Forget carbon neutrality. Soon this term will be exceeded. Net zero goes far beyond simply paying someone else to offset emissions while continuing to rely on fossil fuels for heating and cooling.
Here’s a look at six hotels and resorts that are leading the way.
room2 Chiswick, London
London Chiswick bedroom 2 has a biodiverse green roof that absorbs CO2.
Recognizing the climate crisis, Bedroom 2 owner Robert Godwi spent two years planning a “lifetime” net zero hotel.
This 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 can be done.”
Obviously, net zero energy does not mean net zero luxury.
At first glance, it might look like another designer hotel, with its terracotta floors, pendant lights, and luxurious red velvet bar stools.
Freebies include the power meters in the rooms and a host of unseen features like a geothermal heat pump, water-saving appliances and a “blue roof” that converts rainwater into energy. A biodiverse green roof uses 200 tons of soil and wildflowers to absorb CO2.
Urban Nest Wren, Dublin
Tucked away on a quiet street between Temple Bar and Trinity College, this newcomer claims to be ‘Dublin’s most sustainable place to stay’.
The capsule hotel with 137 pod or “nest” rooms was designed “using advanced carbon reduction technologies,” says architect Michael Mullen.
“The ventilation system captures 81% of the rejected heat using a thermal wheel and heats the incoming fresh air for free,” he adds.
This energy is also used for hot water, while the hotel kitchen snubs gas. Water conservation and low-loss fittings make water demand “about 60% lower than a typical hotel.”
Take a look and you’ll quickly realize that dropping the carbon offsets doesn’t affect the design. Scandinavian minimalism – wood, wicker lights and natural hues – meet Irish textiles and furniture and abundant greenery.
The “Cosy” and “Snug” rooms, measuring just 9.5 to 12 square meters (102 to 129 square feet), are packaged in “compact luxury” with incredible energy efficiency. But that doesn’t rule out Chromecast and super-fast WiFi. Or handmade soaps, locally made mugs and mats, and roast coffee.
Comfort Hotel Solna, Sweden
In June 2021, Scandinavia welcomed its first certified “zero energy” hotel. The 336-room Comfort Hotel Solna sits a few miles north of central Stockholm.
The angular building sports 2,500 square meters of colored solar cells, making it “the most photovoltaic in the world”.
“We produce enough solar power to send a Tesla around the world 50 times!” the hotel boasts 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 lobby bar), this “energetic” hotel flaunts Nordic design while being relatively easy on the wallet. The light-filled space is outfitted in wood, raw steel, earthy colors, and bakelite bowl-shaped pendant lighting.
Stadthalle Boutique Hotel, Austria
A sustainable oasis in the heart of Vienna.
Tina Herzl/Boutiquehotel Stadthalle
Long before hotels started touting their zero-emission virtues, it turns out there was a true zero-emission pioneer in Vienna.
In a restored turn-of-the-century house surrounded by solar panels and garden beds, the 79-room Boutiquehotel Stadthalle has been powered by solar and other renewable energy since 2009.
“Zero energy balance might not sound sexy for a hotel,” says owner Michaela Reitterer. “But our customers think so. About 70% stay because of our ‘green at heart’ vision.
“We produce as much energy in a year with a groundwater heat pump, solar panels and photovoltaic technology as we consume. The excess goes into the grid and sometimes in high season we source renewable energy city surplus, such as biomass.”
Quirky rooms feature upcycled wine bottle chandeliers, recycled wood furniture, sheepskin headboards, and Klimt prints. Forget energy-guzzling minibars. Instead, try a few chords on a piano.
Breakfast is served in the inner “oasis” courtyard among pots of herbs, flowers and ivy walls. Above, the lavender roof teems with butterflies and bees.
Hailed as the “green queen” of Vienna, Reitterer says she has taken a very long-term view by betting on renewable energy in her quest to “change the world”, starting with a “stone age of sustainability “.
Hotel Marcel, New Haven, Connecticut
The new Marcel New Haven Hotel, part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, is a 165-room hotel inside the city’s iconic Pirelli building that is “powered only by the sun” and fuses a storied past with a climate-driven future.
It operates independently of fossil fuels, resulting in zero carbon emissions.
“Fossil fuels are very much a 20th century technology, and they are more expensive to use now,” says Bruce Becker, the architect-developer of Hotel Marcel.
“A net zero hotel is truly self-sufficient and produces all the energy it uses.”
“More than 1,000 solar panels generate all the electricity needed to meet the building’s needs,” says Becker.
“Solar panels covering the roof and parking canopies supply 100% of the electricity for lighting, heating, air conditioning and electric car charging stations.”
Behind its gridded concrete facade, the Hilton Tapestry Collection hotel features bespoke walnut furniture, white terracotta tiles and Bauhaus geometric print rugs.
Rooms have touch controls to control temperature, lighting, and automatic blinds. Triple-pane windows and spectacular views of Long Island Sound meet artwork, retro lights, and original wood-paneled walls.
Four Elements Hotel, Amsterdam
The Herbs Garden Restaurant at the Four Elements Hotel.
This “eco-luxury” hotel on Amsterdam’s Ijmeer lake went almost unnoticed in 2019.
Never has green been so sexy as on the top floor of the Wind Sky Bar, with its recycled wooden banquettes, exposed pipes, orange pouffes and duck blue fabrics. Meanwhile, the Herbs Garden Restaurant offers traditional fermentation, canning, pickling and smoking.
The decoration of the 195 rooms is also Dutch gezellig cozy. Behind the moss-covered numbers are reclaimed wood floors, repurposed brass headboards, and architectural lighting.