‘Greenest hotel in America’: A Greensboro hotel makes climate-conscious travelers swoon.

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Courtesy QW Hotels, LLC

In one sense, the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, N.C., shouts its environmental bona fides from the rooftop.

One of the first sights that greet guests as they turn in to an otherwise nondescript office park off Green Valley RoadA road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle. Roads consist of one, or sometimes two, roadways (British English: carriageways) each with one or more ... are the 100 solar panelsRegarding photovoltaic or solar panels with crystalline cells, the photoactive layer consists of serial and/or parallel interconnected solar cells which are embedded into two plastic films. A front glass protects the interior for mechanical damage. Regarding thin-film solar modules the ... perched atop the handsome hotel, which from afar looks like an old textile warehouse lovingly brought back to life.

Visitors with low-emitting,

fuel-efficient vehicles can pull into a preferred parking spot closer to the front entrance, where a U.S. Green Building Council seal proclaims the hotel’s status as LEED Platinum — a rating reserved for the most energy­efficient of buildings. (The Proximity became the first hotel in the United States to earn the distinction nearly a decade ago, and only a handful have earned it since.)

Courtesy QW Hotels, LLC

The hotel’s lobby is furnished with locally made furniture.

“We are the greenest hotel in America,” a receptionist enthusiastically informs me from behind a floating front desk in the lobby, pointing out that many of the materials used to build the hotel were regionally sourced and almost all the construction wasteWaste consists of unwanted and thrown away goods that often still have value as fuel or raw material. was reused or recycled. (Much of the furniture also was produced within 18 miles of the hotel — a feat perhaps easier to pull off in one of the country’s furniture meccas).

In my loftlike room on the Promixity’s top floor, with its stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, exposed concrete walls and towering ceiling, a card on the plush king-size bed details more of the hotel’s Earth-loving ways.

“Chances are the hot waterClimate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass ... you enjoy will be heated by today’s or yesterday’s sunlight!” it reads.

I learn that the hotel circulates “fresh yet filtered” outside air to its guest rooms year-round, that the elevators are “the first in North America to generate electricity as they descend to use for the ascent,” that high-efficiencyUsing less energy/electricity to perform the same function. Programs designed to use electricity more efficiently - doing the same with less. faucets and toilets reduce water usage by 33 percent, that the hotel overall uses roughly 40 percent less electricityElectricity generation includes all technologies that turn some form of energy into useful electric energy. Electricity is a form of energy that has magnetic, radiant and chemical effects. Electric current is created by a flow of electrons. than a conventional hotel and that the kitchen in the downstairs restaurant uses a geothermalAlso known as geothermal power. Heat that is stored inside the earth is transformed into electrical energy by geothermal power plants. This form of energy is considered to be cost-effective, reliable and friendly to the environment. cooling system.

It’s quite a pitch. Enough to make a climate-conscious traveler swoon, or an ordinary traveler’s head spin with the earnestness of it all.

Luckily for travelers of every kind, that card on the bed made another promise: “You won’t sacrifice one iota of luxury or comfort because of our commitment to sustainable practices. We believe that deprivation is not sustainable.”

Not to worry. There is no deprivation in the proximity of Proximity.

The furniture might be locally manufactured and the construction materials carefully recycled, but sitting in the hotel’s airy two-story lobby one afternoon, I was struck not by the sustainabilityIn order to survive, all life, including human life, depends either directly or indirectly on the natural environment. Sustainability is a principle where current requirements are met while the livelihoods of future generations are not threatened. of it all but by the serenity. The chairs and couches were comfortable and inviting. White orchids hung from the walls. Natural light spilled in from massive windows, which overlooked an interior garden brimming with bluebells and flowering magnolias.

Later, in the adjacent Print Works Bistro — a cozy restaurant that could have been plucked from a Paris side street — I frankly gave little thought that the bar had been made from salvaged walnut trees, the service trays from Plyboo (bamboo plywood) or the drink coasters from cut up pieces of cardboard. Rather, I spent much more time savoring the perfectly seared hanger steak, locally sourced vegetables and a beer from a nearby brewery.

Courtesy QW Hotels, LLC

The hotel uses locally sourced and seasonal food, such as pan-seared sea scallops paired with fruits and vegetables.

This is how it was intended to be, according to Proximity’s enthusiastic, idealistic-but-practical co-owner, Dennis Quaintance, who along with his wife, Nancy King Quaintance, conceived of the hotel. In part thinking about the sort of legacy they wanted to leave for their twin children, the couple decided to build a hotel centered on sustainable practices, but not one known only for that.

“I want people to know about it when they are booking the hotel. But I don’t want them to notice it once they’re there,” Dennis Quaintance tells me when I call him a few days after my stay. “That’s the best of both worlds.”

The Quaintances, who also own the nearby O. Henry Hotel and several restaurants, oversaw every detail of the Proximity, right down to the low-flow toilets they finally decided upon after testing out different models in their own home week after week. The “commode du jour,” their daughter called the rotating models in the bathroom near the family kitchen.

A decade later, Dennis Quaintance — a man who walks the several miles from his home to his hotels most days — has become an ambassador for making sustainable choices.

“It’s a myth, absolutely a myth, that it’s more expensive,” he says, noting that the couple recouped any higher upfront construction costsCost: The consumption of resources such as labour time, capital, materials, fuels, etc. as the consequence of an action. In economics, all resources are valued at their opportunity cost, which is the value of the most valuable alternative use of the resources. Costs are defi ned in a variety of ... in about four years by what they saved in tax credits and lower energy costs. After all, they are business executives first. “It’s not sustainable to go broke,” he says.

Courtesy QW Hotels, LLC

Guests have the option of exploring Greensboro by bicycle; owners Dennis and Nancy King Quaintance wanted to build a hotel centered on sustainable practices.

A decade on, the couple has continued their eco-conscious ways. For instance, they employ more than a half-dozen craftspeople in a studio not far from the Proximity.

There, worn out chairs get reupholstered and refreshed rather than scrapped and replaced. An artist-in-residence makes charcoal-on-canvas sketches that adorn guest rooms and common areas. The group also builds custom furnishings for the hotel — antiqued mirrors, one-of-a-kind tables, cabinets, chairs and lampshades — that are more unique and typically less expensive than buying from outside vendors.

“To me, it just seems more soulful, more authentic,” Quaintance says.

And that’s the difference. The solar panels, the high-efficiency plumbing, the salvaged wood and recycled construction materials — it’s an admirable, Earth-friendly approach, not to mention an apparently astute business decision.

But I suspect what prompts so many of Proximity’s visitors to make return visits has very little to do with its carbon footprintGreenhouse gas accounting describes the way to inventory and audit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A corporate or organisational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions assessment quantifies the total greenhouse gases produced directly and indirectly from a business or organisation’s activities. ... and a lot to do with its undeniable charm.

Authenticity and soul, it turns out, might be the most sustainable qualities of all.

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If you go Where to stay Proximity Hotel 704 Green Valley Rd. 336-379-8200 proximityhotel.com Rooms from $239. — B.D.

© The Washington Post Company

The LEED Platinum-certified Proximity Hotel, in Greensboro, N.C., is topped with 100 solar panels.

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