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8 Earth-friendly hotels to book for a more sustainable vacation

April 19, 2021
10 min read
Austin Proper Hotel & Residences, Austin, Texas
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With travelers reawakening after pandemic hibernation, new priorities are coming into focus, with safety and privacy major concerns for many.

Still, sustainable and eco-friendly travel is gaining importance as travelers become more selective in their post-pandemic travels. According to a recent American Express Travel Global Trends Report, 68 percent of consumers say they are trying to be more aware of sustainability-friendly travel brands to support. An easy way to ensure your hotel is not harming the Earth: to seek out one that is LEED-certified.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Run by the United States Green Building Council, it provides a framework for highly efficient, sustainable and cost-saving green buildings. All building types, including both new and renovated buildings, can gain LEED certification, which comes in the levels of Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum, based on a points system, plus the new LEED Zero, which is for projects with net-zero goals in carbon and/or resources.

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LEED started its certification with just 19 buildings in a pilot program in 1998. As of November 2019, there were more than 100,000 registered and certified LEED commercial projects around the world, with more than 76,000 in North America and more than 6,000 in both Europe and East Asia. The first hotel to be certified was the Kandalama Hotel in Sri Lanka in 2000. In 2008, the Proximity in Greensboro, N.C., became the first LEED Platinum-certified hotel in the U.S. Since then, the numbers have only grown: Today, there are 2,000 LEED-certified hotels, with more than 1,200 of them in the U.S.

As you begin to book hotels for future travel plans, consider making a stay at a LEED-certified hotel a priority — and use your points to reserve your room. Here are some of our favorite LEED-certified points and rewards hotels across the globe.

Related: 9 of the most beautiful sustainable destinations around the world

1. Kimpton Hotel Born, Denver, Colorado

(Photo courtesy of the Kimpton Hotel Born)

In the center of Denver’s LoDo neighborhood adjacent to the revitalized Union Station, Hotel Born is LEED silver certified as a new construction hotel. Among other initiatives, it has reduced water usage, water-efficient landscaping, innovative wastewater technologies, onsite renewable energy, recycled content and regional materials used in construction, and public transportation access thanks to its location by the city’s transportation hub. Thankfully, the 200-room hotel doesn’t skimp on looks or amenities either, with an original art collection of nearly 700 pieces by local artists, Alpine-inspired textiles, and one of the city’s best restaurants (Tavernetta, from the lauded team behind Boulder’s Friuli Food and Wine). Use your IHG loyalty points to book a room at Kimpton Hotel Born.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to IHG Rewards Club

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Rooms start at 34,000 IHG Rewards points per night for a standard room.

2. Austin Proper Hotel & Residences, Austin, Texas

(Photo courtesy of the Austin Proper Hotel & Residences)

This chic Kelly Wearstler-designed property is the first luxury LEED Gold-certified hotel in the Austin area. Opened in December 2019, the 244-room hotel utilizes reclaimed irrigation systems, in-building chilled water loops, centralized boilers, low-VOC paints, energy-efficient LED lights, and insulated dual-pane windows that save energy and block UV. Those eco-friendly features combined with the impossibly chic design, superior culinary offerings, sunny pool deck, deluxe spa and fitness center, and panoramic views of Lady Bird Lake make this hotel a winner on multiple levels. Austin Proper is part of Design Hotels, which is part of the Marriott Bonvoy rewards system.

Related: How to redeem points with the Marriott Bonvoy program

Rooms start at 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night for a king room.

3. Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, San Juan, Puerto Rico

(Photo courtesy of the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino/Marriott)

This Sheraton, which is bookable with Marriott Bonvoy points, is the first hotel in Puerto Rico to achieve LEED certification. The hotel is equipped with a “cool roof,” which lowers the building’s temperature and saves energy in the island’s tropical weather. There is also a closed-loop system that converts food waste to fertilizer, which is used in the hotel’s garden, and a water filter system that traps sediment so it can run clean water into the sea. Guests can enjoy the fourth-floor sundeck with infinity pool and a view of the Bay of San Juan, along with several dining options, a world-class casino, and a full-service spa.

Related: 17 ways to earn lots of Marriott Bonvoy points

Rooms start at 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night for a traditional room.

4. Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, California

(Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills/Facebook)

Hilton Honors members can use their points to book a luxurious room at the LEED gold-certified Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills. When it debuted in January 2018, the property’s structural accomplishments included a greywater system that processes 1,500 gallons of harvested greywater from the hotel’s showers, bathtubs and bathroom sinks every day, which is then used to feed the property’s landscaping. The hotel also has a cool roof, underground parking, and expansive vegetated open space to cool the ambient temperature, resulting in reduced urban heat islands and cooling needs. And, the building features advanced data systems and building analytics that constantly monitor functionality to consistently save energy. Guests can indulge in the La Prairie Spa, multiple Jean-Georges restaurants and lounges, and posh rooms designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to Hilton Honors

Rooms start at 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night for a standard room.

5. ITC Maurya, New Delhi, India

(Photo courtesy of ITC Maurya/Marriott)

Since 2009, ITC Hotels, which is part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection (making them bookable with Marriott Bonvoy points), has focused on responsible luxury and devoted its properties to the green building movement in India. Consequently, it is one of the largest green hotel chains in the world to achieve LEED platinum certification for all of its luxury properties in the country. While many of the brand’s hotels are new constructions, New Delhi’s ITC Maurya is the first hotel in the world to have been awarded a platinum rating under LEED’s existing building program. It operates a private biogas plant as part of its efforts to recycle and reuse 99 percent of solid waste—organic material is converted into manure. Natural materials like stone, silk and sustainably harvested wood are used in the design, indoor air quality exceeds globally prescribed levels, and the roof is painted with a special paint that has a high solar reflective index that allows for cooler indoor temperatures.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to Marriott Bonvoy

Rooms start at 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night for an Executive Club room.

6. Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, Maui, Hawaii

(Photo courtesy of the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa)

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa lets you book a room with World of Hyatt points and it is one of only two LEED Gold resorts in Hawaii and was one of the first in the world to earn the certification. The resort has implemented sustainability initiatives in various categories including food and food waste, water, materials and recycling, renewable energy and energy efficiency, ocean and landscape, indoor air quality and green cleaning, staff training and community efforts, and transportation. The hotel was recently awarded the U.S. Green Building Council TRUE Waste Precertification award, which recognizes facilities that have defined and achieved their zero waste goals. It is the first resort in Hawaii and the first large-scale beach resort in the world to achieve this award.

Related: The complete guide to World of Hyatt Guest of Honor awards

Rooms start at 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night for a standard room.

7. Conrad Manila, Pasay City, Philippines

(Photo courtesy of the Conrad Manila)

This LEED Gold-certified hotel with a futuristic-looking gleaming white facade is a member of Hilton Honors, making it an easy choice for Hilton loyalists. The 347-room hotel has occupancy sensors that automatically switch off lights and reduce ventilation rates in unoccupied rooms; tinted low-emissivity insulated glass; dual-flush toilets and low-flow plumbing and irrigation fixtures; and during its construction, more than 80 percent of the waste created was recycled. The hotel also has a “Mindful Meetings” initiative that replaces plastic water bottles with water served in carafes, uses succulents instead of flowers as centerpieces, and serves dried fruits instead of candies in plastic wrappers, which has helped it earn a Green MICE Hotel Award.

Related: How to redeem points with the Hilton Honors program

Rooms start at 36,000 Hilton Honors points per night for a standard room.

8. The Nines, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Portland, Oregon

(Photo courtesy of The Nines/Facebook)

Use your Marriott Bonvoy points at this Luxury Collection hotel in downtown Portland that has LEED Silver certification. Not only is the hotel part of a carbon offset program with 100 percent of its energy coming from renewable resources, but it also has low-flow faucets and dual flush toilets and energy-saving thermostats. Plus, a recent renovation used low-emitting adhesives, sealants, paints and carpets, and 90 percent of the construction waste was diverted from landfills for reuse or recycling. Even the culinary program benefits from the green initiatives: A rooftop garden shared by the two on-site restaurants, Urban Farmer and Departure, features a mushroom incubator, a honeybee farm and an herb garden.

Related: What is Marriott Bonvoy elite status worth in 2021?

Rooms start at 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of the Austin Proper Hotel & Residences)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.