Paris is called the City of Lights. I call it a City of Gardens, where beauty can be found in the gardens that can be found throughout the City. You just have to know where to look. In my effort to find a place to stay that is congruent with my strong beliefs in sustainable practices, I found the Solar Hotel. What a pleasant surprise and delight I had when I sat down with the owner Franck Laval.
Mr. Laval is a 30 year pioneer in the environmental activism arena and President of NGO Ecology Without Borders. A wealth of information and a native of the 14th AR. Franck speaks of a commitment to his community as well as helping other business owners in his field of hospitality move towards a more sustainable existence. Solar Hotel (formerly known as Hotel des Voyageurs, is known for its value, cultural initiatives and friendly atmosphere. These are points that are well noted and are true.
I arrived with ease taking the RER – B from Charles de Gaulle Airport, a straight shot and a walk around the corner, through an active market place, one block down and the Solar Hotel was on my left. Located in what I would call a traditional neighborhood without much glitz or glamour, Solar was nestled amongst a few modest shops, across from Au Vin des Rues and an elementary school mid block – which was great as the children were filing in and I could hear their joyful sounds as they entered the school.
I was happy that this was not your traditional hotel. A very basic but bright interior was a delight to enter and the smiling face was a joy as I checked in took in my surroundings. Franck and I chatted for a little over an hour as he shared his thoughts on his Hotel. A few things that stuck in my mind were:
- Solar Hotel is setting an example of how sustainability can be cost-effective if you know how to reuse existing furnishings, instead of buying new. He makes an effort to explain by providing text on placards informing guests of how Solar Hotel reclaims not just the furniture, but by other means as well – from LED bulbs,motion detector lighting in the hallways and some of the outdoor lighting is sourced by solar photovoltaic panels. The goal is to reduce the electric usage by 70%…..now that is a sincere effort!!!
- All of the water sources – showers to toilets are equipped with water saving devices to reduce the water usage by 50%. Rainwater is collected to water the plants outside as well as wash the sidewalks to maintain a pristine exterior. What I found awesome about this is the water still ran in the shower at full capacity – not a trickle – but full on water flow. I need one of these devices for sure!!! The products that are dispensed in the bathrooms are biodegradable, not animal tested and no useless packaging – how awesome is this???
- Of course I had to ask about the recycling efforts. With a goal of recycling 90% of its waste, Solar Hotel uses written information to allow its guests to participate in this effort. Glass, paper, plastic and even batteries are collected in labeled bins just outside the elevators. It makes one quite conscious that every little bit of recycling counts. Even down to the breakfast…
- Yes – I had a most delicious traditional Organic French breakfast. Excellent coffee, a basket of fresh french croissants and bread with butter and jam and a small pitcher of juice. There was also a cereal dispenser with fresh milk in the cutest little containers. I asked Franck if he considered locals to supply his food items. “Of course!” he proudly said. True enough as the other guests and I finished eating (I only left crumbs), the only waste products were our biodegradable napkins and crumbs. I think this man is a genius!!!
- The WI-FI is only in the lobby – NOT IN THE ROOMS. This negates any electromagnetic waves while sleeping. Franck Laval cares about the health of his patrons and his staff as well. There are outlets throughout the hotel, but trust me – to connect to the Wi-Fi….just head to the lobby!!
- All of the recent hotel renovations are done with no solvents…another heathy choice in addition to this being a non smoking hotel for 6 years!!!
- The staff is quite helpful in referencing Metro, Bus, Bike(free to hotel patrons) or foot – to see the sights of Paris.
- Community…oh he definitely supports his community. The breakfast room is filled with artwork from local artists. Franck Laval lends his walls to support the artists and this has been his practice for over ten years. Each artist has thirty days to display his or her art and it rotates. In the Spring and Summer, there is amateur theater held in the courtyard garden.
Taking his position as an environmental activist seriously, Solar Hotel will be the first economical Hotel to measure how its efforts effect it’s carbon footprint. There are special accommodations for handicapped/disabled patrons, Interns of hotel management are utilized to train and increase their knowledge of environmental activism Franck Laval style and there is a partnership with the School of Second Chances, which supports young people with difficulties.
If you are planning on visiting Paris and want to be mindful of your carbon footprint, check out and check into the Solar Hotel (http://www.solarhotel.fr) It just might make you rethink how badly you need a fancier setting for your suitcases.by