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.

 

St. Vincent and the Grenadines: An Ocean-Lover’s Green Guide

Though I’m grateful for the snow and frozen rain we received this past weekend in Colorado, I’m dreaming of islands in the Caribbean. So, I thought I’d revisit a trip a few years ago to visit gorgeous, eco-friendly places in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The black-sand beach and lush forest of Petit Byahaut solar-powered eco-resort. (photo courtesy Petit Byahaut)

The black-sand beach and lush forest of Petit Byahaut solar-powered eco-resort. (photo courtesy Petit Byahaut)

Caribbean beaches that aren’t crowded with hotels and condos are rare. Fortunately, the little-known island chain of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is—at least for now—laid back, conservation minded, and lightly developed. (And if you’ve seen the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, you’ve gotten an eyeful because St. Vincent and some of the Grenadines were the film location.)

PETIT BYAHAUT ECO-RESORT, ST. VINCENT

No roads, no phones, no TVs, no walls: What does solar-powered Petit Byahaut have? A gorgeous black-sand beach, friendly folks, outdoorsy tropical atmosphere, and gourmet meals.

Swiss Family Robinson: This getaway for nature lovers has just five accommodations: roofed, open-air wooden platforms with screened bedrooms (no bugs, tree-frog lullabies) tucked into forest gardens.

Responsible tourism: Petit Byahaut offers low-impact operations, solar electricity and solar hot water, employment for local staff, rainwater storage and an artesian well.

Fun in the sun: There’s no lack of outdoor activities here: Sea kayak to bat caves; snorkel or dive just off the beach; hike the rainforest or La Soufriere volcano; or grab your binoculars to spot bananaquits, doves, sandpipers, and the endangered St. Vincent parrot. In addition, you can accompany the chef to the local market for fresh produce and seafood.

Info: Pronounce it “Puh-tee Bye-ah-hah.”

BEQUIA ISLAND

Volunteers at the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary raise hawksbill hatchlings and release them into the wild when they're grown.

The Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary raises hawksbill hatchlings and release them into the wild when they’re grown.

The beaches are beautiful on Bequia (pronounced “Beck-way”), the most colorful and artsy of the Grenadines with its pastel, gingerbread-trimmed buildings and model boat-making cottage industry.

Don’t miss the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary run by Orton “Brother” King, an old salt who raises hawksbill hatchlings on Park Beach and releases them as three year olds when they have a better chance of surviving to adulthood.

SALTWHISTLE BAY CLUB, MAYREAU

Hidden among the palms on a semicircle of powdery white sand, Saltwhistle Bay Club is a charming collection of double-suite cottages and thatched structures hand-built of local “bluebitch” stone on tiny Mayreau (pronounced “My-roe”).

There are no TVs, phones, or air conditioning to distract from the cool tradewinds and turquoise waters.

The restaurant here is fantastic—a cluster of outdoor, Caribbean-style round stone tables and benches where you can sit back in your swimsuit and watch the water while dining on the superb seafood specialties. Visitors from around the world tend to congregate each evening around the beachside bar.

Saltwhistle Bay Club is a small-scale resort that boasts water catchment, employs twenty locals, and supports local fishers.

The Tobago Cays

The Tobago Cays (photo courtesy Tobago Cays)

TOBAGO CAYS

This breathtaking, uninhabited cluster of islets is a national marine park that attracts visitors to its coral reefs and white-sand beaches. Fishing, jet skis, and dinghy anchoring aren’t allowed, yet the Tobago Cays‘ fragile ecosystems have suffered from tourism and neglect. Visitors are encouraged to urge the government to protect, not develop, this area.

PETIT ST. VINCENT ISLAND

If only all exclusive, pricey hotels were as sustainable as Petit St. Vincent Resort. Secluded stone cottages (made of local bluebitch rock) with fantastic Caribbean views are scattered around this privately owned island, where the staff literally waits on you hand and foot.

All the cottages at Petit St. Vincent overlook the ocean.

