Asking guests to hang up their towels and choose not to have their linen changed daily is no longer enough for a hotel to gain true eco-credentials. Genuinely earth-friendly hotels take sustainability seriously and are committed to reducing their impact on the planet in everything they do and offer.
As responsible travellers, we are all conscious of learning how to lighten the contribution that travel has on the world’s carbon emissions. And, our accommodation is a great place to start. Supporting hotels that are deeply rooted in sustainability and eco-practices is not only beneficial to the planet but can also help local communities to develop and flourish. In this article, we look at all the credentials to look out for when researching a sustainable hotel or venue…
The sustainability policy
A hotel that is committed to eco-friendly practices will almost always publish a sustainability policy on its website. This might be in the form of guidelines by which the hotel carries out activities with the consideration of environmental and social issues.
It’s not just enough to have this policy printed somewhere, however. The policy must be checked and certified by a credible organisation such as EarthCheck or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Bear in mind that smaller hotels and independents may often struggle to afford all of the costly improvements required to meet certification criteria, so don’t always be too quick to judge accommodation providers on that basis alone.
If you can’t find sufficient evidence on the hotel’s website or social media channels, then don’t be afraid to contact the hotel directly to ask about sustainability. The more we all do this each time we travel, the more we normalise sustainable practices.
Architecture and creation
Many hotels plan, create, and construct their entire property and land-based on sustainable principles and values. The key goal being to tread as small a footprint as possible with both the construction and the continual running of the property, with minimal energy use and locally sourced eco-friendly materials.
The Isla Palenque Resort in Panama, was determined to complement and sustain the stunning Isla Palenque when it built eight boho-chic beachfront casitas and one villa on a 400-acre private island resort. It used all renewable materials, such as sustainable hardwood, during its low-impact construction, and its design is most sympathetic to the landscape that surrounds it. You can take a behind-the-scenes tour during your stay to explore fully how its green operations are deployed and refined, and all guests to the resort are invited to plant a tree to counterbalance the impact of their travels.
A low impact approach
Hotels that have had sustainability at their core from conception and build are generally the lowest-impact. However, many older hotels and more established hotels have done a highly admirable job of greening up their day-to-day activities. From plastic-free toiletries and bottled water to zero food waste commitments, there are many initiatives to look out for before you check-in.
Energy and water conservation are big topics in the hotel industry and using careful consumption and conversation planning, hotels can set achievable targets for energy reduction in all areas of their business, from the running of their kitchen’s dishwashers and installing flow restrictors in bathrooms, to harvesting rainwater from roofs and gutters to water plants and kitchen gardens. The Kokomo Private Island in Fiji has installed a Seawater Desalination Plant to ensure ongoing access to freshwater for its hospitality needs. Seawater is processed by the desalination plant, creating sea salt for use in the kitchen and spa, brine for use in swimming pools, and clean drinking water for use by guests and staff.
When it comes to resort transportation, look for car-free zones and hotels offering free bikes to use, as well as offering electric vehicle shuttles to reach places of interest. Many resorts now offer a wide variety of low-impact, nature-based activities, as well as a no jet-ski policy. As well as the noise disturbance, jet skis and other motorised water vehicles can cause sea and air pollution, as well as endangering marine life in the area.
Supporting the local community
Sustainable hotels empower local neighbourhoods and communities. From hiring and training locals to work in the hotel, to using local suppliers and sustainably sourced food, there are many ways to offer support.
Guests can be encouraged to integrate with the local community on the community’s terms, such as via tours or explorations run by locals to boost the preservation of cultural traditions. The Isla Palenque Resort, for example, works with local farmers to educate them on sustainable and profitable farming measures that avoid deforestation, and guests are invited to contribute to the reforestation program during their stay, planting primary rainforest seedlings. Hotel volunteers also enroll in a monthly beach clean-up around Boca Chica and help to keep the island litter-free.
Some hotels go even further by not only helping to support their local communities as a by-product of their business but by forming their business concepts entirely on the basis of supporting the community. Fogo Island Inn, Canada, for example, was conceived in 2013 as a way to save one of Canada’s oldest rural cultures. With the crash of the cod industry and the dwindling population, the idea was to build a lodge that belonged to the local people — a social business that funnels all surplus profits back into Fogo Island.
A truly sustainable hotel will inspire guests to follow their lead by incorporating interactive sustainable initiatives, so be sure to get involved in as many as you can during your stay. By declining to have your room serviced each day, verbally supporting the hotel’s mission upon check-in, and giving great feedback and recommendations to future guests, you can ensure that you are doing your bit to promote a safer, greener, and gentler way to explore the world.
If you are interested to find out more about sustainable travel and hotels, then be sure to take a read of our London’s Most Sustainable Hotels article, or get in touch to speak to one of our Untold Story team members for further recommendations.