When Hotel Terra opens later this year in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the linens on the beds of the 72-room, six-story eco-boutique property will be made from organic cotton. Even though the sheets and pillow cases will cost about 25 percent more than standard cotton linens, the Terra Resort Group, developer of the new hotel, will gladly pay the premium. Ashley Morgan, corporate director of sustainability for the company, says using organic cotton linens just makes sense.
Morgan believes the extra investment will quickly come back to the company, as travelers reward them for their commitment to health and the environment. Organic linens are healthier to sleep on, she says, because the cotton itself was grown without harmful pesticides. A set of cotton sheets found in most hotels today requires six pounds of pesticides to get the cotton to grow and mature.
The Hotel Terra purchases its linens from a California-based company that imports them from India. While organic cotton is grown in the United States, Morgan says it must be shipped overseas to be milled. So, it is actually more environmentally responsible to have linens made from overseas cotton shipped from overseas factories—from India, for example. Testing by Hotel Terra staff has shown that organic sheets and pillow cases hold up well. Terra Resort Group does not plan to tell guests about the linens—at first. “We want to surround our guests with luxury and surprise them with sustainability,” says Morgan, who adds that the hotel eventually plans to sell organic cotton linens to guests.
Is your property currently using sheets and pillow cases made from organic cotton? If so, are you happy with them? I would like to know what your experience has been. If you have not yet considered purchasing organic linens, here are a few things to consider.
According to the Organic Trade Assn., organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production.
The ultimate goal of sustainable cotton, according to the Sustainable Cotton Project, Inc., is to move sustainable production, manufacturing and use practices throughout the cotton value chain in order to create a healthy and profitable industry for growers, their communities, manufacturers, retailers and users of all cotton products.
Richard Stewart, vice president of product management for Cincinnati, Ohio-based Standard Textile, says the non-traditional cotton market, of which one could include certified organic, uncertified organic, and transitional cotton, operates much differently than the traditional market. To put things in perspective, the supply of organic cotton is less than 1 percent of the total global cotton supply while demand for organic cotton continues to grow rapidly. The fiber classification system for non-traditional cotton is different than traditional cotton, non-traditional cotton is bought and sold in a different system, and there is a confusing litany of information out there about organic, eco, sustainable, renewable, recycled or recyclable fibers—making the entire environmental textile landscape incredibly complex.
Greg Eubanks, group v.p. of hospitality for Standard Textiles, recommends that before purchasing organic cotton linens, one should chat with someone who has a detailed understanding of cotton fibers, their properties and the complexity of the supply chain so that an informed decision can be made to best meet environmental objectives.
Guests may not yet be requesting organic cotton sheets and pillow cases but it could happen soon—especially travelers with multiple chemical sensitivities, or maybe even those who are just looking for a new level of luxury. Properties like the Hotel Terra are beginning to set a new standard for eco-boutique hotels. It will be interesting to watch how others respond.
Odds & Ends
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