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3 Eco-Friendly Hotels in Florida

Photo by Fotolia

Hotels are meccas for waste, over-consumption and pollution. Smaller, less extravagant choices can be more eco-friendly, but sometimes it’s nice to get a little extravagant. Luckily, big time hotels are taking responsibility, and are working to create clever ways to conserve. When I go on vacation, I dig to find places that protect the earth while ensuring a great time for my family. I’ve found three Florida locations that are luxurious and environmentally conscious.

Photo by Pam Tyson Yasinski

Edgewater Beach Hotel- Naples, Florida

Naples is a calm beach town located on the Gulf Coast and also hosts the high end, yet family friendly Edgewater Beach Hotel. Located right on the water, it consists of large, modern suites/apartments, two swimming pools, beachside service, extremely comfortable lounge chairs and beds (yes, beds on the beach), complimentary shuttle to shopping areas, mid-day milk and cookie bar, and an outstanding restaurant.

Provided hotel toiletries are eco-friendly and biodegradable. Rooms are immaculately cleaned every day with “green” products, while guests are lounging by the turquoise water. To conserve water, sheets are changed every three days and towels are only replenished if left on the floor. Water saving devices are installed throughout the hotel and energy-saving lighting is used.

Hotels and resorts accumulate mountains of trash, so Edgewater uses largely recycled and compostable products, such as coffee cups and paper print outs. Soy ink is used instead of toxic variations.  Recycling bins are located all over the property to make it easy for guests to recycle.

Coast, the hotel’s outstanding restaurant, serves three meals a day, with menus magnificently prepared by William (Bill) Zimmer. Zimmer is passionate about his work and strives to give each customer an incredible experience when dining. He insists on serving only the best local and organic ingredients, which further enhances the taste of each entrée.

Dinner options include an array grouper, red snapper, tri-colored carrots, asparagus, broccoli, cheeses, nuts and more incredible ingredients. Breakfast is just as elaborate, with options such as lobster benedict, omelets and seasonal fruit.

90% of Loggerhead Sea turtles nest in Florida, and Edgewater works with The City of Naples Sea Turtle Protection Program to make sure these little guys and their nests are protected. Guests are urged to follow the rules below:

• Turn off your lights at night- Beachfront hotel lights can confuse hatchings and direct them away from the ocean. Shut off porch lights and close your curtains at night.
• Do not disturb nests- Keep a safe distance from nests. Professionals typically mark these areas with yellow tape.
• Knock down sandcastles and fill in holes- After a day of play in the sun, flatten any structures that could block a turtle and fill in hazardous holes.
• Toss food- Scraps attract turtle predators, like raccoons. Raccoons will munch on a leftover bag of chips and on poor little turtle eggs too.
• Skip the fireworks- Go to a professionally organized show, because setting off a display near a nest could be harmful.
• Report incidents- If you see someone disturbing a nest (try to inform them of the danger first), or if you spot an injured turtle, contact the local wildlife association of that area.

Photo Courtesy Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort

Margaritaville Beach Resort- Hollywood, Florida

Situated off of the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, the Margaritaville Beach Resort is a versatile, family friendly vacation spot loaded with fun activities. The hotel boasts three gorgeous pools, one being kid friendly, and another adults-only one on the 11th floor terrace. Of course, there is a Margaritaville restaurant, as well as a coffee shop, tiki bar, Landshark Bar and Grill, Floridays Airstream Café, JWB Prime Steak and Seafood, and a few other unique dining options. Rooms include comfortable beds with little parrots embroidered on the sheets, complimentary “paradise” water and spacious, spa- like bathrooms. The St. Somewhere Spa is the cherry on top of the casual-yet-luxurious resort, offering a full list of spa services and lounges.

Margaritaville is equipped with energy conserving features such as the automatic HVAC shut off in every guest room. When the room is vacant for an extended period, the air conditioning unit will shut itself off. No worries though, the room is still at a very comfortable temperature upon returning.  The fitness center has a similar feature. While empty, the lights will shut off. In a hotel the size of this one- 349 rooms and 17 stories to be exact- little things like this make an enormous impact.

JWB Prime Steak and Seafood was the final of the eight food and beverage concepts to be opened and is partially constructed with reclaimed materials. Ingredients such as fruit purees are used to create unique cocktails, and other local ingredients are incorporated into dishes. Perhaps the most unique thing about JWB is their Spear-Caught Fishing Program. Local fisherman catch fish by spearing, which is considered to be more sustainable and protects the ecological systems of Florida. Nets and lines can damage the delicate balance of the ocean. Consumers know where their fish came from, as well as the fisherman who caught it.

I was more impressed with the breakfast offerings at the resort than any other meal. While the coffee shop offers indulgent choices, the Margaritaville restaurant opens up for breakfast too, serving large fruit plates, oatmeal, yogurt parfaits and a variety of eggs. Room service is available throughout the day, offering organic veggies, salads and other healthy choices.

Photo by Pam Tyson Yasinski

Gullwing Beach Resort- Fort Myers Beach, Florida

Part of the SunStream Collection of Florida hotels, Gullwing is a condominium-style hotel that offers every amenity of home. Separated bedrooms, a full kitchen, laundry room, luxurious bathrooms with multiple showerheads, a large furnished porch and living room with flat screen television make the oceanfront location the perfect place for an extended beach stay. The area is calm and serene, situated a few miles away from the crowded parts of Fort Meyers. Grills are available for cooking up the day’s catch and a pool area with Squawk’s Snack Bar is great for the family. Sugary-white sand and an extended, flat beach provides plenty of space for activities.

Sunstream hotels are some of the 4,000 hotels involved with Clean the World, a non-profit organization that recycles unused, leftover soaps and sends them to developing countries and homeless shelters, where unsanitary conditions can lead to respiratory infections, cholera, pneumonia and other deadly illnesses. Clean the World sanitizes the recycled soap, and has shipped 25 million bars since 2009.

The hotel group is also a part of the Florida department of Environmental Protection’s Green Lodging Program, which praises and rewards hotels for being eco-friendly. Sunstream makes a strong recycling effort, making it easy for guests and employees to repurpose not only basic items like paper and glass, but batteries, ink cartridges, computer equipment and light bulbs as well. Since 2008, their recycling rate has increased by 68%.

Water conservancy, energy efficient appliances, green lighting and air quality improvement equipment are a few more contributions the group makes toward preserving the environment. Over the past eight years, they have seen a 32% electricity usage decrease.

Like Edgewater, Gullwing and Sunstream are protecting the turtles by following the guidelines of  Turtle Time, a non-profit organization that works to preserve Loggerhead turtles. The rules mirror those of the Naples Sea Turtle Protection Program. 

I am a strong believer in being good to earth, in all that I do. Finding eco-friendly vacation spots has been a recent recollection for me. By committing to supporting hotels that recycle, conserve energy and preserve wildlife, we are making a huge impact by preventing unfathomable amounts of waste and destruction. I’m certainly not perfect and have a long way to go, but I’m excited about my future adventures in “green” travel.

Karyn WoffordKaryn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.