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The Hotel Industry’s Big Carbon Lie

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.

Developer Urban Villages is pushing carbon claims even further, aiming to make its soon-to-open Populus the world’s first carbon-positive hotel. (Counterintuitively, this means that it will have a negative carbon footprint.) To lower its construction emissions, the 265-room property in Denver will use a low-carbon concrete mix made without cement, limewash plaster that sequesters carbon, high-recycled-content materials, and minimal finishes.

Colorado-based consulting firm STOK is undertaking the ongoing process of calculating the project’s total embodied carbon, based on materials, transportation, construction, and demolition—currently expected to be 4,397 metric tonnes of CO2. Urban Villages Chief Executive Officer Grant McCargo believes that it will be offset by planting of 72,705 trees across more than 5,000 acres of forest in vetted sites from Maine to the Amazon.