The Willcox hotel and restaurant has once again been recognized for being kind to the environment.On Monday, The Willcox owners Geoff and Shannon Ellis, along with staff members, traveled to Columbia to accept the Good Earth Keeping Award from the South Carolina Hospitality Association.This was the inaugural year in which the award has been presented, and the Ellises said they are quite humbled that they were recognized."To even offer the award is a pretty big step, and we're honored to be the first to get it," said Geoff.This is the second significant recognition that The Willcox has received for its efforts in having a green facility. In 2011, it received the highest level of designation in environmental sustainability offered by the South Carolina Green Hospitality Alliance. The hotel and restaurant each earned "Three Palmetto" distinction, making it the fourth hotel and first restaurant to earn this honor in South Carolina as well as the first establishment in the state to reach six palmettos.To receive that designation, the Ellises and The Willcox staff had to follow an intense series of guidelines such as improving air quality, becoming more water and energy efficient, obtaining greener ways of cleaning, purchasing more environmentally preferred products, reducing waste, increasing recycling, holding green meetings and catering and offering sustainable foods.After the designation was obtained, The Willcox continued to get greener with a recycling program, the installation of a Verve Living System in each room - which is an energy management system - and the use of new Earth Choice take-away containers. The salon uses sustainable Paul Mitchell products like Awapuhi shampoo, and business materials are made of post consumer recycled fiber paper.All of the TVs and signs are light-emitting diode (LED), which are more energy efficient, and the property management is web-based now so large servers are no longer needed. The old computers and televisions were all donated to charity.To be the greenest hotel in the state, according to a release from the association, has taken a bit of time and hard work."It's not something that happens overnight," Geoff said. "It takes time, it takes energy and it takes money. It's a process of continual improvement."The Willcox will continue to find ways to be sustainable. The next step for the facility is to have a review conducted on its office product purchases to see how it can be even more green.To the Ellises, the recognition is wonderful but certainly not the reason they have worked so hard to have a green facility. One reason is to keep the hotel and restaurant flourishing with this green initiative."This hotel is 114 years old, and we're such a minor part of its history, but we want it to be around for another 114 years," Geoff said.Another reason is to support a healthy environment in the community and to set an example for their 7-year-old daughter, Victoria Grace."It's just another piece of the puzzle to make sure this business is sustainable for years to come," Shannon said. "We need to support our community, and we need to support the environment in which our community thrives."The Ellises added that their success in having a green facility has been a team effort, and they thank their staff for their diligent and committed work.Amy Banton is the city beat reporter and has been with the Aiken Standard since May 2010. She is a native of Rustburg, Va., and a graduate of Randolph Macon Woman's College.