Pinehurst Inn, Bayfield: Color it deep green

Listen to how Nancy Sandstrom torments herself. The topic is organic cotton sheets, and these are a few of the questions she contemplates:

Where does the cotton come from? Who’s picking it, and how are these workers treated? How far are the raw materials, and the sheets, transported? How long will they last? What is the quality? Do they need ironing? What works best for my guests?

That’s what preceded Nancy’s purchase of microfiber polyester sheet sets, “a more sensible choice,” based on all factors she could imagine.

Such business decisions “are ongoing, and we challenge each other,” says husband Steve, who has a master’s degree in sustainable community development. The couple since 1996 has operated the Pinehurst Inn, an 1885 country estate filled with sandstone, maple and pine design. The bed and breakfast routinely tops Travel Green Wisconsin’s listing of environmentally astute businesses.

The inn is located on the outskirts of Bayfield, a community that aggressively seeks status as the state’s greenest destination, through a widespread demonstration of sustainable business practices.

Eight rooms are for rent, including three in a Garden House addition of Pinehurst Inn. There is a sauna, and the property has hiking trails. Solar panels heat the water. Locally grown food dominates the breakfast menu.

At least one vehicle runs on bio-diesel, recycled restaurant cooking oil. In each of the inn’s eight bedrooms are two stainless steel canteens, not plastic bottles of water.

Daughter Darcy Schwerin and her husband, Michael, operate the onsite Enso Wellness and Day Spa, offering yoga classes, massage treatments, cranial sacral therapy and other wellness services. “Enso” signifies mindfulness and balance in Japan.

“It’s about living a healthy life and applying that to your environment as well,” Darcy says.

Bayfield is “an emotional, special place because people take the time to take care of it,” says Nancy, whose family has come here since the late 1800s. Husband Steve’s family got to know Iron River, which is 40 miles southwest.

When they purchased what is now their home and livelihood, the property needed a lot of work. Decisions to use environmentally friendly materials were good and logical choices, but not yet a fashionable part of the lodging industry.

Bayfield’s overall environmental awareness also is logical, Steve says. “Having a clean environment is a huge economic gain,” he explains. “This gorgeous environment is our biggest asset, and that has made (green business practices) an easier sell.”

Adding solar panels to heat water “may appear more expensive at the outset,” Nancy says, “but it pays for itself in a relatively short period of time” and then becomes a money saver. The Garden House has rooms big enough for meetings and retreats, as well as the bedrooms.

Most rooms have whirlpool baths, and it’s hard to not offer this amenity because of consumer demand.

“The rooms with the whirlpools are the first to get booked,” Nancy observes. “But we are very tuned in to our water usage, and have a state-of-the-art septic system.”

For more about the Pinehurst Inn at Pike’s Creek, 83645 Hwy. 13, Bayfield:, 877-499-7651.

The Sandstroms’ story is a part of my newest book, “Sidetracked in the Midwest: A Green Guide for Travelers” ($23, Itchy Cat Press), which should be in bookstores by Earth Day. Let me know if you can’t find it.

I delve into four categories of ecotourism: food and drink, lodging and retreats, nature and wildlife, and the old and the new. The project covers a mix of low-budget to luxury, eco-aware projects in rural areas and cities throughout Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. Sites of significance also catch my attention in Nebraska City, St. Louis, Kansas City and Indianapolis.

The Travel Green Wisconsin sustainable tourism program began in 2006 and now includes 266 businesses that meet at least minimum standards for certification. Learn more at, 800-432-8747.

Other lodging properties that rise to the top of Travel Green Wisconsin’s ratings are:

Artha Sustainability Center, 9784 Hwy. K, Amherst – Within the business is a solar-powered bed and breakfast on 90 acres, organic gardens, year-round renewable energy workshops and retreats., 715-824-3463

Inn Serendipity, 7843 Hwy. P, Browntown – The rural and laid-back escape is completely powered by renewable energy and always investigating new ways to live in harmony with the natural world. Serving vegetarian cuisine. Guests share the owners’ farmhouse; a more rustic choice is Inn Serendipity Woods, a 30-acre wildlife sanctuary with cabin., 608-329-7056

Arbor House, 302 Monroe St., Madison – This model for urban ecology adds earth-friendly design features to two historic structures (including one of the city’s oldest homes). Room rates include access to bikes and a canoe, for exploring the adjacent University of Wisconsin Arboretum., 608-238-2981

Jacks Lake B&B, New Auburn – Operating since 1992 as an off-the-grid getaway, with garden or lake views for the three guest rooms. Radiant heating, solar power and a solar greenhouse are among the forward-thinking measures taken to use and conserve renewable energy., 715-967-2593

“Roads Traveled” is the result of anonymous travel, independent travel, press trips and travel journalism conferences. What we choose to cover is not contingent on subsidized or complimentary travel.