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The Hotel Solamar, in Downtown San Diego Leads the Way
 for One of the Greenest Hotel Rooms in the City
By Mike Menninger, The Daily Aztec, San DiegoMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Apr. 10, 2008 - People change their bed sheets about once every two weeks or so. It's been a common practice at hotels and resorts for years to have a member of the housekeeping staff change the linens in a room every morning.

Hotels are supposed to be a home away from home, and some have decided to stop swapping sheets every day to better reflect that idea, as well as to help the environment. Going green is the trendy thing to do these days, and trendy hotels are looking to keep up.

Leading the way in downtown San Diego is the Hotel Solamar, where $230 will buy you a night's stay in one of the greenest hotel rooms in the city. One of the backbones of the hotel's eco-friendly efforts, which helped it win the 2006 National GeoTourism Award, is its linen conservation program. The sheets are changed every third day or if a guest makes a request. This reduces the number of daily washings, energy use and detergent.

A guest can still feel like they've helped make a difference just by being in the room. Hotel Solamar provides teas and coffee that are either organic or shade-grown.

Laundry and linens are cleaned with eco-friendly products, not bleach, and are transported via recycled pillow cases. Rooms are fixed with energy-efficient bulbs and low-flow showers, toilets and faucets. Even the honor bar gets in on the action, offering organic snacks and drinks.

The hotel has in-room designer recycling bins. It even extends to the check-in and checkout service, which is completely paper-free. And when something needs to be printed, it's done on recycled paper with soy based ink. In addition to the exemplary accommodations, Hotel Solamar integrates its green initiatives into all the events and meetings it hosts.

Meeting rooms are filled with plants and flowers and serve artisan cheeses, free-range meats and organically grown fruits and vegetables, along with a selection of organic wine and beer. Hotel Solamar isn't forced to sacrifice the style and sophistication of a boutique hotel with its EarthCare program, so a stay there can be bit pricey.

If travelers are looking for an eco-friendly place to stay, they might want to try the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina, located on Harbor Island. Like Hotel Solamar, the Sheraton has fixed its rooms with compact fluorescent light bulbs and low-flow toilets. Its windows are also coated with a film that decreases heating and cooling loads.

But what really reduces the Sheraton's environmental footprint is the fact that it is the first hotel in North America to be fully powered by fuel cell energy. Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce electricity. The Sheraton uses this energy to heat its pool and power the guest rooms. It also washes linens at the guests' request.

Both hotels offer extensive recycling programs to help reduce waste. At Hotel Solamar, the use of Styrofoam cups has been eliminated. Only paper cups and ceramic mugs are offered for coffee and tea. Used linens are donated to the Emergency Housing Consortium, and unused bottles of shampoo and conditioner are donated to local charities.

A list of green hotels in major cities is available at www.rezhub.com, including several more in San Diego. It's a good resource to have when deciding to travel green, and it'll make you think twice about whether those sheets really need to be changed every day.

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To see more of The Daily Aztec, which covers the San Diego State University community, go to http://www.thedailyaztec.com/.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Daily Aztec, San Diego

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