Albuquerque, N.M., has long been one of the hottest destinations in the Southwest, but did you know it's also one of America's greenest cities? Albuquerque boasts 310 days a year of sunny skies, perfect for taking in all the city's breathtaking natural sights, and has a number of impressive accomplishments under its belt in ensuring that life in the Rio Grande Valley is sustainable for future generations.

It's tough to be a green city in the Southwest. Sprawling growth, the preference of personal vehicles over public transit and high water consumption make such a designation seem out of reach — but Albuquerque has worked to make up for these things, and it shows. In 2006, Albuquerque embraced the Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and even filed a Supreme Court brief supporting a global warming lawsuit against the Bush administration. Mayor Martin Chavez has committed to buying only alternative-energy vehicles for the city fleet, and the city council set aside 3 percent of its budget for energy-efficient projects.

Stay green

The Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Cultural Center features guest rooms decorated in classic New Mexican style with kiva fireplaces, carved ceiling beams, hardwood floors and antique furnishings starting at $155 a night. A percentage of the inn's profits go toward preservation and conservation efforts, and the inn has also dedicated a significant portion of its property to organic farming. Los Poblanos Organics cultivates more than 75 varieties of organically grown fruits and vegetables, many of which appear in guests' breakfasts.

Hotel Albuquerque is a landmark hotel located in the heart of the historic Old Town Plaza and museum district. It offers 188 guest rooms and 20 suites, along with two restaurants and a lounge. Rates start at $129 a night. Hotel Albuquerque, along with Nativo Lodge located just off I-25, is owned by Heritage Hotels & Resorts, which has undertaken a number of green initiatives at all of its properties, including the use of environmentally friendly cleaners, biodegradable to-go containers, xeriscaping, LED exterior lighting and locally grown, seasonal and organically grown foods.

See green

In early 2008, Albuquerque purchased 420 acres in its Gutierrez Canyon under the city's Open Spaces program, which aims to "acquire and protect the land's natural character and archaeological resources." That's just one of many areas where visitors can take in the breathtaking natural sights that this area of New Mexico has to offer. There are hundreds of parks, both developed and undeveloped, and the Sandia Mountains offer bird watching, horseback riding, hiking, rafting and skiing opportunities.

Eat green

Get your fill of local, organic, fair-trade comfort food at the Flying Star Cafe, where everything is cooked from scratch including the homemade breads, soups, sauces and dressings. Menu highlights include the Buddha Bowl — stir-fried veggies in lemongrass-ginger sauce over organic rice — and the Star BLT, which consists of humanely raised applewood bacon strips, fresh tomatoes, romaine lettuce and mayo on toasted rye. To top it off, all to-go containers are compostable and/or recycled, and its delivery trucks run on biodiesel.

Two all-vegetarian restaurants within the city limits are Annapurna's World Vegetarian Cafe and Fei's Health Cafe, and many more restaurants in Albuquerque are vegan- and vegetarian-friendly. And, of course, there's always the option of heading to one of the city's farmers markets or health-food stores to stock up on fresh produce, breads and cheese for an al fresco meal in one of the many stunning outdoor settings. 

(MNN homepage photo: JadeXJustice/Flickr)