Interest in eco-friendly, sustainable travel continues to soar. In a 2021 Booking.com survey, 61 percent of respondents said that the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future. A 2021 survey by upscale travel company Virtuoso echoed the same sentiment; 82 percent of respondents said they want to travel more responsibly in the future.
That got us thinking. Are there any resorts in New England that truly walk the talk when it comes to sustainability? Are there resorts that go beyond putting out the little card that asks you to save the environment by reusing your towels and foregoing new, changed sheets? Yes, there are! Here’s a short roundup of five of our favorite eco-friendly resorts in New England.
The Glen House
Views of the expansive White Mountain National Forest and the jagged Presidential Mountain Range take center stage at this rustic chic chalet set at the base of Mount Washington. Who could remain cavalier about the environment with these in-your-face vistas? Thankfully, not the folks at The Glen House, an award-winning, LEED-certified property.
The 68-room hotel, with natural Shaker-inspired furnishings, a Great Room with floor-to-ceiling windows, an indoor saltwater pool, and a restaurant, takes stewardship of the land seriously. Some highlights include a geothermal system that provides heating and cooling throughout the hotel, hydro generators that supply electrical energy, and elevators with a regenerative system that supplies additional energy. There’s LED lighting throughout the hotel, and the outdoor lighting is “Dark Sky Compliant,” preserving the night sky. Even the outdoor fire pit is designed to maintain the Class I air quality standard found in the Great Gulf Wilderness area.
But the best part of a stay at The Glen House? Acres of wilderness, dotted with lakes, sliced by streams and crisscrossed with trails, is at your doorstep. 603-466-3420, www.theglenhouse.com
Saybrook Point Resort & Marina
Old Saybrook, Conn.
This historic, upscale waterfront resort, where the Connecticut River empties into Long Island Sound, has received a host of awards and piled-on recognition for its sustainable practices. It’s one of only 400 Energy Star rated properties in the country. It’s the first Green Lodging Certified Hotel in Connecticut, the first recipient of the Clean Marina Award in Connecticut, and a longstanding member of the Green Spa Network. The resort even offers behind-the-scenes tours of its energy-saving mechanics, like the geomatrix soil and air system, water recycling systems, a solar and heat pump system, bio-fuel backup generator, and a cogeneration plant that reduces their presence on the grid by 50 percent. Focus on sustainability carries throughout the hotel, with eco-friendly products, a well-established recycling program, and a strong focus on locally sourced cuisine.
While they manage the techno details (they have a designated Green Team), you can relax in one of the 82 spacious, sunlit Main Hotel rooms, stretch out in one of the larger guest houses or splurge on the Lighthouse Suite, with all-around water views. Spend your days swimming in two saltwater pools (heated by recycled excess energy), visiting the spa, with a sauna, steam room, and whirlpool, and sipping cocktails at the Marina Bar, watching mega yachts come and go. 860-395-2000, www.saybrook.com
“We’re a utopian feat of sustainable engineering within a big, beautifully wrapped box of hospitality.” So reads the website of this reimagined boutique hotel, which, when it opens this spring, will be the first net zero energy hotel in the United States.
“We will be an all-electric property, no fossil fuel will be used in the hotel, even in the kitchen and laundry,” says Susan Norz, director of sales and marketing. “Our 1,000 solar panels will allow us to be self-sustaining.”
The design world has been buzzing about this re-make of Bauhaus-trained Marcel Breuer’s 1967 brutalist building, which sat vacant for years. The massive, nine-story concrete building has been transformed into a luxury 165-room hotel, flooded with light and behind-the-scenes, technology. Rooms are clean and crisp, with soothing, neutral palettes, and include custom furnishings, like Breuer Cesca chairs, sustainable bedding, and touch-panel room controls for lighting and window blackout shades. Downtown New Haven and Yale University are about two miles away. 203-780-7800, www.hotelmarcel.com
Inn by the Sea
Cape Elizabeth, Maine
On an early morning walk along the boardwalks at the luxurious Inn by the Sea resort, you may see clusters of endangered Monarch butterflies flitting from plant to plant and hear the chorus of song birds perched in nearby bushes and trees. Tree frogs may be honking, and bugs are surely buzzing around the swaying sea grasses. This place is alive! But it wasn’t always the case. At one time, invasive plant species had overtaken this fragile oceanfront landscape in southern Maine, crowding out indigenous plants and decreasing native species’ habitat. It was the commitment of the folks at Inn by the Sea, working with the Department of Conservation and other state agencies, that helped restore the landscape.
Today, guests can take a tour of the restored Rabitat, planted with native shrubs suited to help endangered New England cottontail rabbits, and the resort’s butterfly gardens. They can also visit the inn’s borrowed herd of goats and watch as they munch on invasive Japanese Knotweed at Crescent Beach State Park.
“It’s entertaining for guests and gives us a teaching moment during our Beach Ecology Walks to talk about the importance of native plants for the survival of local wildlife,” says Rauni Kew, public relations and green program manager.
Other sustainable initiatives include a robust recycling and composting program, the use of clean, unfiltered water from Lake Sebago, and seven EV charging stations. The restaurant focuses on local, farm-to-table cuisine, including offering underutilized and sustainable seafood from the Gulf of Maine. Added bonus at this do-good property: the lodging and amenities are topnotch. 207-799-3134, www.innbythesea.com
Maine Huts & Trails
Some 80 miles of trails connect four off-the-grid lodges in Maine’s western mountains, dedicated to promoting low carbon footprints (and fun outdoor play). Solar panel systems power the huts (one even feeds back into the grid), efficient wood stoves provide heat, a wood gasification boiler supplies hot water, and composting toilets provide fertilizer for the gardens.
The huts are available for rent to families and groups during the spring, summer, and fall. In the winter you can cross-country ski, fat bike, or snowshoe into one lodge or string together a multi-day trip, visiting more than one lodge (or all of them); each lodge is within a day’s ski, bike, or hike from another. After a day spent outdoors, the rustic but comfy lodge is a welcome sight, where you’ll find a hearty meal (offered Thursday through Saturday), hot showers, common rooms with vaulted ceilings and walls of windows, and heated bunkrooms. It’s about as comfy as you can get living off the grid, and the scenic wilderness setting is sure to recharge your own batteries. 207-265-2400, www.mainehuts.org
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org