(NaturalNews) More and more hotels are billing themselves as "eco- friendly," in response to a growing consumer desire to make more ethical purchasing decisions.
Eleven hotels in the United States have already been certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program of the U.S. Green Building Council. The Gaia Napa Valley Hotel in American Canyon, Calif., for example, uses special tubes to magnify sunlight into its hallways and conference room, creating life so bright that one customer complained about the excessive energy consumption before being informed that no electricity was being used at all.
"This is the best investment in the whole hotel," Gaia developer Wen Chang said. "This is just natural light."
Each solar magnifying window cost $258.
In addition to its architecture, the hotel also features resource-conserving practices such as cleaning its windows with vinegar instead of chemicals, and dispensing shampoo and soap from large, permanent containers instead of disposable plastic bottles.
Another 314 of the United States' 47,000 hotels have been Energy Star certified for electricity conservation measures. But the trend of eco-marketing goes far beyond such certification programs.
"It's a phenomenon that has really started to take off in the last year, year and a half, but there are many hoteliers that have been green-minded for years," said Glenn Hasek, publisher of the Web site "Green Lodging News."
"The fact that there's a relatively low number of certified hotels is by no means a true reflection of how many hotels are actively pursuing energy or water conservation."
Many hotels and hotel chains have adopted practices such as the use of nontoxic cleaners, printing their materials with soy ink on recycled paper, and making recycling bins available in every room. Hotel restaurants and mini-bars are more likely to feature organic or natural foods, snacks and even toothpastes than ever before.
Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in San Francisco and Washington even offer $869 per night "eco- chic" suites, which comes stocked with organic wine and are decorated with organic materials. The price includes the use of a luxury hybrid car.