Urban Greening at The Nines Hotel

Whether you’re staying in Seattle or Miami, you’re bound to find a flier in your room urging you to reuse towels in order to help your hotel cut back on its water consumption and further aid its eco-efforts. While this has become an industry-wide standard over the past decade, other hotels are going above and beyond the call of duty to make their lodgings as green as possible.

Establishments such as the Hotel Terra in Jackson Hole, Wyo. use landmark heating and cooling systems and offer their guests 100 percent organic mattresses. Napa Valley’s Bardessono Hotel earned a 2011 Reader’s Choice Award from Conde Nast (and also the 2010 GreenLux Award from GLR for “Greenest Resort”), in part because of its dedication to environmental awareness. Products used in its restaurant and spa are sourced primarily from local organic or sustainable producers, while much of its wood interior work was milled from salvaged trees.

For 2011, we turned our attention away from resorts and more rural lodging. There’s no question that it’s more difficult to design a green hotel in an existing building than starting from scratch in a locale where space and resources are much more expansive. Despite some stiff competition from contendors across the United States, the Nines Hotel is the winner of this year’s GreenLux Award for Greenest Urban Hotel.

Over the past year, this popular hotel in Portland, Ore. has earned rave reviews and coverage from media outlets including The Today Show, The Guardian and Travel & Leisure. It’s all due to the Nine’s dedication to both luxury accommodations and sustainability. Located nine floors over downtown Portland atop the former Meier & Frank department store, the 331-room hotel opened in 2008 and quickly drew accolades for its efforts on the environmental front.

While undergoing construction, workers used low-emitting adhesives, paint and carpet to improve interior air quality, in addition to installing low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets which save around 500,000 gallons of water every year. About 90 to 95 percent of the 24 million pounds of debris removed from the building was diverted from landfills and subsequently recycled.

The now LEED Silver-Certified hotel receives all of its energy from renewable sources, including wind power and carbon offsets. Compact florescent lighting helps optimize the hotel’s energy consumption at a rate estimated at 26 percent less than code, helping it to prevent over 6 million pounds of C02 from being released into the air – the equivalent of removing over 500 cars from the road. Employees also compost and recycle used goods while the Nine’s cleaning staff use products that are Green Sealed Certified and meet LEE and IAQ guidelines.

In their rooms, guests will find bath and body products from Gilchrist & Soames BeeKind collection. The brand’s paper bottles use a 59 percent reduction in packaging material and contain no parabens or petrol-derived ingredients. They’re also free from artificial dyes and colors. Plus, proceeds from BeeKind support sustainable honey bee and pollination research at the University of California at Davis.

We shouldn’t neglect to mention the hotel’s Urban Farmer Steakhouse, which combines quaintness with 21st-century sustainable practices. The decor uses organic and reclaimed materials to offer diners the ambiance of a restored farmhouse with a modern touch. The restaurant’s farm-to-table menus emphasize locally-produced ingredients from the Northwest. Beef options are all organically raised and Urban Farmer’s 200-bottle wine list and beer offerings, in addition to its spirits, are all sourced from area brewers and vineyards. Those looking to mix elegant views of downtown Portland and Mt. Hood with an array of Asian cuisine and cocktails can find them all waiting at Departure, the sleek cafe and bar on the building’s 15th floor.

On top of the hotel’s environmental strides, the Nines supports local artists and volunteer groups. In the past, it has hosted promotions like “Give a Day, Get a Night” to individuals who are willing to trade eight hours of community service in exchange for a complimentary night’s stay. The lobby and hallways are decorated with original art that references the building’s connection to the city’s fashion industry. A large, black stiletto sculpture stands in the lobby. There’s also a small library filled with tomes from the city’s famous Powell’s Books emporium and memorabilia from local celebrities, including photos taken by Oscar-nominated director Gus Van Sant.

All in all, the Nines is a wonderful starting-point for any proper exploration of everything that the City of Roses has to offer.