Where the organic flowers grow: bed & breakfasts get serious about the environment.
"We have an energy-saving furnace, we reuse our towels, we compost, we recycle as much as possible, we use environmentally friendly cleaning products and we never use disposable dishes," says Pat Samuel, who became an innkeeper 11 years ago. Unlike hotel owners, the Samuels live alongside their guests and can directly influence the extent to which their lodgers conserve.
Some practices work better than others. "We get a lot of cooperation with the towel reuse," Samuel says, "but not as much with recycling stuff."
Taking Green Steps
Unlike traditional hotels, it's fairly easy for a b&b to institute environmental practices. And as Allison DeCongelio of travel website BnBfinder.com notes, a lot are opting to go energy-efficient, organic and otherwise Earth-friendly, even if just to capitalize on the green living trend. "Even if guests aren't practicing environmentalists," says DeCongelio, "they are interested to see what places are doing. One inn has cooking classes using ingredients produced by its organic farm, another offers [green] workshops. Guests are interested to see what the b&bs are offering, and what they can do at home."
Homemade country breakfasts and seasonal, gourmet dining are always a part of the draw, and it's in the menu that many b&bs are choosing to take environmental initiative. The Graycote Inn serves organic coffee and supports Maine farmers by making breakfast with wild blueberries and locally grown buckwheat.
The chef at Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis, North Carolina, is instrumental in maintaining a mostly local, organic menu at that b&b. "Our chef, Ed Winebarger, is very oriented toward organic," says general manager Gaetano Siano. Not only do the vegetable and flower gardens, stretching over a quarter of an acre, provide a colorful, lush landscape for guests to wander, but the fresh lettuce, spinach, peas, beets, basil, raspberries, squash, beans and tomatoes wind up in creative combination at the Inn's gourmet restaurant. In fact, the historic inn's garden supplies about 25 to 30 percent of what's used in the kitchen, Siano says.
The Mast Farm Inn staff also uses nontoxic cleaning materials, he adds, recycles and composts about 65 percent of its kitchen waste (from bottles to coffee grounds), and donates its used cooking oil to the Appalachian State University technology department to be converted to biodiesel.
Leaving the (Green) Light On
Travelers have a tendency to come and go at all hours, so how a b&b handles its lighting can have a significant impact on the environment. "One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reduce energy costs and greenhouse emissions is to replace the regular incandescent light bulbs with super-efficient compact fluorescent lights [CFLs]" says Leora Sheridan, innkeeper at Crozet, Virginia's Montfair Resort Farm, which offers eco-friendly cabins, complementary house mountain bikes and organic, shade-grown coffee and teas. The inn uses only CFL bulbs and, according to Leora, they "give off the same warm light, but are much more energy efficient."
In Santa Rosa, California, the Melitta Station Inn is so serious about its energy efficiency that it offers "Environmental Weekends" for small business owners to learn how to save energy. And the b&b practices what it preaches. The English-style inn is fully powered by a large solar electric array. Working areas use Solartube daylight pipes and all the rooms boast high-efficiency fluorescent lights. The ecofriendly attitude and hard work makes it easy for guests to support worthy b&bs that serve a little environmental enlightenment along with their fresh-baked muffins.
CONTACTS: BnBFinder, www.bnb finder.com/EcoFriendly; The Graycote Inn, (207) 288-3044, www.graycoteinn .com; Mast Farm Inn, (828) 963-5857, www.mastfarminn.com; Montfair Resort Farm, (434) 823-5202, www.mont fairresortfarm.com; Melitta Station Inn, (707) 538-7712, www.melittastationinn.com.
BRITA BELLI is managing editor of E.