Net zero hotels: six of the best stays for travelers who prioritize sustainability

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(CNN) – As we wind down the last months of 2022 and look ahead to a new year, there’s a buzzword gaining traction in the world of sustainable travel: zero-zero hotels. In other words, accommodations that are powered entirely by renewable energy sources.
With large hotel groups moving at a slow pace to reduce carbon emissions, a few smaller players are taking the lead and tackling the climate challenge head-on, boldly committing to a zero-zero future ahead of government targets.

Forget carbon neutrals. Soon this term will be gone. Net zero goes far beyond paying someone else to offset emissions while still relying on fossil fuels for heating and cooling.

Here’s a look at six hotels and resorts leading the way.

Room 2 Chiswick, London

London Room 2 Chiswick has a biodiverse green roof that absorbs carbon dioxide.

Room 2

Aware of the climate crisis, 2 Room owner Robert Godoy spent two years planning a zero-sum hotel.

This means ripping the carbon footprint from construction to operation of the hotel, which opens in late 2021.

“The result is a hotel that is 89% more energy efficient and shows what can be done.”

Clearly, zero net energy does not mean zero well-being.

At first glance, it might look like just another design hotel, with its terracotta floors, pendant lights, and lush red velvet bar stools.

The giveaways include energy sensors in the rooms and a host of unseen items such as a ground source heat pump, water saving fixtures, and a “blue roof” that turns rainwater into energy. The biodiverse green roof uses 200 tons of soil and wildflowers to absorb carbon dioxide.

Room 2 Chiswick10 Windmill Rd, Chiswick, London, United Kingdom; +44 20 3988 0220

Wren Urban Nest, Dublin

Tucked away on a quiet street between Temple Bar and Trinity College, this newcomer advertises itself as ‘Dublin’s Most Sustainable Accommodation’.

The 137-room capsule hotel, or “nest,” was designed “using advanced carbon-reducing technologies,” says architect Michael Mullen.

“The ventilation system captures 81% of the rejected heat using a heat wheel and heats the incoming fresh air for free,” he adds.

This energy is also used for hot water, while the hotel kitchen inhales the gas. Water conservation and low-waste fixtures make water demand “almost 60% lower than that of an average hotel”.

Take a quick look and you’ll quickly realize that eliminating carbon offsets doesn’t make a design dent. Scandinavian simplicity—wood, bamboo lights, natural colors—meets Irish textiles, furniture, and abundant greenery.

The ‘Cozy’ and ‘Cozy’ bedrooms, measuring 9.5-12 sq m (102-129 sq ft), contain ‘luxury built in’ with impressive energy efficiency. But that doesn’t rule out Chromecast and super-fast WiFi. Or handmade soaps, locally made mugs and rugs, and roasted coffee.

Comfort Hotel Solna, Sweden

In June 2021, Scandinavia welcomed its first certified “zero energy” hotel. The 336-room Comfort Hotel Solna is located just a few miles north of central Stockholm.

The angular building houses 2,500 square meters of colored solar cells, making it “the world’s densest photovoltaic cell”.

“We’re generating enough solar energy to send a Tesla around the world 50 times!” The hotel prides itself on its website. and more than its annual energy needs.

“Nothing is left to chance,” says owner Peter Stordalen. “The elevators are charged as they descend to run the ascent. The building is cooled and heated by heat pumps that bring energy from borehole bearings (underground thermal energy storage).

From the nautical-themed rooms to the industrial-chic Barception (bar reception), this ‘energy efficient’ hotel shows off Nordic design while being relatively easy on the wallet. The light-filled space is outfitted with raw wood and steel, earthy tones, and a bakelite bowl pendant light.

Stadthalle Boutique Hotel, Austria

A sustainable oasis in the heart of Vienna.

A sustainable oasis in the heart of Vienna.

Tina Herzl / Stadthalle Boutique Hotel

Long before hotels started touting their zero-emission benefits, it turns out there was a real zero-emission pioneer in Vienna.

