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A look at Kimpton Hotels' EarthCare program

Green on the Road

Feel good about your carbon footprint when you stay at one of these eco-conscious D.C. hotels.

When you work hard to go green at home, staying at a hotel can often feel like a major environmental step backward. While certain practices— such as installing energy-efficient lightbulbs and trying to conserve water by lightening laundry loads—are pretty much industry standard, some hotels have gone above and beyond in their efforts toward eco-friendliness.

Kimpton Hotels, which has 11 properties scattered around the D.C. area—in Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, downtown, Capitol Hill and Alexandria— is one of those green overachievers. The chain’s EarthCare program is a comprehensive strategy that includes everything from placing recycle bins and organic fair-trade coffee in each guest room to using non-toxic cleaning products.

“There’s tons of low-hanging fruit that everyone does,” said Ed Virtue, general manager of D.C.’s Hotel Monaco. “It’s what you do above that that makes a difference.”

And the EarthCare program certainly has made a difference—the chain has eliminated the equivalent of 974 bathtubs of toxins each year with its cleaning product choices, and saved more than 250 trees per year by relying solely on recycled paper. Water and energy use are big savers, too—each guest bathroom is equipped with a low-flow showerhead, water-efficient toilet and a sink faucet aerator to cut down on water use. Almost all of the D.C.-area hotels operate under a technologically-advanced energy management system that automatically senses when a guest room is unoccupied and adjusts the temperature accordingly.

Even the buildings themselves are recycled—most of the hotels are located in sensitively adapted older buildings. The Hotel Monaco, for instance, occupies the neoclassical 19th-century General Post Office and Tariff Building in downtown D.C. The hotels’ restaurants are in on the act, too, serving locally-sourced, seasonal and organic fare—sometimes even growing herbs and vegetables in on-site gardens, as at the Hotel Monaco’s restaurant, Poste.

Given that Kimpton hotels are known for being a bit quirky (guest rooms are stocked with animal-print robes; the front desk will deliver a goldfish to your room if you want a temporary pet), it’s not surprising that they’ve come up with some creative ways to encourage guests to go green. If you arrive in a hybrid car, for instance, you can get discounted or even free parking. Some choices are made for you—you won’t find a phone book in your room; rather, each hotel has one copy at the front desk available on request.

Although Kimpton hopes its guests will embrace its green policies, they’re not in-your-face about it. Rather, they see it as merely a continuation of the way people live at home.

“I know when I go to a hotel that doesn’t have a recycling bin, I feel bad throwing things in the trash,” Virtue said. “If you do the right thing at home, you want to be able to do the right thing [when you travel].”

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