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What we're doing right

A Quebec hotel goes carbon neutral

5th December 2009

The hotel spent millions making changes, and what they couldn't make green, they offset - the best (and only) route to legitimate carbon neutrality

Hôtel du Vieux-Québec.

The weather is cooling, and so is Hôtel du Vieux-Québec, a 45-room hotelin the heart of the old city, which has announced it is now the first carbon-neutral hotel in la belle province.

The hotel spent millions making changes, and what they couldn’t make green, they offset – following the path recommended by Sustaining Tourism’s Rachel Dodds. “Buying offsets should be the last thing on their list after putting reduction measures in place – like reducing their energy use, reducing their waste and changing their suppliers. If they’ve done all that first, then bought an offset, that is good practice.”

That, says the hotel’s Justin Keating, is how Hôtel du Vieux-Québec can make its green claim. It wasn’t easy, especially where lighting is concerned: The hotel chose pricier atmospheric LED lighting instead of cheaper green alternatives.

“The only thing that bothers me is that I know the price will be half of what it was in a year as technology improves and becomes cheaper,” Keating said.

In the end, the hotel has to spend only $2,000 a year – which goes to renewable-energy projects in developing countries – to offset its annual footprint of 22 tonnes of carbon. So sleep easy, knowing your travel money is being cleanly spent, and is even offering a helping hand elsewhere.

How they did it

- $2-million: spent to improve insulation and energy efficiency in the centuries-old building, while maintaining historical and architectural integrity.

- $10,000: to switch 75 per cent of its lights to energy-efficient dimmable LEDs (the other 25 per cent will be replaced as they burn out) that still have the “warm, homey” light guests want.

- $9,000-plus: updating laundry facilities, including the purchase of washing machines that could use the new, eco-friendly, chlorine-free cleaning products the hotel is now using.

- $60,000: furniture made with Forest Stewardship Council-certified hardwood from Quebec. (The hotel donated furniture it is no longer using to charities, and rebuilt furniture purchased from other hotels.)

- A rooftop garden (which supplies the hotel with vegetables, herbs and flowers).

- Conversion to: 100-per-cent recycled toilet paper (Cascades – the soft kind) and stationery; water-conserving toilets, low-flow shower heads; motion detectors to ensure lights are off when guests are out; and soap and shampoo dispensers.

Still to come

- Solar hot-water heaters on the roof, which will supply the building with hot water when the city is under four feet of snow. Cozy.

- Green walls in the rooftop garden.

- A keycard control system in every room to control heating, lighting and air conditioning.

1190 Rue Saint-Jean, Quebec; 1-800-361-7787; Rooms from $126.

Published in The Globe and Mail

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