GREENSBORO — When he was planning the Proximity Hotel, Dennis Quaintance wanted to install the most environmentally-friendly toilets he could find. But he wanted them to work as well as traditional toilets that used a higher volume of water.
So every week or two, he had a different toilet installed in his house.
"My daughter was precocious and she called it the 'toilet du jour,'" Quaintance recalled Tuesday.
He finally found what he considered the best environmentally-friendly toilet — and urinal, showerhead and ventilation system. The list could go on. Those and scores of other touches, big and small, were enough to earn the hotel LEED Platinum certification. That means the Proximity meets the highest standards for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" from the U.S. Green Building Council.
When it opened 11 years ago, the Proximity made news around the country because it was the first LEED Platinum hotel — ever. And it's still making news.
Public radio host Tom Wilmer came to Greensboro a few weeks ago and made a 42-minute podcast featuring the Proximity and Quaintance, who is CEO of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels, which also owns the O.Henry Hotel and two Lucky 32 restaurants.
Wilmer, a host on a local California public radio station, produces a podcast called "Journeys of Discovery" that is available on the National Public Radio website.
His episode about the Proximity, "Greensboro's greenest hotel," was released in early October.
In his short time here during September's North Carolina Folk Festival, Wilmer said he was "very impressed with the town as a sense of community."
Wilmer came to the area at the invitation of Development Counselors International, a national public relations and marketing company that Triad officials pay to get the word out about the region.
The agency had a hand in attracting The New York Times to High Point this summer to do a story about the city's resurging economic development.
Quaintance, who can talk for hours about a variety of subjects, said Wilmer just turned on the recorder for 50 minutes and built the podcast around their conversation.
During the episode, Quaintance discussed the features that make the Proximity unique and good for the environment. The Green Valley Road hotel features a solar water-heating system, elevators that generate their own electricity, a kitchen fan that comes on only when it detects heat and smoke and a host of water-saving measures.
Wilmer also asked Quaintance about another innovation at the Proximity. That's the employee-ownership program, which allows workers to earn shares of company stock that can help build retirement savings during their careers.
"Dennis and I immediately clicked," Wilmer said. "How can you not be impressed? He could’ve just sold the hotel and made a pile of money and walked away."
Quaintance, 62, said being on the podcast "gives me a sense of civic pride. It makes me happy that me and my colleagues get to do something that's significant on a national level."