Eco-Friendly Accommodations In Ely, Minnesota

When people take a vacation to the Boundary Waters region of northern Minnesota, they come to camp, canoe, fish, and generally enjoy the beautiful, unspoiled wilderness and waterways just south of Ontario, Canada. Which is why we imagine that many of them will appreciate the care for the natural environment taken by the Edingtons, the owners of Adventure Inn in Ely.

Susan and Mike Edington knew they needed to replace their two old, inefficient buildings with a new one, and they knew they wanted to do everything they could to make this new building eco-friendly. To fill them in on what they didn’t know — and gain some general expertise in energy efficient building — the couple turned to Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs). This non-profit is dedicated to the advancement of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in communities across the state of Minnesota, and came on board to help the Edingtons design and build a new structure that would reduce their total energy use by half, while pulling as much energy as possible from renewable sources.

Adventure Inn

image via CERT

The majority of the new Adventure Inn’s energy savings are associated with its solar water heaters, which provide hot water for the entire building. Hot water, as many people know, is a big deal in the hotel industry; not only do all those guests want hot showers upon returning from their various outdoor adventures, they need fresh towers and linens. According to Conservation Technologies, the Duluth-based company that installed the Edington’s solar thermal system, relying on the sun to heat water at Adventure Inn will cut the business’s annual carbon footprint by 51,000 pounds.

This innovation was spurred, in part, by the Edingtons’ conversations with other local business owners who’d made an effort to become more eco-friendly — among them, The Laundry Room, a laundromat that uses a solar thermal system to heat the water used in its washing machines. Piragis Northwoods Company, a canoe outfitter, also provided inspiration by purchasing wind power to keep the servers, data centers and offices that support its website up and running.

Adventure Inn2

image via CERT

On the advice of fellow business owners, their architect — from Wagner Zaun, a green architecture firm located in Duluth — and CERT, Adventure Inn took steps like increasing the amount of green space around the hotel building to better absorb storm water runoff and installing a hook-up for electric vehicles. As members of Green Hotels Association, they also took commonsense steps like installing energy efficient lighting and appliances and shopping locally to reduce their carbon footprint.

The new Adventure Inn — constructed at a cost of around $37,000, $2,500 of which came from CERT — opened to the public in June 2011. Visitors can relax after a long day of paddling the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the in-room Jacuzzi tubs knowing that all that steamy water was heated via clean, green solar thermal. They can also kick back in furniture built from reclaimed, century-old white pine.

The new building was built using reclaimed materials, and usable materials from the old building were “free cycled,” community style. “We advertised…[for people] to come and take window, doors, usable toilets and furniture, sinks too,” Susan explained.

The Edgingtons are hoping their new green building will inspire others in the area to take steps to reduce their carbon footprints too. Susan and Mark are sponsors of E3 (Energy Efficient Ely), a local environmental organization, and are planning to host several workshops on energy savings and new renewable technology, one of which will feature talk on their design and building process.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

    • djthiede

      Thanks for this fantastic story! The Edgingtons and Adventure Inn are great models for lean, green hospitality. Keep up the good work!