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Door County Magazine Spring 2009 Article

Green living is something people want to pack with them on vacation.

That’s the feeling of Geri Ballard, innkeeper at the Black Walnut Guest House, Sturgeon Bay. And she is not the only one who feels that way. Black Walnut is actually one of 27 Door Peninsula businesses that have earned Travel Green Wisconsin certification.

“It’s a personal thing. If people work on something at home, such as recycling, they want to continue that when they are somewhere else,” Ballard said.

Travel Green Wisconsin is administered by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism in partnership with the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative. The eco-tourism state stamp recognizes all types of travel and tourism businesses that are committed to reducing their environmental impact. They score points in areas like recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, air quality, landscape conservation, community benefits and more. While the Travel Green Wisconsin certification is relatively new, many businesses here have long had practices in tune with the Peninsula environment.

Eco-friendly lodging

In addition to the recycling program at Black Walnut, guests are also asked to help conserve water by reusing towels. Also, biodegradable and non-toxic laundry and dishwashing detergents clean stuff up, and organic fertilizers and products maintain the abundant gardens.

The inn is housed in a circa 1899 Victorian-style farmhouse, converted to an inn in 1999. Four rooms with private baths are available to guests. Each is decorated in a different way, but everyone gets a breakfast tray with homemade items like granola and muffins brought to their door.

“As much as I can, I buy organic fruits and organic orange juice,” said Ballard, adding that she washes bedding using cold water.

  Door County Cottages Earth Home
  While unconventional in appearance, Cottage Retreat's Earth home takes advantage of all that Mother Nature has to offer. Click image to see larger.
  Door County Cottages Earth Home
  Exposed maple and white ash warm the concrete chinking in the interior walls, while all the vacation comforts are right at hand. Click image to see larger.
  Door County Cottages Earth Home
  A glance inside the Lodge, one of five additional properties available for rental. Click image to see larger.

Cottage Retreat, Egg Harbor, was recognized in part for its green construction over 20 years. The multi-acre property includes two vacation homes, named Elena and Elise, which were actually built into the ground. They are made from concrete, use passive solar energy and radiant floor heating. Floor to ceiling windows in the earth bermed homes afford south exposure and abundant natural light as well as scenic vistas.The earth homes join five other unique single-family properties at Cottage Retreat. Also here is the Lodge, which boasts a striking built-in aquarium, radiant floor heating and passive solar energy.

At Journey’s End in Baileys Harbor, guests stay in one of three log cabins or 10 motel rooms on a lovingly nurtured four-acre green space. Here, landscaping with native plants reduces the amount of water necessary, according to Sue Becker, innkeeper.

“As a Travel Green inn, we are making an effort to protect the environment so that a traveler can enjoy the area today and also in the future,” she said.

Instead of being changed daily, towels and linens are replaced at guests’ requests. The accommodations are outfitted with energy efficient appliances, which are regularly maintained. A recycling program is in place for guests and employees.

In Sturgeon Bay, the White Pines Victorian Lodge and B&B had a restoration involving green building techniques, according to Sheri Gibbs, the owner and innkeeper. As part of the restoration, which commenced in 2001, areas behind walls were cleaned, wood floors were preserved, and windows (which were painted shut) have been replaced with energy efficient models consistent with the 135-year-old architecture.

“We have done everything we can to make a real healthy indoor environment here,” said Gibbs, who participated in Travel Green Wisconsin’s pilot program in 2006.

Window air conditioners are available during the hot months, but Gibbs finds guests who stay at an inn like hers do not turn them on. Window treatments and bed linens are made from cotton and wool; some fabrics are organic. This is a fragrance-free place, where guests are asked to refrain from wearing perfumes.

“Everything is cleaned with white vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. And there are no smells from fabric softeners, laundry detergents and perfumes,” Gibbs said. Bedrooms are decorated in a casual comfortable style, and bathrooms are devoid of whirlpool tubs.

“People come here because it is green, and number two, because there are no flowers and fru fru,” Gibbs said. “It’s a safe and healthy place to be.”

Natural ways at park

Some of the green actions taking place in the forest may not be obvious to Peninsula State Park visitors and residents. For example, removal of invasive species including garlic mustard and phragmites (a tall grass) “is a huge undertaking” necessary to preserving the beauty of the seven-mile shoreline, according to Tom Blackwood, park superintendent.

The park is also on a mission to ensure that firewood coming into the park is free of harmful Emerald Ash Borer. Firewood transported from 50 miles away or more cannot be brought inside the Fish Creek-based park. Another eco-conscious initiative, which may not be as evident as the park’s recycling bins, is a controlled deer hunt. Since 1982, the hunt has helped to keep deer population down in Peninsula State Park.

“People come to the park and say, ‘I don’t see deer like I used to.’ That is the idea. To see a deer is special. It should not be like seeing a squirrel,” Blackwood said.

“I am not a hunter, but I would rather have something be done so that 100 years from now, we have a healthy ecosystem.”

Green art

Meanwhile, The Flying Pig is a gallery, cafe and green space in nearby Algoma, has been green from the get-go. The two-level building was constructed in 2003 with passive solar heating and geothermal heating and cooling. The gallery has a corrugated aluminum exterior and an interior accented by reclaimed barn beams, exposed duct work and wood ceilings.

As for the art for sale, much of it is made from recycled or repurposed materials: paintings created with flower petals, sculptures designed with nails and iron, acrylic paintings accented by bottle caps and much more. “Both indoors and outdoors, we offer a different way of looking at creativity,” said Robyn Mulhaney, co-owner of The Flying Pig. “I think that’s really important and was one of our missions for creating the space.”

Donna Marie Pocius, an Egg Harbor, Wis.-based freelance writer, writes about travel, decorating, the arts and business. Door County Magazine.

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