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San Francisco’s Green Hotel

Stefan Muhle of San Francisco's Orchard Hotel, image
Photo caption
Stefan Muhle has made San Francisco's Orchard Hotel a green business.

Is a hotel that merely asks guests to reuse towels a friend of the Earth? Not in Stefan Muhle's book. As general manager of San Francisco's Orchard Hotel, Muhle has "greened" the downtown boutique in ways both apparent (organic toiletries) and invisible (citrus cleaning agents). He's gone even greener at the 86–room Orchard Garden Hotel, opening in August. 466 Bush St., (888) 717–2881,

Q What does green mean in a hotel?
A Some hotels still have ozone–depleting Freon air conditioners in every room and yet consider themselves green because they recycle. We want to go considerably further.

Q How so?
A We'll be the first U.S. hotel to get certified for environmentally sound construction by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, a new standard for green buildings.

Q For doing what?
A Our floors and furniture are made of maple from nonvirgin forests. We've installed special carpets that give off nearly none of the gases other kinds do. And our guest rooms all have energy control systems. To turn your lights or heat on, you insert your keycard in a box just inside the door. Leave with the key and the system goes out.

Q Will guests notice?
A Our towels will still be soft and sheets white, with high thread counts.

Q But are they organic?
A We're researching that. We have to strike a balance of ethics, comfort, and durability.

Q Does it cost more to go green?
A Some things—the organic coffee—are more expensive. But the energy control system saves us money. Ultimately, guests won't pay any more to feel good.

Photography by Terrence McCarthy

This article was first published in July 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.