St. Julien Hotel: A Green Sanctuary in the Heart of Boulder

In downtown Boulder, the St. Julien Hotel has many eco-friendly features. (all photos courtesy St. Julien)

In downtown Boulder, the St. Julien Hotel has many eco-friendly features. (all photos courtesy St. Julien Hotel)

It’s hip, it’s luxurious, and it’s green. The St. Julien Hotel & Spa, one of Boulder, Colorado’s downtown hubs has awesome ambiance, live music in the lobby or outdoors almost every night, and a fantastic bar and restaurant (Jill’s).

Since the hotel was built five years ago on a long-vacant lot at the corner of Ninth Street and Canyon, I’ve been going there for happy hour and music, but recently my husband and I visited overnight. (Staying in a hotel in your own town feels like a decadent treat!)

Mountain Ambiance, Indoors and Out

Our luxurious King-size Flatiron-view room was decorated in sleek urban lines with décor that picks up on the mountains’ color palate: browns, golds, slate, rusty red, and tan.

The St. Julien's rooms are sleek but earthy, and many of them feature glorious views of the Flatirons.

The St. Julien’s rooms are sleek but earthy, and many of them feature glorious views of Boulder’s Flatirons.

In case you didn’t know, the Flatirons (diagonally oriented stone outcroppings) are to Boulder what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, the Pyramids to Cairo, and the Statue of Liberty to New York City.

Our room’s french doors opened up to a completely unobstructed view of those glorious Flatirons. If you happen to check in after dark, you’ll still feel the Flatirons’ presence, thanks to the large photograph of them in the room. The photo is almost exactly to scale as what you’ll see the next morning when your throw open the curtains in the morning. (After a night snuggled between layers of down on the extremely comfy four-poster bed.)

Stone surfaces in the bathroom recall the Flatirons outdoors.

Stone surfaces in the bathroom recall the Flatirons outdoors.

The stone walls and floor in the bathrooms also echo the Boulder landscape. Organic coffee and fair-trade tea were just luxurious finishing touches.

St. Julien’s Green Stuff (some of it anyway):

  • The elegant, onsite Jill’s Restaurant sources local organic food and beverages when appropriate.
  • Housekeeping uses green cleaning products
  • No-VOC paint
  • Hotel gardens and lawns are pesticide free
  • The St. Julien provides cruiser bicycles to guests free of charge. (Totally cool! There are so many fun places to cycle near the hotel, including the Boulder Creek Path.)
  • Employees get an Eco-Pass for free public transportation.
  • The spa utilizes cruelty-free products not tested on animals.
  • The hotel uses integrated pest management instead of poisons on weeds, insects, birds, pigeons or rodents.
  • Business cards, marketing materials, etc. are printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks
  • The hotel donates linens, towels and its opened shampoo and conditioner bottles to the local homeless shelter.
  • The hotel contributes a percentage of sales to the Prairie Dog Coalition. (Prairie dogs are a huge bone of contention in this neck of the woods. Some people want them eradicated from the face of the earth.)
  • Rooms are lit with energy-efficient CFL bulbs.

    A waterfall in a hot tub in the spa.

    A waterfall in a hot tub in the spa.

  • Motion sensors control lighting in low-activity areas.
  • The laundry utilizes cold-water wash cycles to save natural gas and extra spin cycles to reduce drying times.
  • The hotel recycles paper, newspaper, cardboard, commingled plastic, glass, metal containers. It also composts food products and waste.
  • Single-steam recycling bins are available in every guest room.
  • Compostable food and beverage products (to-go containers, straws, etc.)
  • Reusable hand towels in public restrooms to cut paper usage.
  • Paper keycards to reduce the amount of PVC plastic reaching landfill.
  • Low-flow toilets are installed in both the public areas and guest rooms.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Jill's Restaurant serves local, seasonal fare with flair.

Jill’s Restaurant serves local, seasonal fare with flair.

 

Giving Thanks for the Bounty of Farmer’s Markets

Japanese eggplant and peppers from Toohey & Sons farm Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to express gratitude to the nation’s farmer’s markets for bringing locally-grown, fresh food to town.

Much of the food is produced organically, even if it’s not certified organic. Growing without pesticides  is vital for public health and for the environment.

Now that winter is upon us and the leaves are almost gone, there’s only one more chance to buy direct from the farmer in Boulder, Colorado, my home town. After the third Saturday in November, the Boulder County Farmer’s Market is closed for the season.

But oh, how warmly I remember the bounty of this summer. The heirloom tomatoes, the ears of Peaches-and-Cream sweet corn, the gladiolas and sunflowers, the multi-colored carrots, the cucumbers, the Western Slope peaches that we ate by the bushelful!

I thought I’d share a few photos from September’s colorful harvest at the Boulder Farmer’s Market, held in downtown Boulder (on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons):

Windsor Dairy makes cheeses in the European tradition from raw, organic milk. Every cheese is a creamy treat! Photo ©Laurel Kallenbach

Thank you, farmers, for continuing to supply us with fresh, healthy food against the odds. And for reminding us what a variety of foods can be grown with a short distance of our homes—or even in our back yards. May your family farms prosper.

These scarlet turnips from Toohey & Sons were so pink, I thought they were beets. Photo ©Laurel Kallenbach

Renewed interest in local foods has coined the word “locavore”: someone who eats locally produced, in-season foods whenever possible. Why go to the extra effort to become a locavore and buy from farmer’s markets and eat local? FoodRoutes.org cites several important reasons.

Zesty jalapeños from Red Wagon Organic Farm   Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

1. Local food tastes better and fresher than food grown for shipping or long shelf life.

2. You support and preserve small family farms.

3. You know the farmers you buy from avoid chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified seed.

4. You protect the environment. Local food doesn’t travel far, thereby reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and packing materials.

