While the number of hotels adopting energy-efficient practices is steadily growing, rarely do we hear of hostels investing millions into energy efficient buildings and equipment. Evidence would suggest however, that this trend is starting to change.

Profiting from going “green”

According to World Interior Design Network, the operators of Planet Traveler, a hostel located in Toronto that opened its doors in 2010, spent around $2 million over 4 years refurbishing the building, $200,000 of which was spent on “green” retrofitting. The brainchild of Anthony Aarts (traveler hostel owner) and Tom Rand (green-tech venture capitalist), Planet Traveler is a 114-room hostel that cut standard carbon emissions for a building of its size down by 75%.

While the initial investment might come as a shock to some, Rand is convinced that “green” technology does not mean operating at a loss. In a report by blog TO, Rand is quoted as saying: “Efficiency is about doing it smarter, not with less.” He continues to suggest that “energy efficiency is about economic competitiveness. Germany and Japan are twice as efficient in using energy to produce money than we are. We waste half the energy we use. We could cut our energy use in half and still have the same lifestyle.” While the retrofits undertaken at Planet Traveler may not change anything on a global scale, specific projects are sure generating a buzz in and around the GTA.

What it takes to power-down

According to the website, Rand and Aarts were brainstorming initiatives that would lower emissions and reduce the amount of power they consume. Focusing on “green” technologies, the hostel owners wanted to find ways to produce their own electricity and recapture heat, making use of some pretty neat equipment to do so.

To start with, Planet Traveler installed a 4.7kW photovoltaic array, which coincidently doubles as a shade awning over their rooftop bar. When they produce more energy than they consume, they simply move that power out to the grid. And yes, that happens once in a while due to the extremely low energy needs of LED lighting installed hostel-wide. The entire building takes approximately 1,500W to light which, in case you were wondering, is less than it takes to run a hairdryer.

… and heat things back up!

The ridiculously low output of energy used is nearly as impressive as the fact that Planet Traveler is part of the City of Toronto’s first joint geothermal project, necessitating 6,200 feet of pipe to be drilled under the public laneway beside the hostel.

According to the hostel website, fluid-filled pipes (referred to by World Interior Design Network as the “heartbeat of the building”) tap into the constant 10° to 12°C temperature deep underground and then wind their way back to the hostel where heat is transferred via heat pumps that provide carbon-free warmth to rooms and common space. During the summer months, heat from the building is transferred to the fluid in the pipes and then pumped outside in order to keep a nice cool temperature for staff and guests alike.

For more about Planet Traveler and their “green” building policies (or to make reservations and tour the greater Toronto area) check out their website!

Have your say…

Questions or comments about Planet Traveler? Do you know a hostel that is making headway in energy efficient practices or “green” building? Let us know! Leave your comments and questions below.

If you are a hotel operator looking to improve energy efficiency, check out these great rebates available to businesses investing in energy-efficient equipment! Not sure where you can save on energy costs? Members of the accommodation industry are invited to try out our free interactive energy audit! Find out how you can start lowering energy costs today.

image credit: gengor1