I took off work on Friday, September 10, to have a 3-day weekend with my wife visiting a research center in Virginia Beach. After consulting Virginia's green lodging Web site, my wife and I jotted down nearly a dozen participating hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts not far from the research center. We checked rates and availability and were surprised to find many of the hotels with no vacancies. Little did we know that Virginia Beach was observing September 11th with a parade, and a lot of people were in town. Fortunately, the one place both my wife and I liked had availability and we made reservations for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
The hotel where we stayed is a five-story, motel-type inn, with the room door opening to an outside walkway on each floor. When I entered the room, I checked all of the light fixtures (yes, I'm odd in that way). Incandescent light bulbs were in all the sockets. However, when I flushed the toilet, I heard this "whoosh" and knew instantly that the flushing action was being assisted by air pressure, reducing considerably the amount of water being used. Raising the toilet tank cover confirmed this: there were two air tanks inside.
An imposing statue of King Neptune stands guard on the Virginia Beach boardwalk, as if saying to visitors and local residents alike that they WILL conserve water—the precious natural resource he protects—or incur his wrath.
I spoke to Brian, the property manager, the next morning. He said that in addition to the water-conserving toilets, all rooms had water-conserving showerheads and sink aerators. The inn purchases paper products made from recycled paper, he asserted. Sure enough, "From 100% recycled paper" was proudly printed on the tissue box and toilet paper wrapper in our room. Brian admitted that they weren't totally green, but were making efforts to improve. I suggested looking into more environmentally friendly alternatives to the Styrofoam cups offered in the reception area.
I mentioned that our room had only incandescent light bulbs. He immediately pulled out a box of compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs from behind the counter, and explained that they had already started to convert interior lighting to CFLs. Outside each inn door I noticed were four-prong integral (not the screw-in type) CFLs. Since they don't have conventional sockets, these integral types can only accept CFL replacement bulbs, not incandescents. This ensures that someone later will not replace them with incandescent bulbs after they burn out, and I would think that they are also less likely to be stolen. Brian added that they are looking at improving the outdoor lighting further by adding photo sensors.
Brian explained that they bought 26 new efficient heat pumps 2 years ago, and 13 new ones this year.
The hotel offers a linen reuse program to its travelers with Save the Planet doorknob signs. We opted to get clean wash cloths each day, but reuse the sheets and towels.
Unlike fancy hotels with large glamorous reception areas, convention and meeting rooms, and other amenities where you can see energy waste all around, this was a cozy motel that didn't have large energy guzzling items to begin with. Moreover, they were making efforts to cut down further on their environmental footprint.
There are plenty of other lodging facilities in Virginia Beach participating in the Virginia Green Lodging program, from small bed and breakfasts, to large, luxurious chain hotels. Some may ask the question: Does going green mean spending a lot of green? It certainly doesn't have to. Our total lodging bill for three nights over a long weekend in September was very reasonable.
My wife and I enjoyed the ocean and beach while we were there and want to return. I want to go back to the research center as well. We were happy to be able to stay in green lodging and learn more about their efforts to save energy.
John Lippert is an employee of Energy Enterprise Solutions, a contractor for EERE. He assists with technical reviews of content on the Consumer Guide Web site.