Opened in 1905, El Tovar Hotel is the oldest and most elegant hotel in the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Designed by architect Charles Whittlesey, it became an instant attraction for visitors from all over the world, including President Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein and western author Zane Grey. It sits just feet from the rim of the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon and has 78 rooms that feature satellite TV, Keurig coffee machines, air conditioning and full baths, along with concierge and bell service.
Today, its rich history is complemented by its sweeping environmentally friendly features, which often do not walk hand in hand with historic buildings. From in-room composting to low-flow showers, El Tovar and its eco-minded staff are helping make a difference in protecting the breathtaking landscape in which it is surrounded. It's part of a much larger sustainability effort spearheaded by Xanterra, which manages properties that fall under Grand Canyon National Park Lodges.
Coffee with a Conscience at El Tovar
A perk of staying at the legendary El Tovar Hotel is the Keurig coffee machine in your room. But up until 2.5 years ago, the pesky personalized pods created waste that neither guests nor Xanterra staff felt good about. In 2014, Xanterra partnered with Keurig and joined its Grounds to Grow On program, which enables Xanterra to collect the used K-Cup pods, box them up and send them to Keurig's disposal partner. The partner separates the pods from the grounds, composting the grounds for future agricultural use and giving the pods to Covant Energy to be converted to energy. In 2016, 183,000 K-Cup pods were collected at the South Rim, totaling a whopping 7,300 pounds that was diverted from a landfill and converted to compost and energy.
"When you hear how many K-Cups were collected, it's really startling," says David Perkins, director of sustainability for Xanterra's Grand Canyon National Park Lodges. "It went from a negative to a net positive. People are saying, 'Thanks for the Keurig and thanks for recycling the cup.' "
Guests also will find a composting bin in their room to deposit fruit and vegetable waste like banana peels and apple cores. Maswik Lodge and Phantom Ranch have composting bins in guest rooms, too. In 2016, guests helped send 75,000 pounds of food waste to a compost facility in Flagstaff.
Water Conservation at El Tovar
With water one of the Southwest's most precious resources, you'll find low-flow toilets and shower heads installed in your room. But you probably won't notice your shower pressure is any lower than other showers you've taken.
"We get feedback from guests that we don't have low-flow shower heads," says Perkins. "They work so well. It really comes down to testing the equipment you are installing."
El Tovar also sends it laundry out of the park to avoid wasting park water. When linens reach the end of their lifespan and need to be retired, they are not thrown out. Instead, they are sent to a recycling operation in Phoenix. Lastly, there's a way you help reduce water use. Elect not to have your bathroom cleaned every day and choose to reuse your linens during your stay.
And there's another way staff reduce waste behind the scenes when they are cleaning your room. Up until 2015, the cleaning staff would throw out up to 522 pairs of disposable gloves during high season after tidying up hotel rooms in the park. It generated thousands of pounds of waste. When Xanterra partnered with Kimberly-Clark and its RightCycle program, everything changed. Today, gloves are collected and mailed back to Kimberly-Clark to be transformed into raw materials for consumer goods. In 2016, 2,000 pounds of gloves were diverted from the landfill and recycled.
Sustainable Menu in El Tovar's Dining Room
If you don't choose to stay at El Tovar, plan on eating in its elegant, internationally acclaimed dining room. An intimate space made of Oregon pine and native stone with windows facing the magnificent Grand Canyon, it's beautiful interior is matched by its incredible international and Southwest-inspired food.
Like the hotel in which it resides, the dining room menu is an ode to sustainability. All beef served is from Arizona. Up to 75 percent of the bottles on its award-winning wine list are either locally produced or produced through sustainable growing practices. And there's a veggie burger where 85 percent of its ingredients are produced within a 400-mile radius and 55 percent are from Arizona. Its primary ingredient is Tepary beans dry farmed locally on Tohono O'odham tribal lands.
"A couple of our goals every year are that 90 percent of El Tovar's food will be healthy, sustainable or both," Perkins says. "The most important thing is it's the right thing to do. It's what we believe. Second, when you do the right thing, it's good for business. Our guests want this. We want this."
Learn more about El Tovar's Dining Room.
For more information:
El Tovar Hotel Reservations
888-297-2757 or 303-297-2757
El Tovar Dinner Reservations
928-638-2631, ext. 6432
El Tovar Hotel guests can make dinner reservations six months in advance. Visitors not staying in the hotel can make a dinner reservation 30 days in advance.