The Hotel Industry’s Carbon Lie

(Bloomberg) — Behold the hotel of the future: It’s plastic bottle-free, anti-fossil fuel, and powered entirely by renewable energy. A renovation project, it gives new life to existing structures of concrete and steel, and reuses door frames, light fixtures, and even tile. All of its guest rooms are decorated with locally made furnishings upholstered in sustainably sourced fabrics. It’s LEED Platinum—one of just about a dozen hotels in the US to claim the organization’s highest rank. And it’s the first US hotel to receive Passive House designation, granted to buildings that meet stringent net-zero energy requirements.

When the Hotel Marcel opened in New Haven, Conn., in May 2022, it checked all those boxes as part of a mission to be the US’s first net-zero carbon-emissions hotel. But for all of the ways in which the Marcel makes real efforts to be a green marvel, it missed one huge consideration: embodied carbon.

Embodied carbon is the term that encapsulates all the harmful greenhouse gases emitted during renovation and construction of a building—an outsize part of any project’s footprint.

The Marcel’s triple-glazed windows? Good for keeping heating and cooling costs down, but a massive carbon emitter to manufacture. The hotel’s new, more efficient mechanical systems? They, too, emit large amounts of carbon during fabrication, transportation, and installation. Demolition of old walls? More carbon. Drywall, interior finishes, and bath fixtures for all 169 rooms? Carbon, carbon, carbon—all ignored in the Marcel’s net-zero promise.

“The net-zero objective is for operations,” the project’s architect Bruce Becker tells me, acknowledging the fact.

Given that hotel operations use more energy than virtually any other type of building, including those for offices, retail, housing, and manufacturing—accounting for an estimated 1% of global carbon emissions—net-zero operations are an admirable goal and a good example of the progress properties

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How to avoid airport chaos by choosing flight-free travel this summer

Passenger train passing by downtown Montreal city.Tony Tremblay/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Pandemic travel restrictions have lifted, and those eager to return to flying are creating a boom in bookings. But many environmental advocates are encouraging us to stay grounded, repeating the message that air travel is destroying the planet. Wasn’t the pandemic supposed to be the pause we needed to reflect on our unsustainable travel habits?

As Ariella Granett, co-founder of Flight Free USA, says: “People are struggling with this cognitive dissonance. They know what we should do, but they’re still not quite ready.”

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, fossil-fuel emissions from flights stay in the atmosphere and will continue to warm it for hundreds of years; by 2050, a quarter of all carbon emissions could be from flying. To put things into context: You’d have to drive your car for a year to match the emissions produced from a single flight from Toronto to Barcelona.

In the years leading up to the pandemic, guilt was already starting to grow among would-be holidaymakers. In 2018, Swedes Maja Rosen and Lotta Hammar launched Flygfritt, a campaign and non-profit whose name translates to “flight free.” A year later, the general flygskam, or flight shame, movement also began in Sweden and sparked conversations and change around the globe, particularly in Europe.

Of course, it’s easier to eschew flights in places where alternative transportation links are well maintained, accessible and relatively affordable. In North America, where distances between states and provinces are huge and train journeys are expensive, flight-free pledges can seem like more of a sacrifice.

Still, some North Americans have pledged to stay grounded for at least one year, as per Flygfritt. And others are going even further.

Nathalie Laplante, who lives

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