All the cottages at Petit St. Vincent overlook the ocean. (photo courtesy PSV)

An organic farm provides fresh produce, and the resort recycles, composts, and collects rainwater—important because water is more precious than rum on this dry island.

Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor

What Makes Hotel Mocking Bird Hill So Green?

Jamaica's Hotel Mocking Bird Hill, near Port Antonio, blends into the natural landscape and works hard to be eco-friendly.

Thanks to the forward-focused vision of owners Shireen Aga and Barbara Walker, Jamaica’s Hotel Mocking Bird Hill conserves natural resources and exists lightly on the land. Among its extensive green initiatives:

  • Solar electricity (65 percent of hotel’s electricity). Solar panels dot the roofs and fence-posts throughout the resort, and soon others will be generating even more electricity.
  • Solar hot water (100 percent). It’s a virtuous (and petroleum-independent) feeling to wash your hands in water heated by the sun.
  • Rainwater harvesting. Why bother saving water on a tropical island? Believe it or not, there was a drought in Jamaica while I was visiting. To make matters worse, a municipal water pump in Kingston broke, so some communities had no water until a new pump part could be imported to fix it. So, yes, it’s smart for hotels to conserve water and to have backup.
  • Anaerobic wastewater treatment. Removing impurities from sewage and wash-water allows the hotel to safely reuse the resource for landscaping.
  • No air-conditioning. Except in extreme heat and humidity, A/C bothers me and makes me feel cut off from nature. The hilltop breezes in Jamaica cooled my room quite nicely, plus rooms have ceiling fans.
  • Chlorine-free pool. No toxic chemical smell on your skin. Need I say more?
  • Insecticide- and pesticide-free gardens. Birds, animals and people live more healthfully, and the web of life is maintained. Among other things, chemicals endanger those lovely tree frogs, whose nighttime chirps might be silenced.

    Note the napkin pocket under the fork. Each guest can choose to reuse a napkin before it's washed. This breakfast scramble features callaloo made with all-local foods.

  • Minimized washing of sheets, towels and dining napkins. I love Hotel Mocking Bird Hill’s embroidered cloth “envelopes”; they hold your lightly-used napkin until the next meal, or the next.
  • Organic, seasonal, locally-sourced items. Reducing the amount of miles that food has to be shipped benefits the environment. Plus, if it’s produced close by, chances are it’s fresher and tastier.
  • Locally employed staff. Well-paying local jobs boost the regional economy, give folks a sense of community pride, and inspire others to create their own businesses. All the team members at Hotel Mocking Bird Hill are so pleasant—it’s clear they’re personally invested in their work!
  • Water- and energy-saving showers: Nifty German-designed Ecostat showers provide a nice flow of water without conserving water and heating costs.
  • Carbon offset their operations through Sustainable Travel International’s program. Mocking Bird Hill guests can opt to donate to the program to offset their flights to Jamaica.

    For glorious beaches such as Frenchman's Cove to remain pristine, conservation actions such as those taken by Hotel Mocking Bird Hill are necessary.

Supporting Community Projects

Being a “sustainable” hotel means more than just supporting the environment. It means reaching out to people in the area. Hotel Mocking Bird Hill partners with and promotes a number of local initiatives and projects that benefit people in the community, including:

1. The Jamaica Conservation Development Trust. This reforestation program plants native Jamaican forest trees, including the water mahoe in which the endangered Giant Swallowtail butterfly lays its eggs.

2. Women’s handmade paper-making project in the town of Fairy Hill. Eight women are employed to design and create greeting cards, envelopes, note pads and picture frames out of recycled paper.

3. The Jamaican Hardanga Trust. Trains local women in the traditional hardanga textile craft. This delicate design work entails drawing out threads to create lacelike patterns in clothing, pillowcases and handkerchiefs.

Jamaican chocolate teaballs: The conical "balls" are made of locally grown cocoa. You grate the balls in boiling water; add milk, sugar, a dash of cinnamon and vanilla; and then enjoy!

4. The Long Road Cooperative in the town of St. Mary. Women earn a living making natural chocolate teaballs from local cocoa beans that have been dried and ground with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor