Beyond Green: Sleep in a Recycled Hotel

Sustainable practices including energy conservation meet a new era in over-the-top accommodations.
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How would you like to spend the night in a 15,000-liter wine barrel? Or perhaps you'd prefer to make your home-away-from-home in an old drain pipe.

These unique lodging options aren't just quirky -- they're also environmentally friendly. And they're part of a growing array of green lodging options that range from the mundane to the bizarre. Here's a look at the latest in green lodging options around the globe for travelers of all stripes.

Reduce, Reuse...

Hotels worldwide are adopting sustainable practices including energy and water conservation, waste reduction and environmental-education programs for staff and guests.


Devil's Thumb Ranch

in Tabernash, Colo., guests can enjoy 5,000 acres of what the resort calls "Raw Colorado." The ranch itself, which consists of one main lodge and 16 cabins, sits on just 1% of the property, giving guests easy access to untouched forest, meadow and streams in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.

The Broad Axe Barn, the ranch's space for weddings and events, was built with beams from a Civil War-era barn in Indiana. And the property uses environmentally friendly geothermal heating and cooling systems. Doubles start at $245 a night.

There's only one environmentally friendly way to dispose of used cooking oil in Juneau, Alaska:

The Westmark Baranof Hotel

. The hotel collects used cooking oil from area restaurants and mixes it with regular heating oil to heat the property. (Restaurants that don't send their leftover oil to the Baranof must ship it to the lower 48 states, a very expensive alternative.) Doubles start at $119 a night.

All of the herbs and seasonings used to prepare the gourmet fare at

Spice Island Beach Resort

in Grenada are grown on the resort property. This luxury resort takes its commitment to the environment seriously, using solar hot water heaters, maintaining a chlorine-free swimming pool and grinding up leftover guest soaps to use as laundry detergent for staff uniforms. Doubles start at $850 a night.

Heritance Kandalama

was built in the Sri Lankan rainforest without cutting down any trees. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, for this five-star luxury resort's sustainability initiatives.

To minimize disruption of water flow and wildlife migrations, the hotel sits atop a raised platform. Its water comes from deep wells and rainwater collectors and is heated by the sun. Wastewater is recycled and used to water the gardens.

The Heritance Kandalama was built in the Sri Lankan rainforest without cutting down any trees.

Heritance Kandalama owns and protects 180 acres of surrounding rainforest, including the nearby Eco Park -- a 10-minute walk from the hotel -- which houses a wildlife orphanage and an elephant-dung papermaking facility. Doubles start at $140 a night.

The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa

in Kauai, Hawaii, has reduced its annual energy consumption by more than 1.5 million kilowatt hours and switched to renewable energy, such as its solar panel-covered carport, which produces 430,000 kWh of electricity per year. The hotel uses the heat produced by its air-conditioning system to heat the water used in guestrooms, swimming pools and laundry facilities. Doubles start at $350 a night.

...and Recycle

Some hotel operators are taking green to a totally new level by offering rooms -- and entire hotels -- made of recycled or re-purposed materials.


DasPark Hotel

in Austria, you can sleep in a drain pipe. Each "room" is equipped with electricity, a double bed, a skylight and a plug for Internet connection. (One drawback: Bathrooms are in the main building.) The price for this unique opportunity is flexible: The hotel asks guests to "pay as they wish." Payments typically range from 7 to 20 euros ($9 to $27), and some guests leave small gifts as well.

For a classier option, check out the four wine-cask rooms at

Hotel De Vrouwe van Stavoren

, in Stavoren, Holland. The Swiss casks -- each of which is now equipped with two beds, a TV and a private bath -- once contained Beaujolais wine. Wine-cask rooms start at $135 a night, double occupancy. (Your dog can stay with you for an additional $9.)

For a more traditional-looking hotel, book a stay at the new


in Uxbridge, England. The hotel is made entirely of used shipping containers but looks just like any budget hotel. Rates start at $29 a night.

Finding Your Own Green Lodging

To find more eco-friendly options, talk to your travel agent or check out the following Web sites:

  • "Green" Hotels Association lists member hotels worldwide.
  • Environmentally Friendly Hotels rates hotels on a scale of one to seven green trees. The ratings are based on a number of green attributes including the use of alternative energy, the presence of guestroom recycling bins and options for eco-friendly or organic food.
  • Eco Hotels of the World uses a green-star ratings system to evaluate a hotel's efforts in energy conservation, water conservation, waste reduction, environmental action and production. To be evaluated by Eco Hotels, a hotel must first fulfill a series of criteria including ecological sustainability, a proven contribution to conservation, an economic and cultural commitment to the local community and the availability of environmental-education programs.

Kelsey Abbott is a freelance writer in Freeport, Maine, where she lives with her husband and their dog.