Housed in a turn-of-the-century house surrounded by solar panels and garden beds, the 79-room Boutiquehotel Stadthalle has been powered by solar and other renewable sources since 2009.

“Zero energy balance might not sound exciting for a hotel,” says hotel owner Michaela Ritterer. But our guests think so. About 70% stay because of our ‘green at heart’ vision.

“We generate the same amount of energy per year using our groundwater heat pump, solar panels, and photovoltaic technology as we consume. The excess goes into the grid and sometimes in peak seasons, we source excess renewable energy from the city, such as biomass.”

Quirky rooms feature recycled wine bottle chandeliers, recycled wood furniture, sheep’s bedheads, and Klimt prints. Forget the energy-consuming minibar. Try some piano chords instead.

Breakfast in the inner courtyard “oasis” among pots of herbs, flowers and ivy walls. Above, a lavender ceiling explodes with butterflies and bees.

Described as the “Green Queen” of Vienna, Ritter says she has taken a really long-term view that bets on renewable energies in her quest to “change the world”, starting with the “Stone Age of Sustainability”.

Marcel Hotel, New Haven, Connecticut

The new Marcel New Haven, part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, is a 165-room hotel inside the city’s iconic Pirelli Building that is “powered only by the sun” and fuses a legendary past with a climate-first future.

It operates independently of fossil fuels, resulting in zero carbon emissions.

The hotel is expected to be certified as the first net zero hotel in the United States, while also earning LEED Platinum and Passive House certifications. (Hotel representatives told CNN that the net-zero certification process requires 12 months of third-party verification and monitoring of various systems.)

“Fossil fuels are really 20th century technology, and they’re much more expensive to use now,” says Bruce Baker, the architectural developer responsible for the Hotel Marcel.

“The net zero hotel is really self-sufficient and saves all the energy it uses.”

The brutalist landmark has been transformed using clever building technology, from thermal insulation to an energy recovery system and air source heat pumps that funnel outside air into the interior. Again, this means 80% energy savings, without sacrificing style.

“More than 1,000 solar panels generate all the electricity for the building’s needs,” says Baker.

“Solar panels covering the roof and parking canopies provide 100% of the electricity for lighting, heating and cooling, and electric vehicle charging stations.”

Behind its lattice concrete façade, the Hilton Tapestry Collection features walnut furniture, white terracotta tiles, and Bauhaus geometric print rugs—all custom-made.

The rooms have touch pad controls for temperature control and automatic lighting and shades. Triple-glazed windows and dramatic views of Long Island Sound meet curated art, vintage lights, and wood-paneled walls.

Marcel Hotel500 Sargent Dr, New Haven, CT, United States; +1 203 780 7800

Four Elements Hotel, Amsterdam

Herbs Garden Restaurant at The Four Elements Hotel.

Herbs Garden Restaurant at The Four Elements Hotel.

four elements

This “eco-friendly” hotel on the edge of Amsterdam’s Ejmer Lake crept almost unnoticed in 2019.

A BREEAM-certified building in the city’s Ijburg district, the Four Elements Hotel uses wind turbines to produce energy for air conditioning and heating. A solar chimney harvests energy to heat the water, while a solar façade of gleaming photovoltaic panels converts the energy into electricity.
The idea for “Earth, Wind and Fire” came from engineer Dr. Ben Pronsima, who found African termite mounds maintain the same temperature during extreme weather conditions by opening and closing doors to create “natural air conditioning”.

Green has never looked so sexy as it does in the upstairs Wind Sky bar, with its recycled wood banquettes, exposed piping, orange sheets and peacock blue fabrics. Meanwhile, Herbs Garden reimagines traditional fermentation, preservation, pickling, and smoking.

The decor of the 195 rooms is also a warm Dutch glaze. Behind the moss-covered figures are salvaged wood floors, repurposed brass headboards, and architectural lighting.

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