I’m also grateful that farmer’s markets create community. I never go when I don’t bump into a friend—and we compare the goodies we tuck into our shopping bags. The whole market feels a little like a festival—complete with fresh-made local foods from local restaurants.

This Thanksgiving, may we remember where our food comes from, may we support sustainable agriculture, and may we work to end hunger in our own home towns.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

People share food and smiles at the Abbondanza Farm stand at the Boulder Farmer's Market. Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

Shakespeare Thrives in Boulder Summer Festival

William Shakespeare discusses CSF's "Taming of the Shrew" with picnickers.

To me, it just wouldn’t be summer without the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF), held for more than 50 years in Boulder.

Performed in the Mary Rippon Theatre (a lovely outdoor stage) on the University of Colorado campus, the plays are always quite wonderfully produced, and they are ably performed by a troupe of professional actors.

I personally believe that nothing beats the raw excitement of seeing live theatre under the stars, especially on a warm summer night.

(Yes, there are nights where it rains, and the audience huddles indoors waiting for the weather to clear. It usually does, and the show continues where it left off.)

The crowd gets ready for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2010 production of "King Lear," set in the 1890s wild West.

I have a special connection with Boulder’s Colorado Shakespeare Festival: For 25 consecutive summers, my wind ensemble, called the Falstaff Trio (flute, clarinet and bassoon), has performed for the Green Shows before the plays.

Green Shows are the entertainment for picnickers on the lawn before the show. We musicians get “paid” in tickets to the performances.

Pre-show picnicking is another special memory. Over the years on nights that I’m attending a performance, friends and I have spread our blanket under the trees and dined al fresco while listening to other musicians. Or we’ve listened in on theatre conversations: a costumed actor portraying Will Shakespeare wanders the grounds chatting with picnickers about the play they’re about to see.

Sharing fresh summer dishes and a bottle of wine is a timeless ritual—and sometimes our Shakespeare festival is the only time in the busy summer that we haul out the picnic basket.

(Picnic tips: If you don’t have time to prepare food, the Festival sells boxed dinners on-site. And, it’s fun to save dessert for intermission.)

A recorder player with the Boulder Renaissance Consort entertains at 2010 Green Show.

Over the decades, I’ve seen so many wonderful plays by the Bard; the Festival also produces some non-Shakespeare plays each season, such as 2009’s excellent To Kill a Mockingbird.

With great affection I look back at all those Macbeths, Romeo and Juliets, Twelfth Nights, Hamlets and Midsummer Night’s Dreams. The plays that are rarely done get produced too, though less often: I still fondly remember Coriolanus (1995) and Much Ado About Nothing (1997) as among the best productions I’ve seen.

Then there are fun quirks, such as the night a family of raccoons walked across the building gutters right behind the stage. Talk about stealing the show! We audience members were pointing at Momma and her four little ones as they ambled through a scene.

Long live the works of Shakespeare, and long live the Colorado Shakespeare Festival!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Picnicking before the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is a high art.

Greener Driving

The Green House experience in Boulder brought me two driving firsts: a hybrid car (the Ford Fusion Hybrid) and the prototype of the 2012 Ford Electric Focus.

The prototype of the Ford Focus Electric, due out in spring of 2011

Before I got behind the wheel, however, our group of journalists heard about how Ford is incorporating “biomaterials” into their vehicles, including soybean-oil seat foam (instead of petroleum foam). They’re also adding natural fibers (wheat straw, hemp) into some plastic parts; the fiber fillers make the plastic lighter, reducing the car’s overall weight, which in turn saves on gas.

Next, we prepped for the “Ford Fuel-Efficiency Challenge” by reviewing Ford’s eco-driving tips. (These apply to driving any vehicle, not just hybrids.)

  • Watch your speed and avoid pumping the accelerator.
  • Accelerate and brake smoothly to conserve fuel.
  • No idling. Engines today don’t need a pre-drive warm-up.
  • Keep tires properly inflated for best mileage.
  • Travel light by removing excess weight from the vehicle.
  • Minimize use of heating and air conditioning to reduce the load on the engine.
  • Close windows at high speed.

We then split into two teams of three people, each with a Fusion Hybrid. As my team’s driver, I turned the key in the ignition. And nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing. Then it dawned on me that the car was actually running—there was just no revving engine sound that we’re used to. An honest mistake, but I still felt pretty silly.

My drive up to the mountain town of Nederland (20 miles away) went more smoothly. The Fusion Hybrid handled nicely and was comfortable to sit in. All the controls were easy  to see, but I left it to my friend in the passenger seat to keep an eye on our fuel-use rating while I watched the road.

And the Winner Is: Planet Earth

After both teams arrived back at the Green House after a mountain picnic, the Ford folks checked our mileage—the car displays this info for every trip—and we were the winners! We clocked in at 46 miles per gallon.

What tipped the balance? I like to think it was my feather-light accelerator foot, but the other team admitted they ran the air conditioner. (They got 41 miles per gallon, I believe.)

Going Electric

The Focus Electric uses no gas and gets 100 miles per charge.

Next, we each got a chance to drive around the neighborhood in the prototype of the Ford all-electric Focus, which had been plugged into the outlet in the garage all morning. (A full recharge is supposed to take 6 to 8 hours with a 240-volt charge station. It can also be recharged in 12+ hours with a 120-volt cord set into conventional outlets. When fully charged, Focus Electric will drive 100 miles before you juice it up with electricity.)

I slid into the jazzy orange car, pressed the “on” button (no key necessary) and away we went. I expected something radically different, but honestly, it drives and feels like any other car. However, the only sound the Focus makes is the whirring of the tires on the road.

The Focus Electric is scheduled to be on the market in 2011.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor