Luxury firms push ‘eco-posh’
Handbag-makers to hotels are luring a new kind of luxury consumer.
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“Consumers are beginning to demand a difference,” she writes. Just look at the choices of Hollywood A-listers. Stars like Angelina Jolie and Eva Longoria favor Los Angeles-based NorthStar Moving when they need to relocate. The ecoluxury company’s vans run on biodiesel and use battery-powered lift gates that can be used while the engines are turned off. New celebrity mommies Nicole Richie and Jessica Alba swaddle their little ones in 100 percent organic cotton fleece blankets by Robbie Adrian (that retail for $86 to $270 a pop).Skip to next paragraph
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Companies that go green find that ecoluxe can add to their prestige and bottom line.
For San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels, the largest operator of exclusive boutique hotels in the United States, being green was always part of the business plan. Kimpton was the first hotel company to introduce in-room recycling bins companywide. The hotels offer organic food and beverage options in their in-room mini bars. With four hotels already certified by Green Seal, an environmental standard for lodging properties, Kimpton is opening this fall an even more environmentally friendly property in Philadelphia certified by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
What’s changed is how the company communicates its green commitment to its customers, travelers in their 30s and 40s with an average income in excess of $100,000.
“We started to realize through surveys that 16 percent of our customers were coming to us because they were aware we were environmentally friendly,” says Niki Leondakis, Kimpton’s chief operating officer. “We realized we needed to do a better job of letting people know what we were doing.”
Ecoluxury has other benefits, too. Kimpton’s switch to nontoxic cleaning supplies – a big hit with its sophisticated customers – also coincided with fewer sick days for the housekeeping staff, she says. “It’s a win-win for the environment and investors when you operate with lower energy costs or with savings on water.”
But it’s a fine line. While Kimpton has used energy-efficient light bulbs (infamous for their harsh glow) in its back offices for years, only recently has it installed them in guest rooms, now that soft-light versions are available.
Ecoluxury is also making inroads in the food industry. The word “organic” is already synonymous with exclusive eateries the world over, but the Glazier Group, owners of the Strip House restaurants nationwide and two exclusive catering outfits in New York City, has taken it a step further. Most noticeably, the catering arm of its Bridgewaters facility, Bridgewaters To Go, opened in 2008 using biodegradable flatware and attractive delivery containers made of recycled pressed paper wrapped in twine that are compostable. When diners are finished, Bridgewaters To Go staff can pick up the meal’s waste in a specially provided bag to make sure recyclables are responsibly disposed of while organic material is composted.
The catering company’s main business is corporate meals, mostly for Wall Street and fashion types in New York City. The green theme seems to be helping business, especially in today’s economic climate when every move of corporations and the affluent is under public scrutiny, says Chris Siversen, executive catering chef for the Glazier Group. “You get the sense that people feel, ‘OK, we can’t spend big money, but the fact that they’re green puts us in a good light. So we can hire a green caterer and we aren’t just randomly spending money, we’re helping a good cause at the same time.’”