You Can Do More for Environmental Conservation Than Use Hotel Towels Twice

Millions of people staying in thousands of hotels around the world normally relax their efforts at environment conservation in favor of convenience. But that pattern could begin to reverse if a newly renovated hostel in Toronto, Canada, catches on.

The Planet Traveler, located at 357 College Street, is now advertising itself as North America’s "greenest hotel," a claim backed up by its reliance on low-energy lighting, geothermal and solar energy generators, and extensive water reclamation systems.

The 114-room hostel was developed by Anthony Aarts and Tom Rand. Friends since their college days, Aarts wound up running a hostel in Toronto while Rand focused on green technology and authored a successful book: "Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit: Ten Clean Technologies to Save Our World."

Together, they envisioned a new kind of low-carbon-footprint hotel that could reduce normal hotel pollution by 75% or more.

"Energy efficiency is about economic competitiveness," says Rand. "Germany and Japan are twice as efficient in using energy to produce money than we are. We waste half the energy we use. We could cut our energy use in half and still have the same lifestyle."

It took four years and some $2 million to complete their project, and the reality they have now achieved with The Planet Traveler hotel is so advanced that the facility actually exceeds the requirements for LEED Platinum certification – currently the highest standard for energy-efficient buildings. Rand has said that the day to day savings from the geothermal system alone is enough to repay the $200,000 invested in the hotel's green technologies.

Speaking of the new hotel, Rand proudly announced that “It’s a myth that we need fossil fuels. What we need are massive investments in clean infrastructure. And we need to link economic competitiveness with energy efficiency.”

Noting that “Climate change is both the biggest problem and the biggest opportunity our society has faced," Rand went on to say "I believe we can lower our carbon emissions by 75 per cent over the short term, and to near zero over the long term. Countries that figure it out fast will be selling solutions to the rest of the world.”

To accomplish this, The Planet Traveler hotel uses geothermal heat pumps that transfer the Earth's natural heat, from 115 meters below Toronto's sidewalks, into the hotel's various air- and water-heating systems. There are also solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity, and solar thermal panels for additional heating of water. Heat from waste water is recovered as the water flows down the hotel's drains.

While greatly reducing its use of energy by means of LED lighting, for example, The Planet Traveler has tried not to sacrifice its guests' comfort, offering such amenities as a rooftop bar witih a 360 degree view of Toronto, and stylish rooms at appealing prices.

The hostel holds 114 beds at $30 for a single dorm-room bunk in a multi-person room and $75 for a private room.

Rand and Aarts hope The Planet Traveler will become more than a successful hotel; they hope it will serve as a model for best practices in retrofitting a great many older buildings.

More later ...

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