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The Baltimore Sun

Travel Editor Michelle Deal-Zimmerman. The day has passed, but the issue has not:

There's nothing like Earth Day to make travelers reflect upon the burden of our footsteps across the planet. Flying from continent to continent or driving coast to coast, our vacations and business trips are not as much fun for Mother Earth as they are for us.

A single passenger traveling round trip from Baltimore to Los Angeles will be responsible for emitting about 1,400 pounds of carbon, on average, according to the carbon calculator at TerraPass, an outfit that sells carbon offsets. The offsets – about $180 for an individual -- support renewable energy, alternative fuels, and other environmentally friendly programs.

A traveler's hotel carbon footprint is probably smaller but no less significant. In 2005, the Inn & Conference Center at the University of Maryland became the first hotel to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Every room uses recyclable materials, dual flush toilets, and energy-saving systems and an on-site organic restaurant serves locally grown foods.

Since then, other hotels nationwide have followed in their green footsteps. Here's a look at a few new places to find eco-friendly lodging in the Baltimore region:

Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown Inner Harbor (rendering shown above), 101 President Street, Baltimore, 410-837-9900, greenfairfieldinn.com. Amid the urban landscape that is downtown Baltimore lies a 154-room oasis just waiting to blossom this summer. The new hotel not only provides luxury, but also garners LEED certification, making it an emerald pioneer among the city's hotels.

The Fairfield by Marriott, the city's first bona fide green hotel, is located on the former Baltimore Brewing Company site. (Though the brewery no longer spews German-style suds at this location, there is Tavern 101 for drinking fans.) In addition to its green credentials, the hotel offers pillow-top mattresses, down duvets, continental breakfasts, exercise equipment, Flat Screen TVs and "courtyard-view rooms."

Green element: One remnant of the Brewing Company, a large grain barrel, is being recycled to accumulate rainwater that will irrigate the hotel's local, plant-abundant landscape. The green roof will prevent heat from seeping into the hypoallergenic, fragrance and smoke-free rooms, and bikes will be provided as alternative transportation.

Green fees: Rooms start at about $100 per night.

Hilton Baltimore Convention Center, 401 West Pratt Street, Baltimore, 21201, 443-573-8700, www.baltimore.hilton.com. What could be green about a huge hotel that cost $301 million and has more than 757 rooms? In addition to the green that Baltimore City officials are counting on raking in from increased meeting and convention business, the hotel has some other environmental credentials -- 60,000 in fact.

Green element: At first glance, this is just another giant convention hotel in a bustling city. On second glance -- perhaps from a helicopter -- one might notice a roof covered in shrubbery, or maybe mistake it for the green fields of Camden Yards. Instead, what you'd be looking at is the largest green roof in Baltimore -- a 32,000-square-foot space on the hotel's east and west towers. Planted with 60,000 one-inch plugs, mostly sedum, the green roof is credited with reducing energy costs, improving air quality and providing a natural habitat for wildlife. The hotel is also within walking distance of most major Baltimore attractions. Less driving is more eco-friendly.

Green fees: Rooms start at about $130.

Aloft Hotels, Arundel Mills (BWI), 7520 Teague Road, Hanover, 443-577-0077, starwoodhotels.com. Aloft, making its debut in May at Arundel Mills, strives for a cool vibe, demonstrated by phrases like "easy breezy" and "aloha!" But beneath this carefree facade is a seriously chic hotel. Vibrant colors cover the modern furniture in the lounge and exercise rooms. The hip atmosphere continues to the "re:fuel" cafe and "w xyz" bar, where guests can relax, socialize and even play pool. A second Aloft hotel will open at BWI Marshall Airport this summer.

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Green element: Aloft promises landscaping that will enrich the air. The "see green eco program" reserves priority parking for visitors with hybrid cars. The hotel also has refillable dispensers for in-room soap and shampoo, instead of disposable, single-use containers. There's also a car wash with green cleaning supplies.

Green fees: Rooms will average about $150 per night.

Element Hotel, 7522 Teague Road, Hanover, 443-577-0050, starwoodhotels.com. Element, a brand of Starwood hotels, requires each of its hotels to be LEED-certified. The extended-stay hotel opened right next door to Aloft. Element features a modern-design influenced by the great outdoors, with emphasis on natural light.

Green element: The hotel's furnishings are all eco-friendly, including carpets with 100% recycled content, water-efficient faucets and fixtures, Energy-Star appliances and recycling bins for paper and plastic. For activities, Element offers a saline pool, an eco-friendly alternative to chlorine, as well as a "borrow a bike" program, including helmets, to lead guests to their own outdoor adventures.

Green fees: Rooms rates start at about $175 per night.

Know of other green places to stay?

Photo courtesy of Gordon and Greenberg, Architects

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