closer to the faucet. This is a concept that delights and annoys me greatly – depending on how hard a time I have getting the faucet to go on despite my ever-waiting, suds-up hands. So when I saw that, again, Delta has this available in higher end consumer faucets – with Touch20.xt Technology, I took a close look at the reviews. So far, mostly positive, so I’m impressed. And although I would like to see the water be able to automatically turn off in less than one minute if left on unattended, it’s better than many, many minutes of pouring water going down the drain. Though both Kohler and Moen have touch free technology for kitchen faucets, search as I might, I found nothing so far for the bathroom. However, all three companies deliver low-flow technology for both shower and faucet.
And now let’s turn to the proverbial white elephant in the room when it comes to bathroom luxury… the hot tub. Although I still question whether hot tubs and green can truly come together, I realize that sometimes, luxury has to come first. After all, as hoteliers, we are all concerned, first and foremost, with the guest experience. But here again comes the issue at hand; are we being false, billing ourselves as a green hotel while offering something that consumes gallons and gallons of water simply for pleasure? Fortunately we found MTI Baths and their Air Bath offers us a modicum of green relief. Check out our earlier blog, Green Choice in Hot Tubs, for more details.
I close by standing on my small soap box… Four out of ten people on the planet are already affected by the lack of clean water. It is our hope that more hotels, industries and consumers across the world will embrace the conservation of water, and institute important practices not only in their work place, but in their lives.
We fully intend the Green Leaf Inn to be a place of luxury AND conservation, and are determined to show people that the two together are not incompatible.