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Luxury firms push ‘eco-posh’

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“As much as people want to support the environment, it still needs to be something they want,” says John Wilson, president and CEO of AP Bags USA, a subsidiary of Italy’s Antichi Pellettieri, which is best known for high-end brands like Missoni Shoes. “We’re trying to present a product that reflects ‘back to the rainforest’ and ecologically friendly things. But by the same token, it showcases the Ital-ian craftsmanship and attention to detail.”

In 2008, Kate MacWhirter walked away from a career as an hotelier to start Eco Chic Consulting with partner Olivia Boon, previously a consultant specializing in business change at Accenture. The London-based company advises high-end businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, on how to make their operations environmentally friendly.

“I ... became disillusioned about how much waste there was, how irresponsible operators were towards the environment,” Ms. MacWhirter explains in an e-mail. “There was a real belief that behaving more responsibly about our impact on the environment would reduce the standards, quality, and luxury that we offered to the guest.”

Her own experience suggested otherwise. While managing a five-star boutique hotel in London, MacWhirter found that guests were starting to request that their sheets not be washed every day and that the hotel turn their room lights and air conditioning off when they were out.

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