Ever stayed in a hotel where you are encouraged to use towels more than once, and not have sheets changed every day? Or where all hot water requests are serviced through solar heating devices? These, and many more such measures, are ways in which hotels across the world, and now in India, are looking to do their bit for conserving energy and natural resources.

Caretakers: The Taj West End, Bangalore, won the National Tourism Award 2006-2007 for the ‘best eco-friendly hotel’.

The next year will see some of the biggest names in the Indian hotel industry open green properties. The term ‘green’ quantifies the eco-friendliness of a building. One is actually the subset of the other, clarifies Rajeev Agarwal, a Delhi-based architect. To be certified as a green building, it is not enough that the materials used for construction are eco-friendly, but among several other criteria, “that materials are used from nearby locations, hence reducing the amount of energy spent on acquiring them".

For the ITC group, the ITC Green Centre in Gurgaon has served as an example. “The lessons imbibed here are being applied to the ITC Gardenia, Bangalore, a 250-plus room property scheduled to open in 2009, as well as to the ITC Grand Chola, Chennai, scheduled to open in 2010," says Niranjan Khatri, general manager, WelcomEnviron Initiative, ITC. Designed to minimize energy usage, the hotels will reduce dependence on electric lights, air conditioning and water. For instance, high-albedo paint on the rooftop will help deflect the sun’s rays while retreated sewage will be used for horticulture. Dual-flush toilets will also help conserve water.

According to Agarwal, the most efficient way to go green is to incorporate eco-friendly initiatives in the designing stages. There are international codes that define and rate a building on a specific scale to determine how eco-responsible a building is. In the case of hotels and public buildings, the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) certification programme is one of the accepted benchmarks. The ratings are based on the amount of energy saved; thus, a green-certified building will have a marginal energy conservation programme while a platinum-rated one will use every possible means to save energy.

The Park group, whose properties include The Park, Kolkata, and The Park, New Delhi, is also prepping for its first green hotel in Hyderabad, slated to open by early 2009. According to Deepak Bali, vice-president, projects, the materials used in construction and on the interiors will have a high amount of recycled content. Even though initial investments are higher by 15% for such initiatives, Puri believes that these will be recovered fairly quickly during operation.

Ginger Hotels, which plans to launch its properties in New Delhi and Ahmedabad by mid-2008, and in Ludhiana, Goa and Guwahati by the year-end, has gone the green way, too. “The next generation of Ginger Hotels will be LEED-certified to ensure that we meet all stringent environmental benchmarks for design, construction and operation of our hotels," says Prabhat Pani, CEO and director, Roots Corp. Ltd (a wholly owned subsidiary of Indian Hotels Co. Ltd). “Solar power is used for augmenting hot water generation in our hotels; to conserve energy we use compact fluorescent lights that lead to reduction of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide (all of which contribute to global warming) in the atmosphere," he says.