Bardessono Inn and Spa Opens Deep Green

Phil Sherburne has never backed away from a challenge, whether it was taking on the CIA as the 21-year-old president of the National Student Association, or working with HUD in Chicago. The eco-developer’s latest accomplishment is the newly opened Bardessono Inn and Spa in Napa Valley. The 62-suite luxury resort is vying to become the first LEED-Platinum hotel in California.

Standout green features at the combination hotel, spa and restaurant include six acres of drought-tolerant foliage, organic herb gardens and vineyards, a spa heated and cooled by an underground geothermal system and hotel construction featuring recycled stone and salvaged walnut, cypress, redwood and California Bay woods. Travel Agent caught up with Sherburne to get his thoughts on how his latest enterprise delivers a green experience for his resort’s guests.

“Energy is getting more expensive and it’s not going to get cheaper,” says Sherburne, the owner of Bardesonno Inn and Spa. “Green initiatives can save money and there is no conflict whatsoever in providing the highest level of service while still being environmentally responsible.”

A unique feature at Bardessono Inn and Spa is the striking exterior shades on the room windows. “We explain to the guests that inside shades do nothing to cool a room,” said Sherburne. “Once a glass window is heated by the sun, the heat is inside the room. Interior shades are no help at all.”

When Sherburne explains it this way, it seems like a no-brainer. So why aren’t more properties utilizing outdoor shades?

“With change, you have to invest mental energy to investigate other efforts,” said Sherburne. “For most people it’s easier to keep doing things the same way.”

Another unusual touch is the lack of drapes in the rooms. “Drapes are where dust mites hide,” said Sherburne. “When we explain that we’ve eliminated drapes and carpets because that’s where dust mites flourish, guests instantly see the reasoning behind the decision.”

Rooms are also cleaned with organic cleaning supplies and only Coyuchi organic linens and terrycloth are used in the guestrooms. Sherburne heats and cools the resort with 82 geothermal wells and draws power from 900 photovoltaic solar panels.

“We have almost no incandescent lights in the hotel,” he said. “Fluorescents are now warmer, so you don’t get that harsh white light. You can also place a sleeve over the fluorescents to modify their color.”

The resort’s kitchen specializes in what Sherburne calls “Fresh California Cuisine,” utilizing local organic meat, fish and produce. “Our Executive Chef Sean O’Toole was trained in French kitchens but he uses a light hand—there are no heavy sauces, or very much butter or cream used,” said Sherburne. The resort also composts all vegetable matter from the kitchen.

Guests will also find an on-site bicycle shop at the resort and complimentary use of a bike for the duration of their stay.

When asked if green practices could be substantially adopted by mid-market hotels, Sherburne was optimistic that chain hotels could go green. “They could develop green hotels themselves or they could pay a higher price to buy green hotels in return for lower operating costs," he said. “I think that even in a down economy, green practices will be still be up front.”

“An executive from Toyota said that during good times you’re trying to keep up with demand. During tough times you spend less time creating product—that’s when you innovate.”

Sherburne was stymied in some of his efforts to maximize the green aspects of the resort. “We wanted to use ionization in the swimming pool, but the Napa Valley County Health Department wouldn’t let us—you’re still required to use chlorine. I also wanted to recycle gray water, but that also isn’t allowed by the county. This is something that will have to change.”