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A (LEED) Silver Lining: Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg

Leading the way for the green evolution for the Hilton Garden Inn franchise, the Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg, drawing inspiration at the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, has embarked on the fast-track to bring this upscale hotel into the green business movement. Opening in May, 2009, this 118-room hotel is nestled across the street from the rumbling Little Pigeon River in downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and offers a spectacular view of Mount LeConte in the distance, often sculpted by clouds and mist.

The Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg offers more than window dressing in terms of their green efforts. That’s why, when the final points are tallied, it will likely earn Silver LEED certification.

A few of their eco-innovations include:

Rainwater retention on site with parking lot pavers, capable of absorbing 100 percent of the rainwater. The pavers were acquired within 500 miles of the site and are non-reflective, reducing the heat island effect.

Dual-flush toilets in every room, allowing the hotel to use 30 percent less water than a typical hotel of this size.

Energy efficiency is everywhere you look, from the recessed LED lights above the entrance way to each of their rooms to the latest in room temperature monitoring controls.

Ozone laundry systems (from Laundry Systems of Tennessee) to clean laundry on site, reducing water use by 30 percent, trimming electricity use, cutting labor costs and drastically reducing hot water use while still killing 99 percent of the “superbugs.”

Despite the lack of comprehensive local recycling (even the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Service has trouble finding a way to recycle such things as glass), the hotel contracts with a private company to collect and sort paper, glass, metal and plastics.

Restaurant-bar top made from recycled materials. Numerous other construction materials, like Interface carpet, are either sourced within 500 miles and/or made from recycled materials.

Off-set about 70 percent of annual electricity use with Green-E energy credits.

Employ a salt-water based purification system for pool and hot tub.

“Our responsibility is to shout from the trees and help create awareness,” says Logan Coykendall, one of the partners of the private group that owns the hotel. Not surprisingly, their recycling containers can’t be missed and posters about their efforts are adjacent to the elevator bank in the lobby. He admits that many of their guests may not be aware of the many challenges facing the planet, so he’s not preaching to the converted. In contrast, at our Inn Serendipity our guests arrive because they want to learn more about making their own electricity from the sun and wind while relaxing in our farmhouse and savoring a local, seasonal and organic breakfast.

“As a person who grew up in the mountains, my love of them echoes what we’re doing here,” continues Coykendall. “The fact is: we have limited resources. That’s where our efforts are focused. In the end, it’s not about what were not doing. It’s what we are doing.”

Perhaps this is the beginning of how all Hilton Garden Inns will approach hospitality, with the Earth in mind.

Photography: John D. Ivanko/

Written by John Ivanko

John Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, is the co-author of ECOpreneuring, Rural Renaissance and Edible Earth, innkeeper of the award-winning Inn Serendipity Bed & Breakfast, national speaker, freelance writer, and copartner in a marketing consulting company.
Ivanko is also an award-winning photographer and author or co-author of numerous books, including the award-winning children's photobooks, To Be a Kid, To Be an Artist, Be My Neighbor and Animal Friends, which help support the Global Fund for Children Books. He's contributed to Natural Home, E/The Environmental Magazine, Mother Earth News, Hobby Farms and Wisconsin Trails, among many others.
Former advertising agency fast-trackers, the husband and wife duo are nationally recognized for their contemporary approach to ecopreneurship, homesteading, conservation and more sustainable living. Based in Browntown, Wisconsin, they share their farm and Inn Serendipity Bed & Breakfast with their son, a 10kW Bergey wind turbine, and millions of ladybugs.


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