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CON GAMES: The Energy Vacation

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Let's go to Honolulu! may be the embattled battle cry of the vacation-deprived, but in these difficult times the enlightened traveler might want to think about not footing the bill unless you keep your carbon footprint minimal.

Want to get away? Instead of Hawaii or Mexico or the Philippines -- or whatever -- the fiancée and I decided upon some pre-nuptial R & R no more than one hour down the road. In our case -- living within the friendly confines of Aspen, Colorado -- that meant we could get away from it all... all the way to Beaver Creek, less than one hour away. And if we were going to do the right thing, energy-wise, then why not decamp to a green hotel?

That was the appeal of The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain -- and that was before we learned of the gondola that all but came to the door of the hotel. I have a quibble or two, as you'll see below, but to a great degree the Riverfront lived up to its claim of "pampering our guests and the environment."

The Westin Riverfront tries very hard to walk that walk. Paper products are made with 30 percent "post-consumer recycled content." The resort pledges to buy "only hybrid or alternatively fueled vehicles," to use "eco-friendly" cleaning laundry and cleaning products, to re-use towels (of course), and even to print on both sides of paper. The lighting is said to be 100 percent "energy-efficient." The health club further promise to "replace disposable bottles of water with filtered water that will be dispensed into re-usable bottles." Recycling is evident throughout the hotel.

Though the percentage seems arbitrary, the Avondale Restaurant at the hotel -- both swank and hip, though with major contingents of families and children -- makes a commitment that "half of the food served... will be organic."

You get the picture. Since opening in late 2008, the new Westin Riverfront in Beaver Creek is part of a bigger push in the same direction by the brand. The Westin Kierland Resort, for example, has an actual "Environmental Policy." To whit: "The Westin Kierland Resort is committed to protecting our environment and preserving our precious natural resources. We believe being green is not a definitive objective but understand it's a process of being 'greener.' We are dedicated to the process and promise to promote a lifestyle that ensures our environmental impact on the world around us is minimal and as positive as possible."

The resort claims: "We reduce, reuse, recycle where possible. We support our vendors, neighbors and local merchants and do our best to promote the good work they are doing throughout the community. By blending an upscale, luxury Resort experience with low impact living practices, we offer our guests the peace of mind they are doing business with an organization that has the environment in mind."

As for my quibbles: two shower heads instead of one in our bathroom and the splendid albeit energy sucking hot tubs overlooking the river. On the plus side I would say the green tint was unobtrusive and not annoying, the way it can get, and that high quality of the overall experience was in no way diminished by the nods to the environment.

The experience also got me thinking about what Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Old Snowmass, Colorado, always says: that being good to the environment is actually good business. And it made me think twice about getting a hot tub for the back yard (probably not) and thinking about keeping it green whenever we go away (if possible).

Not everyone can hop in the car and get to Beaver Creek lickety-split like we can, but why not put your vacation dollars where your heart is.

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