For environmentally conscious travelers with discerning taste, the appeal of top-tier hotels can often be dampened by the awareness of how much waste goes into creating their luxurious amenities: hotels create around 1.9 billion pounds of waste and produce around 60 million tons of CO2 a year. One Shanghai hotel out to prove that high-quality accommodations don’t have to mean a heavy environmental cost is ultra-trendy URBN, China’s first 100 percent carbon-neutral hotel.
Renovated in 2014, the 26-room eco-boutique hotel located in a Jing’an District heritage factory warehouse prioritizes both sustainability and design. The interior of URBN is constructed with 100 percent locally sourced and recycled wood and and gray bricks from the French Concession, which add to the hotel’s minimalist, modern-vintage aesthetic. Reclaimed materials are found throughout the property, such as a wall of vintage suitcases in the lobby and sleek furniture made from recycled wood in the rooms.
URBN is focused on keeping its ecological footprint as light as possible in a number of ways. In addition to its carbon-neutral status, it participates in a carbon offset program that makes a donation to the Million Tree Project for every guest that writes a comment card, and features a clothes recycling bin in the lobby as part of a citywide recycling program. The hotel uses it to recycle any blankets and sheets it can not longer use, in contrast to the common hotelier practice of simply throwing them away.
The quality of the environment within the hotel itself is also a high priority, and URBN features air purifiers by Mayair Technology throughout the property to protect against air pollution. It also focuses on green space, with a garden courtyard circled by bamboo as well as ivy growing up the side of the building that was transplanted from the French Concession.
The abundance of plants complements URBN’s neutral color palette as the hotel focuses on showing that eco-conscious can also mean stylish. With loft-style beds, bathtubs by the window, an abundance of gray slate, and sunken couches, URBN features a unique “modernist Zen” concept designed by fashion designer Jay Godfrey. The hotel’s signature room is the Jay Godfrey Courtyard Suite, a 60-square-meter Godfrey-designed room inspired by a SOHO loft with Asian influences that features curated artwork provided through a partnership with Shanghai gallery Art+, which rotates works by emerging contemporary artists.
Despite its commitment to cutting down on waste, the hotel doesn’t skimp on comfort. Guests sleep on beds made entirely from natural fibers including cactus fiber, seaweed, and coconut fiber along with 600-count Egyptian cotton sheets. Energy-saving mood lights are featured in in Tom Dixon fixtures and can be controlled by a high-tech in-room remote control panel.
In order to constantly be up-t0-date with the latest developments in sustainability, the hotel is evaluated by AOO Architecture annually to see what features it can add. With a host of awards by top design, lifestyle, and travel publications such as Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure, URBN is shining a positive light on the concept of the eco-hotel as it is slowly introduced to China, showing travelers that there’s no need to sacrifice style or comfort to have a better impact on the environment.