Carrying a theme from Fake Plastic Fish, who is a great letter writer and who wrote a very inspiring letter to the Santa Sabina retreat center, I have noticed a few places I have patronized to be somewhat lacking in the green department on a few items. I did address some of the issues at two of the places, and only got feedback on one.
Melitta Station Inn (Santa Rosa, CA) - I adored this place and even went so far as to write reviews on Yelp and SustainLane. The inn runs entirely on solar energy and puts energy back into the grid. They draw on well water from the Annadel State Park aquifer and it's all UV irradiated and filtered (no messy chlorine or fluouride).
The hosts are darling, thoughtful and generous. It's a very comfortable place to stay and it's clear they do make a tremendous effort to be as green as they can. Except for one thing -- the house-branded lotion, shampoo, conditioner and liquid soaps available for use in the guest rooms all have SLS/SLES in them.
I raised this with the hostess -- she said that the manufacturer had assured her the ingredients were all "green" and I told her about some of the ingredients in the bottles and also why antibacterial liquid soap wasn't really green. She very graciously entertained my information, asked questions and said she'd look into it. I'm not sure, at this point, if I should e-mail articles to her or just wait til the next time I go up to visit to ask. I also have an extra copy of the Co-Op America Green Directory -- I hardly use it, but it seems like the sort of thing that might really be interesting to those folks. Thoughts?
Harbin Hot Springs (Middletown, CA) During my 3 day spa retreat, I noticed a lot of things that surprised me. First, the food at the restaurant is not terribly green -- it's not all organic, and they even have a $24.95 salmon dinner on the menu. Nearly everything is laden with butter, milk and cheese. For breakfast, they offer a vegan option of "chinese breakfast" -- rice and veggies. I understand they are trying to use as much organic produce as they can, but most of what is delivered is conventionally grown produce.
They have a large garden which is supposed to be for the residents. It's a rather haphazard affair -- the amount of land the use for the garden could be more efficiently planted and managed to provide quite a lot of local, fresh, seasonal vegetables to the kitchen. Shockingly, they don't even have drip hoses or drip lines set up in their garden -- they just have big fan sprayer sprinklers. Yes, I know they are probably tapping water from the spring that feeds the pools. A sprinkler is woefully inefficient for watering plants and a huge waste of water, no matter how unlimited you feel your supply to be. Shameful!
There are some small, lush lawns in front of the Azalea and Walnut guest houses -- you walk past them on your way up to the pools. They are shaded and very nice and soft. They are quite small lawns -- one should think them an ideal candidate for a reel mower. This would cut down on the noise pollution and air pollution generated by using a gasoline powered lawn mower -- again, I was just amazed that such a thing would even be permitted on the grounds. What next, a leaf blower?
Though the big community kitchen in Fern has composting and adequate recycling, it wasn't so easy to recycle in Dome 5's kitchen, and there was no place to put compost. Worse yet, housekeeping doesn't seem to be terribly aware of recycling, landfills and the problems with plastic. I had put a single Bumble Bar wrapper in my trash can and the next morning, the housekeeper had taken the entire trash bag out, knotted it loosely and had it by the downstairs door ready to go to the landfill. I adjusted and put the plastic bag back in my wastepaper basket. She also did not sort the recyclables -- so I did it after I spotted the bag from my Dome in the trash can outside the Dome area later.
I did fill out a comment form at Harbin but haven't heard back from them at all.
Club ONE (San Francisco, CA) I recently joined Club ONE and was pretty shocked at the lack of labeling on the products available for member use. There's no statement supporting the use of biodegradable, green or organic bath products. There is, however, a notice in the showers about water conservation. I was also pretty shocked at the way they hand out bottles of water -- I got coupons for free bottles of water when I joined and didn't notice recycling cans in the locker room for plastic bottles. You'd think it would be really easy for a gym to be green, right?