The recycled hotel
How good should a hotel be? By ‘good’, I’m not talking about the number of stars it has. I’m refering to virtue. How kind, thoughtful, conscientious is it? Believe it or not, Good Hotel in San Francisco, which opened late last year, has very high aspirations in this department. As its name might suggest, it aims to be ‘the first hotel with a conscience’.
Now, if a hotel could have a conscience, what form would that take exactly? In these ecologically-charged days, it would have to start by being environmentally friendly. And that’s what Good Hotel aspires to be. As green as possible, plus as philanthropic as possible.
Nice idea. So how does this work? Well, first of all, the Good Hotel, located on Mission and 7th in SOMA, has been recycled. It used to be the Hotel Britton, a chintzy, inexpensive hangout for those wanting to stay near the city’s bars and music venues. It had fallen into disrepair, then JDV Hotels stepped in and gave it a makeover. Clean, design-conscious but minimalist.
The hotel’s history and its neighborhood (up-and-coming) give you an idea about what you’ll find there. Firstly, it’s not expensive. Rooms start at $89 a night (during the week).
Secondly, it isn’t as concerned with perfection as it is with effort. So, it may be green, but it’s not Whole Foods. Sure, like the upscale grocery store, it uses compostable cups and biodegradable forks in its restaurant (Good Pizza), but the focus is on reduce, reuse, recycle. Green and earnest, rather than green and overpriced. Exactly, I think, what green should be.
Having said that, design and technology have not been compromised. You still get your plasma TV and iPod dock. Everything else is fairly minimal, though – pared down, with quirky highlights like the photobooth and the Readymade t-shirt vending machine in the lobby, and reversible pictures in the bedrooms.
The hotel makes a feature of recycling. Rooms are furnished with simple reclaimed wooden beds, blankets are made out of recycled soda bottles, chandeliers have been built from used glass bottles, and the tiles in the bathroom are quirkily mismatched. Counters in the restaurant are compressed recycled paper, carpets are recycled, and couches are second-hand.
There are shower gel and shampoo dispensers in the shower instead of soap bars and disposable bottles. There’s LED lighting throughout the building. Cleaning products are biodegradable and bleach-free. Food is sourced locally wherever possible, and organic.
Possibly most exciting of all, the toilet features what they have dubbed ‘sink positive’ – a tap built into the cistern which allows you to wash your hands with the water that will perform the next flush. (My four-year-old daughter loved this, and kept wanting to flush the toilet… which defeated the purpose, but really encouraged her to wash her hands.)
As for philanthropy, Good Hotel has joined forces with One Brick, a local charity that unites volunteers with worthy causes. Every hotel guest can choose to give $1.50 on top of their room charge to One Brick, and staff are paid to volunteer four days a year. (If you think this is worthy, they’re also given eight nights a year free of charge at any JDV hotel. Not a bad perk.)
Words which were kept in mind in the creation of Good Hotel were ‘hip’, ‘humble’, ‘happy’ and ‘conscious’. The staff, many of whom used to work at the Britton (another example of recycling), are selected with all of these words in mind.
And this air of service goes a long way. The staff respond immediately when you ask for something, and are happy to print out directions to wherever you want to go. (On that note, there are many places within easy walking distance, from Chinatown to San Francisco’s MOMA.)
So does Good succeed? The answer is definitely ‘yes’. It certainly suited my needs. It is a tiny bit rough around the edges – skirting boards a little scuffed, paint not quite perfect, but it doesn’t promise to be the Ritz.
One suggestion… Although you can choose to offset your energy use during your stay and hybrid cars park free of charge, it would also be great if the hotel used some form of renewable energy.
But no doubt that will happen in time, and this is by no means a criticism. In an era when consumers are often subjected to greenwashing, Good Hotel feels like the real deal. – Roshan McArthur