As a meeting professional, you get to travel the world visiting unique places and venues. Unfortunately, more often than not you also find yourself trapped inside them. Between touring convention centers, inspecting ballrooms, and setting up breakout rooms, you can easily go days or even weeks without spending any significant time outdoors.
That's a shame, as research suggests that there are significant psychological and even physiological benefits to convening with nature. A 2015 study by Stanford University, for example, showed a tangible link between time spent in nature and positive mental health. Similar studies have shown that views of nature help hospital patients recover more quickly, that natural daylight improves students' learning in school, and that people who work in offices with indoor plants get sick less often. Nature has even been linked to decreases in blood pressure, heart rate, and the stress hormone cortisol.
Just because you're stuck indoors, however, doesn't mean you can't receive nature's gifts. You can. All you have to do is bring the outdoors in. And that's easier than ever thanks to a growing number of hotels that are infusing their properties with natural elements -- including vertical gardens and living walls, which have been proven to improve indoor air quality, reduce energy consumption, and even filter noise. Here are five hotels that have them.
Hilton Cleveland Downtown (Cleveland, OH)
Upon arriving at the 600-room Hilton Cleveland Downtown, one of the first things you'll notice is the verdant moss wall in its lobby. Made of three kinds of real moss -- pillow moss, sheet moss, and mood moss, all of which are sustainably harvested from private ranches and farms, then arranged together as they grow naturally in the wild -- it was designed by Artisan Moss, a Northern California company that specializes in plant art. The moss is naturally preserved so that it maintains its soft textures, flexibility, and vibrant color; because it's no longer alive, however, it doesn't require water, sunlight, or chemicals. It's a beautiful "hello" from nature to meeting attendees. Not only when they first arrive at the hotel, but also every morning when they step out of the elevator on their way to your meeting.
Embassy Suites by Hilton Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile (Chicago, IL)
The centerpiece of the Embassy Suites by Hilton Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile is its light-filled atrium, which earlier this year was turned into a "Sky Garden" that the hotel calls "the largest greenhouse in the city." Unlike most outdoor rooftop gardens in Chicago, which are only open seasonally during the summer, the indoor Sky Garden is open and accessible to guests year-round. Comprising more than 1,000 pots of plants, it's home to a rotating collection of seasonal herbs such as mint, oregano, basil, sage, and rosemary, the scents of which waft through the atrium. The hotel's culinary team picks herbs from the garden daily for use in food and beverage, and guests, too, are encouraged to pluck sprigs of their favorite herbs while traversing the space -- although they're discouraged from eating them directly, as fresh-picked herbs have not yet been washed or treated for consumption. Forget "farm to table"; this is "direct to fork," the hotel says.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge (Brooklyn, NY)
Central Park notwithstanding, New York isn't exactly known for its outdoor space. Hotels like 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, therefore, are especially welcome. Located at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, the 194-room "eco-luxury hotel" boasts a 25-foot green wall in its lobby. Quintessentially "Brooklyn," the installation blends natural elements with industrial ones against a backdrop of steel and concrete. Featuring plantings like staghorns, ferns, vines, and creeping ficus -- all of which were selected for their suitability to indoor growing -- the wall is laid out in such a way that its vegetation can grow organically over the canvas against which it's set. The result is equal parts nature and art.
The Rubens at the Palace
Of course, the United States doesn't have a monopoly on green walls. If you're looking for a kiss from nature overseas, check out The Rubens at the Palace in London. While most hotels' vertical gardens are located indoors, its "Living Wall" is located outdoors -- covering an entire side of its façade. Spanning nearly 4,000 square feet, it comprises 10,000 herbaceous plants that provide waves of blossoms throughout the year, including a number of native species chosen to attract local "pollinators," including bees, birds, and butterflies. Highlights that bloom seasonally throughout the year include buttercups, crocuses, strawberries, spring bulbs, and winter geraniums, with vibrant ranging from blues, pinks, and purples whites and yellows. Designed by Gary Grant of the Green Roof Consultancy Ltd. and installed and maintained by TreeBox Ltd., the wall is as functional as it is beautiful; in addition to serving as a wildlife habitat, ithelps keep the hotel cool in summer and warm in winter. In a city that's often dubbed as "drab," this corner of London is anything but.
Hotel Modera (Portland, OR)
Another outdoor wall worth visiting is the one at Hotel Modera in downtown Portland, OR. Portland's first living green wall, it's situated in the hotel's garden courtyard, alongside intimate lounge areas and cozy fire pits. The 13-foot installation includes ornamental grasses, wood ferns, box leaf, and dwarf periwinkle that remain vibrant thanks to a special, built-in drip irrigation system. It's a perfect -- and sustainable -- spot to relax after a long day spent in the hotel's meeting facilities.