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Downtown Sheraton puts homegrown, organic mint in its mojitos

Already the biggest hotel downtown, the Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel is now one of the greenest as well. This past spring, the Sheraton received the Watts to Water award for "Greatest Improvement in Efficiency," as well as an Xcel Energy "Management Systems Achievement" award, thanks to the efforts of its green team. "Sustainability is a huge concern here," says Susan Stiff, PR director for the hotel.

Now the Sheraton has added another level to its efforts...on the roof. An organic rooftop garden on the fifth-floor pool deck, which was planted in June, is contributing more than herbs and vegetables that will be used at the hotel. It also adds beauty and a fresh aroma to the pool deck.

See Also: -- Fire on the Mountain makes a sustainable impression in Highland -- Eating and living organic: Q&A with Brian Freeman of Grower's Organics -- The Kitchen will take sustainability seriously

In honor of Earth Day in April, the Sheraton held an in-house contest to brainstorm new ideas pushing sustainability. The 1550 restaurant team won the contest with its concept of an organic garden, and a few weeks later, the garden became a reality. Currently it features three kinds of mint and three of basil, as well as thyme, rosemary, lavender, oregano, tarragon, tomatoes and chile peppers. Though the garden is still young, a chef harvested the first batch of fresh greenery last week. Many of the aromatic herbs, such as thyme, tarragon and oregano, are being used in stock and sauces because of their versatility and vibrant flavor. Some of the herbs are also sprucing up drinks in the bars.

Now that mojito season is at its peak, the Sheraton is featuring three alcoholic and non-alcoholic mojitos that incorporate the lemon mint, peppermint and traditional mint as decoration. "The bartenders are really digging it," says Scott Skomal, executive chef.

Skomal is particularly proud of the tomatoes, noting that "as a pilot program, we're doing really well." Last week chefs picked tomatoes and chile to make fresh salsa; they've also created a lavender blueberry vinaigrette using fresh lavender flowers. The Thai basil is a favorite for Asian dishes and stir fry. And an upcoming dish at the restaurant will feature sustainably cultivated barramundi, or Asian seabass, topped with a red curry sauce utilizing Thai basil from the garden. As the organic garden grows, the Sheraton's green team is looking for more paths to sustainability. The Make a Green Choice program already offers guests five-dollar vouchers for participating eateries each night they decline housekeeping. In addition, the Sheraton composts about 546,000 pounds of food a year and uses all CFL light bulbs, which are recycled -- as is the cooking fryer oil. Leftover soaps and shampoos are donated to Clean the World, which sterilizes them and sends them to children in Haiti and other countries after being sterilized.

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Like the garden, the Sheraton's environmental awareness will only grow!


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