New York hotels take a green turn

A hammock in the Skyline 1 Bedroom Suite at 1Hotels Brooklyn Bridge

A hammock in the Skyline 1 Bedroom Suite at 1Hotels Brooklyn Bridge

Large and boutique hotels alike are changing their ways in New York City, adopting cleaner, greener practices to be more sustainable.

New York is experiencing a hotel boom. Around 65 new properties have opened since 2015, bringing the total number of hotel rooms to 112,000, and there are about 25,000 more in the pipeline. That's a lot of beds for a city that never sleeps.

As the industry grows, the city of New York has taken steps to make it cleaner and greener. In January 2017, for instance, the city began enforcing a new law requiring hotels to dispose of organic waste through composting and other sustainable means. "There's a city-wide push across all industries to go green as part of the OneNYC plan," says Magdalene Sim, director of communications at Great Forest sustainability consultancy. She's referring to an initiative that aims to eliminate landfill waste by 2030, and to cut the city's carbon emissions by 80 per cent, among other goals. Ambitious? Definitely, but it's already making an impact. A few months after the organic waste rule was introduced, The Peninsula New York, for instance, managed to divert 66 per cent of its waste from landfill.

The mural in the Superior Room at the Intercontinental New York Barclay.

Aside from regulation, hotels also have financial incentives to reduce waste and energy consumption. "Hoteliers realised that they could lower costs by being better stewards of the Earth," says Hervé Houdré, chairman of the Hotel Association of New York City. "In the late 2000s major hotel brands began to integrate sustainability into their strategy and the independent hotels followed." Low-flow water fixtures, energy-efficient lighting, and giving guests the option to reuse their towels are now standard across the industry.

But according to Houdré, sustainability isn't just about being environmentally friendly. It also entails social responsibility. At the Intercontinental New York Barclay, where he's the general manager, seafood shells from the restaurant are donated to the Billion Oyster Project to help repopulate New York's oyster. And used floral arrangements from weddings and events are collected by Repeat Roses, who distribute them to hospitals and aged-care homes before eventually composting them.

Eco-conscious chain 1 Hotels tries to inspire guests to appreciate their natural surroundings.

Although such initiatives are increasingly common, most still go unnoticed by hotel guests. Few people who check into the Westin New York at Times Square realise that their room keys are biodegradable or that housekeeping only uses eco-friendly detergents. At the nearby Intercontinental New York Times Square, diners enjoying fresh herbs and honey from the hotel's rooftop garden are usually unaware that the green roof's main function is to insulate the building - or that the building itself was made using recycled construction materials sourced within an 800-kilometre radius.

The conservation efforts at 1 Hotels, however, are impossible to overlook. The eco-conscious chain, which has two locations in New York, actively markets itself as nature-inspired and is the latest creation of Barry Sternlicht, who previously founded the design-focused W brand. 1 Hotels proudly showcases its sustainable ethos, with examples like hemp-filled mattresses and organic cotton sheets, or complimentary Tesla rides and farmers' markets in the lobby. "We see ourselves as more of a cause than a hotel brand," says Cornelia Samara, general manager of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. "We want to inspire our guests to open their eyes to nature and how important it is to take care of it."

The lobby of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge.

Sustainability may be on the rise among New York hotels, but will it prove to be a temporary trend or become the new normal? Houdré is hopeful that the concrete jungle will keep getting greener. "I'm optimistic that all New York City hotels will eventually recognise that sustainability is no longer a 'nice to have' but is the basis of any strategy," he says. A cleaner, greener New York sounds good to us. Now, about that noise... 

The Gourmet Traveller podcast

Each fortnight we round up the most interesting characters from the food world for your listening pleasure. We chat to chefs, cooks, authors, bar tenders and baristas - anyone who has something new and interesting to say about the way we like to eat and drink.

Recipe collections

Looking for fresh dinner ideas? Not sure how to make the most out of seasonal produce? Or do you need to plan the perfect party menu? Our recipe collections have you covered.

See more

You might also like...

I art NYC

Museums such as MoMA and the Met hold the limelight in the c...

New York’s 10 essential cocktail bars

Jim Meehan, partner at cocktail bar PDT (Please Don’t Tell) ...

The Vicious Circle

In 1920s Manhattan a coterie of wits met daily to trade wise...

Whitney Museum's new annex

The Whitney Museum’s new annex adds to the district’s reinca...

The New York cut

The city that never sleeps never stops producing great new p...

Montauk, New York

At the tip of Long Island is Montauk, a fishing village that...

24 hours in Brooklyn

The best places to stay, eat, drink and play in New York’s b...

Reasons to visit New York City in 2017

The hottest spots to eat, drink, play and stay right now in ...

Over the bridge

Move over, Manhattan: the borough of Brooklyn is where it’s ...

New York hotel guide

Just when it seems New York has all the hotels it can handle...

Paris meets the Beats in New York

A Kerouac hideaway is among the city’s hippest new lodgings.

Pier A Harbor House, New York

Take Manhattan from the comfort of the Pier A Harbor House r...

The Ludlow, New York

The Ludlow promises to become a Lower East Side hub.

Fine art and food meet in New York's galleries

New York's revered galleries have stepped up with fine diner...

Where to dine in New York right now

New York is overflowing with so many great new places to ea...