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In Search of Healthy Hotels

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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In Search of Healthy Hotels

Are clean air, pure water, healthy food, and nontoxic surroundings too much to ask from a hotel? Many travelers don't think so, so people in the lodging industry are trying to provide these amenities...and more.

Whenever she travels, Charlene V., a sales representative, brings her own air purifier. She's just one of 52 million Americans who has allergies or asthma, and she says, "The air in many hotels is unbreathable. I even bring my own hypoallergenic pillow."

Stan W., a writer, uses filtered water at home. When he's on the road, "I bring my own water and buy more when I arrive. That can be really inconvenient."

The water, soap, and lotions in a hotel can be harsh on the skin, says Barbara, a retired bank executive. "I don't mind bringing my own soap and shampoo," she says, "but why can't they put filters in the showers?"

Hunting for Healthy Hotels

Finding hotels that offer healthy amenities involves some detective work, but an organization called Green Hotel Association (see "Resources" below) can help. Its members include more than 150 lodging facilities, "from B&Bs to submarines," that either adhere to or are striving to follow "green" policies, which can include the following:

  • Air and water purification systems
  • Water conservation
  • Recycling
  • Use of environmentally friendly cleaning supplies
  • Organic foods
  • Allergen-free bedding

Patricia Griffin, president of Green Hotel Association, says that although the Association does not require that its members meet specific requirements at this point (it does, however, offer specific suggestions), "we often tell chemically sensitive guests that these hotels are probably their best shot at having a hotel accommodate their needs."

A Few Examples

Identifying the accommodations you want usually takes a telephone call or an email to your desired destination. Such efforts turned up the Sheraton Rittenhouse Square Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The hotel features "filtered fresh air regenerated every 34 minutes; 100% organic cotton sheets and bedspreads; nontoxic wall coverings, paints and varnishes," explains D. Ellen Gallo, manager of corporate public relations. All of the laundry and cleaning products are environmentally safe, and the staff has been trained in environmental maintenance techniques.

A little investigation revealed that the Colony Hotel and Cabana Club in Delray Beach, Florida, is a nonsmoking facility where live plants are used indoors to clean the air naturally and outdoor flora is maintained without toxic products. The rooms are equipped with biodegradable soap and shampoo dispensers and hardwood floors, and no aerosol products are used.

A Healthy Hotel Chain

The only chain that has thus far answered the call for healthy accommodations is Best Inns & Suites. This mid-priced franchise, which has 153 facilities across the United States, has outfitted all of its sites with healthy rooms.

According to Barbara Wiener, vice president of corporate communications for Best Inns & Suites, at least 10% of the rooms in each hotel, or up to ten rooms, have been transformed into "evergreen rooms." An evergreen room offers ]]>bottled water]]>, filtered water from the tap and the shower, and an air filtration system that removes odors and airborne allergens, including dust mites, pollen, lint, pet dander, mold spores, dust, tobacco smoke, and chemicals usually associated with indoor environments. Best Inns & Suites also uses non-scented cleaning products.

"This is a first step for us," says Wiener. An enthusiastic response from hotel guests has led several franchise owners to request more Evergreen rooms. A few selected sites have added hypoallergenic mattress and pillow coverings and ]]>treadmills]]> to the rooms.

"People are usually happily surprised when they see what they can get at our hotels," says Wiener. And it only costs a few extra dollars per night, typically three to five, although the exact figure is at the discretion of the hotel owner.

A Growing Trend?

James Felds, president of EverGreen Rooms by Hartford, Inc., which has been manufacturing, selling, and servicing water and air purification systems to the lodging industry since 1992, sees a growing interest in healthy hotels. "It's just a matter of time before all hotels upgrade their air and water quality," he predicts. "This is really good news for travelers."

Healthy Bed and Breakfasts

An often overlooked lodging option is the bed and breakfast (B&B). The phrase "bed and breakfast" brings to mind quaint, pampered, healthy living, and many B&Bs do extend special amenities to their guests. Most emphasize the quality of their food, with the words "natural" and "organic" appearing often. But if you're looking for healthy options beyond the menu, again, do a little detective work. Several directories can help you with your search (see "Resources" below).

The Natural B&B
Where can you find a nonallergenic, chemical-free environment, complete with air purifiers, humidifiers, pure water, relaxing music, and organic food, all provided by a holistic health practitioner who can give you a ]]>massage]]> at the end of the day? The Natural B&B, in Tucson, Arizona, offers such a setting. Proprietor Marc Haberman notes that his B&B can also accommodate some people who have environmental illness or multiple chemical sensitivities.

Captain's Choice B&B
Visitors to the Captain's Choice B&B in Hyannisport, Massachusetts, are greeted by pesticide-free grounds, organic food, steam-distilled water, and filtered air, all in a facility that is polished with environmentally friendly cleaning products. Innkeepers Jack and Carol Cummiskey believe that "if it's good for us, it's good for every guest who comes to our home."

Weller Haus B&B
Clean air in the middle of Cincinnati? Valerie Brown, owner of Cincinnati's Weller Haus B&B, offers an air purifier and cleaner, water filters, bottled water, hardwood floors for those with dust allergies, and will accommodate dietary requests.

Trisha's B&B
In "allergy-ridden southeast Missouri," visitors can find an inn where "green rooms and green tea have been a stand-by for a long time," says Trish Wischmann, owner of Trisha's B&B. Environmentally safe cleaners, air and water filters, and home-grown herbs greet guests to this historic inn in Jackson.

Admiral Peary House
At the Admiral Peary House, expect a little history along with the naturally clean air, spring water, pesticide-free surroundings, and organic produce. Proprietors Ed and Nancy Greenberg keep their B&B in Fryeburg, Maine, spotless with nontoxic cleaning materials.

You Can Find One

Finding a healthy home away from home should become easier as the lodging industry scrambles to meet the demands of health-conscious guests. For now, a little detective work should uncover the amenities you are looking for.


Find a Bed and Breakfast

Green Hotels Association

North American Bed and Breakfast Directory

Professional Association of Innkeepers International


Allergy Asthma Information Association

Healthy Canadians

Last reviewed January 2008 by ]]>Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD]]>

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.