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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Eco-Lap of Luxury

Air Date: Week of

A Happy Planet room features organic bedding, along with furniture and floors made from rescued timber. (Dan Stone/Netstrom.com)

This funky yet luxurious San Francisco hotel offers tip-top environmentally friendly accommodations. Host Steve Curwood takes a tour.


CURWOOD: If you guys want to come out of your caves and socialize with the rest of humanity, we found one place where you can still get away from it all – but do it in style, grace and go green, too.

On a recent stop in San Francisco someone told us about the Hotel Triton, a funky, eclectic place to stay on the edge of Chinatown that claims to be one of the top environmentally-friendly hotels in the city – complete with eco-friendly rooms and eco-celebrity suites. So we stopped by to check it out.

A Happy Planet room features organic bedding, along with furniture and floors made from rescued timber. (Dan Stone/Netstrom.com)

RECEPTIONIST: Good afternoon, Hotel Triton-Kimpton Properties, this is Amanda.

[MUSIC: Otto Sieben “Curley Shirley” from ‘Music For TV Dinners’ (Scamp – 1997)

PACE: Hi Steve, welcome to the Hotel Triton, I’m Michael. Nice to meet you.

CURWOOD: My pleasure.

PACE: My name is Michael Pace, I’m the director of environmental programs for Kimpton Hotels.

CURWOOD: This is an eco-hotel.

PACE: This is an eco-hotel. We’re at the hotel Triton in San Francisco. It’s Kimpton Hotel’s most eco-friendly hotel in San Francisco.

CURWOOD: So far, a whale hasn’t hugged me. What’s so eco-friendly about this?

PACE: (laughs) That’s the beauty of it. I’ll show you as we go up to the rooms all the beautiful things that we’re doing for the environment.


PACE: The hotel was designed by a group of local designers and artists in the early nineties. It was the first time that we as a company decided to let go from the control of the design aspect and we said to the designers and artists, ok go create a fun hotel, make it different, make it something unique for the guests. Something that San Francisco hasn’t seen before.

Shall we go upstairs? I can show you some of our eco-rooms and some celebrity suites which are a lot of fun here at the hotel.

[MUSIC: Herbert von Karajan “The Blue Danube” from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey (Soundtrack)’ (Rhino/WEA –1996)]

PACE: So, Steve, I’m taking you up in our mood elevator. As you can see the lighting is very different than a regular hotel.

CURWOOD: It’s very low.

PACE: Yes, it is. And the other one is a little bit brighter and a lavender color. It’s supposed to help you relax or get ready for the evening depending if you’re coming up or going down.

[MUSIC: Herbert von Karajan “The Blue Danube” from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey (Soundtrack)’ (Rhino/WEA –1996)


PACE: Okay, so welcome to the original eco-floor at the Hotel Triton. And this is really where it all began. In 1995 as we were developing the concept of the hotel, we came up with the concept of having a whole floor dedicated to environmentally aware policies and procedures, and programs for the guests. We’re going to go into a couple of rooms, and I’m going to show you exactly what we did to retrofit or outfit the rooms to be more eco-friendly.

[MUSIC: Herbert Stothart “Optimistic Voices” from ‘The Wizard of Oz (Soundtrack)’ (Rhino/WEA – 1995)]

SINGING: Open, Open


PACE: Follow me right through. We’re in room 712. We’re on the top floor of the hotel. And one of the things you may notice is that it doesn’t look particularly eco. Or obviously eco to anybody. So what we have done is we’ve really focused on being non-intrusive in the way we run our hotel’s eco programs.

We want guests to come and stay in the hotels because they enjoy the environment of the room and know that they are helping the environment, but not in a jarringly negative way or screaming in your face ‘eco-friendly.’

[MUSIC: Tony Bennett “This Can’t Be Love” from Sings For Lovers” (Concord Jazz – 2006)

PACE: So, some of the things that we have in the eco-friendly rooms, are starting with the bathrooms. The water filtration unit with the flow controls. So we’re also purifying the water as well as reducing the amount of water being used in the bathroom. The shower pressure is still as good as it would be without, but it’s more pure water and it’s only coming down at 2.5 gallons per minute. We are eliminating, basically, all packaging of small bottles of soaps and shampoos. And that’s a big part of the waste reduction program in the hotel. By using these amenity dispensers we cut down 100 percent on that. The soap, the shampoo, and even the hand lotion, is also eco-friendly. It’s biodegradable, it’s non-toxic, and it’s hypoallergenic.

Above the armoire you may notice a filtration unit. That has a special filter in it—a HEPA filter-- that attracts all the pollen and the fine dust particles in the room. So it’s continuously working 24 hours a day. We have energy efficient lighting in the rooms. And a big part of what we do in these rooms also is that we clean them with environmentally friendly cleaners--non-chemical cleaning products.

The sheets on the beds are actually made out of organic linens. And the towels in the bathrooms are made out of organic linen also.

[MUSIC: Tony Bennett “This Can’t Be Love” from Sings For Lovers” (Concord Jazz – 2006)]

The Woody Harrelson Suite (The Hotel Triton)

PACE: I would like to show you another room that we have. It’s a very unique room. It’s called the Woody Harrelson Suite. It was designed with Woody Harrelson, the actor.

[MUSIC: G. Portnoy & J. Hart Angelo “Where Everybody Knows Your Name (‘Cheers’ Theme)” from ‘Televisions Greatest Hits, Volume 3: 70’s & 80’s’ (TVT – 1990)]

PACE: Okay, so we’re at Woody’s Oasis. And it’s named after him and his foundation- the non-profit Oasis Foundation. And even the base you can see is clad in bamboo. So, when we developed the concept of embracing the eco-room concept and converting the hotel into being completely eco-friendly we asked Woody if he’d like to join us in the effort and help us design a suite.


PACE: The flooring is bamboo flooring. This was our first attempt at actually putting bamboo or hardwood flooring in a guest room. It’s very durable and it’s also at the same time rather soft to the feel so it’s got a very comfortable feel to it.

[MUSIC: Martin Denny “Love Dance” from ‘The Exciting Sounds of Martin Denny: Exotica, Volumes 1 & 2’ (Scamp – 1996)]

PACE: The paint that we used to paint the walls is actually what they call a low VOC paint. A low volatile organic compound paint, which means that it has no chemicals or hardly any chemicals in it compared to regular paint.

The soft fabrics that you see, the drapes on the windows, the headboard, the duvet covers, and the pillow covers are all made out of hemp. So that was another effort for us to go towards using organic and natural products.

We do recycle in our hotels. And that is a big part of what we’re doing in our environmental program. At the Triton, this was the first hotel where we actually asked the guests to recycle with us. This is why it’s fun to have an eco program that is a continuous evolution of standards and implementation. So the beauty for us is to set up a system and a culture of environmental awareness that thrives and keeps growing on ideas and suggestions and interactions with the community, with the employees, with the guests.


PACE: Well, here we are. Back at the lobby again.

CURWOOD: Well, I want to thank you for taking this time with me today.

PACE: Well, thank you, Steve. It’s been a pleasure.

CURWOOD: Our audio tour of the Hotel Triton in San Francisco was produced by Dennis Foley.



The Hotel Triton


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