START BY BOOKING AN ECO-FRIENDLY HOTEL
Reason #1: It's more chic than you'd think.
More modern designers are going green by making stylish, eco-conscious goods. All hotels have to do is stock up!
Proximity Hotel, Greensboro, NC
The lobby looks as trendy as any W Hotel, with dual spiral staircases and mohair sofas. Its 147 rooms are dapper, too, with 10-foot-high ceilings and modern furniture. So how does the Proximity use 39 percent less energy and 33 percent less water than conventional hotels? Not by using scratchy eco-towels. The hotel is green behind the scenes, using smart energy technology. They make the sacrifices so you don't have to. Best of all, bikes are free for all guests; use yours on the town's many public trails. (704 Green Valley Road, proximityhotel.com, 800-379-8200; doubles from $249)
Reason #2: The food is better
Many hotels reduce their carbon footprints by offering locally grown food. (Produce grown far from home arrives via gas-guzzling refrigerated planes and trucks.) The best part: Fresh-from-the-farm cuisine tastes delicious.
Shinn Estate Vineyards & Farmhouse, Mattituck, NY
Stay in this winery-turned-B&B on the North Fork of Long Island and co-owner and chef David Page will cook you and your fellow guests a seasonal breakfast, including sunny-side-up duck eggs and pork belly bacon, cured and smoked on-site. Walk it off with a guided tour of Shinn's grapevines, led by Page's wife, co-owner Barbara Shinn, who will explain her largely organic technique. (2000 Oregon Road, shinnfarmhouse.com, 631-804-0367; doubles from $200, wine tasting, breakfast and afternoon snack included)
Reason #3: The crowd is cooler
Green is glamorous. Direct any skepticism to Leonardo DiCaprio. Hip crowds seek out conscientious hotels that don’t skimp on luxury.
The Palazzo Resort-Hotel-Casino, Las Vegas
You could stay an entire week at the opulent Palazzo without realizing it's one of the greenest hotels on the Strip. Its 3,000-plus suites are among the biggest in town, all with remote-controlled Roman shades and flat-screen TVs (not to mention low-flush toilets and water-efficient showerheads). Admire the beautiful people at the casino and solar-heated swimming pools, then hit up stores and restaurants run by boldfaced names like Diane von Furstenberg, Wolfgang Puck and Mario Batali. (3325 Las Vegas Blvd. S., palazzolasvegas.com, 877-883-6423; doubles from $199)
Reason #4: It's more affordable
Green doesn't have to be fancy. Some hotels smartly decorate with vintage furniture -- the best kind of recycling -- and pass that savings on to you.
Ace Hotel, Portland, OR
Using funky repurposed materials (salvaged claw-foot bathtubs, reclaimed Douglas fir desks) has kept the hotel's design costs down; that's one of the reasons you'll pay just $95 a night. Rooms include murals by local artists, end tables made from stacks of old books and, if you're lucky, an old-school record player. Reward yourself for staying in such a cheap, chic place: Have your picture taken in the vintage-style photo booth in the lobby or sip a cup of coffee at Stumptown Coffee Roasters, an environmentally focused café adjacent to the hotel. (1022 S.W. Stark St., acehotel.com/portland, 503-228-2277; rooms from $95)
- ECO TIPS -- AT HOME AND ON THE GO
- Vacation closer to home to save on gas (and money).
- Flying? Plane fuel is wasted waiting for clearance, so compare airline on-time records at FlightStats.com and book with the best.
- Avoid layovers when flying. The majority of fuel use and harmful emissions occurs during takeoff and landing.
- Eco hotels are often chic and affordable, plus they tend to have good food and a cool crowd. Search The International Ecotourism Society or GreenHotelBookings.com
- Rent a hybrid if you need wheels while traveling. Some hotels, like the Kimpton chain, give discounts if you're driving a fuel-efficient car.
- Don't buy new travel-size products: Refill your old ones before packing for a trip.
- When traveling, use old contact lens cases to hold a few days' worth of hair gel or face cream.
- Hang the Do Not Disturb sign on your hotel door to limit how often housekeeping vacuums and washes linens.
- Neatly hang used towels to alert hotel staff that you're willing to reuse them -- a surefire way to conserve water.
- Instead of eating in fast-food chains on the road, picnic with food bought from farmers' markets.
- Buy a carbon offset from TerraPass to reduce the impact caused by air travel and automobile use.
*Prices and other details were accurate when we published this article in April 2009.