Net-zero hotels: Six of the best places to stay for travelers who prioritize sustainability

Editor’s Note — Monthly Ticket is a CNN Travel series that highlights some of the most fascinating topics in the travel world. In November we dive into the world of hotels and resorts.
(CNN) — As we wrap up the final months of 2022 and look ahead to a new year, there’s a buzz phrase gaining popularity in the world of sustainable travel: net-zero hotels. In short, accommodations that run entirely on renewable energy sources.
While major hotel groups are slow to reduce carbon emissions, a few smaller players are taking the green lead and are taking the climate challenge head-on, boldly committing to a zero-net-zero future well ahead of government targets.

Forget carbon neutral. Soon that term will be gone. Net-zero goes way beyond simply paying someone else to offset emissions and still relying on fossil fuels for heating and cooling.

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

room2 Chiswick, London

London’s room2 Chiswick has a biodiverse green roof that absorbs CO2.

room2

Robert Godwi, owner of room2, recognized the climate crisis and spent two years planning a “lifelong” net-zero hotel.

That means reducing the carbon footprint from construction to running the hotel, which opened in late 2021.

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

It is clear that net zero energy does not mean net zero luxury.

At first glance, it may seem like just another design hotel, with its terracotta floors, hanging lamps and sumptuous red velvet bar stools.

Giveaways include the power sensors in rooms and a host of invisible elements such as a ground source heat pump, water-saving fixtures and a ‘blue roof’ that converts rainwater into energy. A biodiverse green roof uses 200 tons of soil and wildflowers to absorb CO2.

room2 Chiswick, 10 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 bills itself as “Dublin’s most enduring place to stay”.

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

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

That energy is also used for hot water, while the hotel kitchen blunts gas. Water conservation and low-loss fixtures mean water consumption is “approximately 60% lower than in a typical hotel”.

Look inside and you’ll soon realize that throwing out carbon offsets has no impact on design. Scandinavian minimalism – wood, wicker lamps and natural tones – meets Irish textiles and furniture, and abundant greenery.

“Cozy” and “Cozy” bedrooms, only 9.5-12 square meters (102-129 square feet), wrapped in “compact luxury” with amazing energy efficiency. But that doesn’t rule out Chromecast and lightning-fast Wi-Fi. 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 a few kilometers north of central Stockholm.

The angular building has 2,500 square feet of colorful solar cells, making it “the most photovoltaic density in the world.”

“We generate enough solar energy to send a Tesla around the world 50 times!” the hotel shows off on its website. And more than its annual energy needs.

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

From the maritime-themed rooms to the industrial-chic Barception (the bar reception), this “energy-smart” hotel flaunts Scandinavian design while being relatively easy on the wallet. The light-filled space features wood, raw steel, earthy colors and Bakelite pendant lighting.

Boutique Hotel Stadthalle, Austria

A sustainable oasis in the heart of Vienna.

A sustainable oasis in the heart of Vienna.

Tina Herzl/Boutiquehotel Stadthalle

Long before hotels started touting their net-zero virtues, Vienna turned out to be a true zero-emissions pioneer.

The 79-room Boutiquehotel Stadthalle is housed in a restored turn-of-the-century house surrounded by solar panels and garden beds. It has been operating on solar energy and other renewable energy sources since 2009.

“An energy-neutral balance may not sound sexy for a hotel,” says owner Michaela Reitterer. “But our guests think so. About 70% stay because of our ‘green at heart’ vision.

“With a groundwater heat pump, solar panels and photovoltaic technology, we generate as much energy in a year as we consume. Excess goes into the grid and sometimes we get a surplus of renewable energy from the city, such as biomass, during the high season.”

The quirky rooms show off chandeliers made from recycled wine bottles, upcycled wooden furniture, sheep heads and Klimt prints. Forget energy-guzzling minibars. Try playing a few chords on a piano instead.

Breakfast is in the “oasis” in the courtyard between herb pots, flowers and walls with ivy. Upstairs, the lavender roof is bursting with butterflies and bees.

Hailed as Vienna’s “Green Queen,” Reitterer says she had a very long-term vision, betting on renewables in her quest to “change the world,” starting in a “sustainable Stone Age.”

Hotel Marcel, New Haven, Connecticut

Part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, the new Hotel Marcel New Haven is a 165-room hotel in the city’s iconic Pirelli Building that is “powered exclusively by the sun” and blends a storied past with a climate-focused 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 US, while also receiving LEED Platinum and Passive House certifications. (Hotel representatives tell CNN that the net-zero certification process requires 12 months of third-party verification and monitoring of several systems.)

“Fossil fuels are really a 20th century technology and they are more expensive to run now,” says Bruce Becker, the architect-developer behind Hotel Marcel.

“A net-zero hotel is truly self-sufficient and generates all the energy it consumes.”

The brutalist monument was transformed using smart building technology, from thermal insulation to an energy recovery system and air-source heat pumps that bring outdoor air indoors. Again, this means 80% energy savings, without compromising on style.

“More than 1,000 solar panels generate all the electricity to meet the building’s needs,” says Becker.

“Solar panels that cover the roof and parking canopies provide 100% electricity for lighting, heating, cooling and charging stations for electric cars.”

Behind the gridded concrete facade, the Hilton Tapestry Collection hotel shows off walnut furniture, white terracotta tiles, and Bauhaus geometric print rugs — all custom designed.

The rooms have touchpad controls for temperature, lighting and automatic blinds. Triple-pane windows and dramatic views of Long Island Sound meet curated art, retro lighting, and original wood paneling.

hotel marcel, 500 Sargent Dr, New Haven, CT, United States; +1 203 780 7800

Four Elements Hotel, Amsterdam

The Herbs Garden restaurant at the Four Elements Hotel.

The Herbs Garden restaurant at the Four Elements Hotel.

Four elements

This “eco-luxury” hotel on the edge of Amsterdam’s IJmeer crept in almost unnoticed in 2019.

The Four Elements Hotel, a BREEAM-certified building in the IJburg district, uses wind turbines to generate energy for air conditioning and heating. A solar chimney harvests power to heat water, while a solar facade of gleaming photovoltaic panels converts energy into electricity.
The idea “Earth, Wind & Fire” came from engineer Dr. Ben Bronsema, who discovered that African termite mounds maintain the same temperature under extreme climate conditions by opening and closing doors to create “natural air conditioning”.

Green has never looked so sexy as from the top floor Wind Sky Bar, with its recycled wood benches, exposed pipes, orange poufs and peacock blue fabrics. Meanwhile, the Herbs Garden restaurant loves traditional fermentation, preservation, canning and smoking.

The interior of the 195 rooms is also cozy and cozy in the Netherlands. Behind the moss-encased numbers lie salvaged wood floors and repurposed brass headboards and architectural lighting.

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