The best eco-conscious hotels around the globe
How to travel without leaving a trace
Words— Kate Dingwall
There’s a huge dilemma in the travel industry. Exploring the world is the best way to learn about nature and culture, but the emissions associated with flying to far-flung locales can greatly affect your carbon footprint. Which leads to the question - how do you travel without leaving a trace?
It's surprisingly easy. Hotels around the world are beginning to embrace green practices. It's standard practice now for hotels to ask guests to reuse towels or skip a daily sheet change. Which is a great start, but there are a handful of hotels around the world who are really going above and beyond to protect the planet.
There are a few things to consider when searching for an eco-friendly hotel. Is the property contributing to the local community? Is the food locally sourced? Have they cut down on their single-use plastic? Consider the three pillars of sustainable travel: environment, yes, (such as recycling water or using geothermal heat), social-cultural (minimizing adverse impacts of tourism by protecting cultural landmarks, reducing tourist traffic and supporting local communities) and economic (funding local communities through hiring local workers).
To inspire your next trip, we've gathered a few properties that are setting the benchmark for sustainability. And best of all, not a single one sacrifices quality; each goes far beyond granola and hammocks so your vacation mode goes uninterrupted.
Nestled in the rolling hills at the foot of Iceland’s Mount Hengill, the Ion Adventure hotel was purposely designed to feel like part of the terrain, specifically a mass of hardened lava, to leave the natural landscape uninterrupted to the eye. From the inside, guests enjoy stunning panoramic views of the landscape through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel is well known for a focus on community - the hotel itself is made with found and locally-sourced recycled materials and blankets and ceramics throughout the property are made by local artisans. A state-of-the-art energy-saving system powers the hotel through the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station.
Wildland is a portfolio of responsible, meaningful hotels and private cottages with an ambitious 200-year conservation and restoration plan to restore 100,000s of land in the Highlands to its former glory. Over the past ten years, the group has replanted over 3,000,000 saplings in the Cairngorm Mountains where an old growth forest once stood and employed a staff of over 100 to act as guardians to the land.
Wildland restored the ruins of castles and iron-age dwellings, making them open to tourists and the general public. Recently, they purchased a school bus to aid local kids in their daily commute. But don't expect accommodations of yore - the Scandinavian-owned portfolio of hotels and cottages lean heavily on hygge: expect chic, minimalistic interiors decorated with cozy sheepskin, private saunas and top-notch cuisine (with all herbs and vegetables grown on site).
Though the 1 Hotel is situated a stone’s throw away from Manhattan, nature is at the heart of the Brooklyn boutique hotel. Plants cover the hotel seemingly from floor to ceiling, yes, but the hotel goes far beyond that. Guests can skip cabs and Ubers - the hotel has a Tesla with a chauffeur ready for you. Furniture - down to the hangers in the coat closer - are made from local, reclaimed or recycled materials. In the summer months, a rainwater tank collects water and uses it to irrigate the nearby Brooklyn Bridge Park but year round the rainwater is triple filtered before powering the hotel's showers and sinks.
The Six Senses group - with properties spanning Cambodia, Bhutan, France, the Maldives, Thailand and beyond - execute opulence with a sustainability lean. A portion of the revenues from each property goes to local charities and community initiatives. All the fruits, vegetables and herbs for meals are sourced from on-site gardens, while resident chickens, goats and, sometimes, camels provide fresh eggs and milk. If something can't grow on site, Six Senses sources items from a network of local farmers. Plastic bottles are a no-go - each guest is given a glass bottle that the resort will refill with still or sparkling water.
The South African safari camp's commitment is evident how the resort integrates itself with nature rather than competing with it. Each of the property's six luxury tents is outfitted with queen-sized beds, rainwater showers, hammocks, and bathtubs with scenic views of a full range of wildlife - you can spot a peacock or an elephant from your tub. All of the food and natural waste produced on-site is then turned into natural gas that powers a local village. Most of the power comes from solar panels around the resort, and any excess, from a heating pump system. If guests feel further compelled to reduce their carbon footprint, they can plant Sesbok trees on the property.
Red Carnation is best known for its sprawling luxury properties spanning over 70 countries worldwide, but the hotel giant also has a significant finger on sustainability. Initiatives range from adopting a herd of Zebras in Cape Mountain to banning single-use plastic in all properties. Each property has a hive of bees on site, and their London property even has built a living wall with over 10,000 herbaceous plants. Hotel guests can choose from a range of sustainable travel activities that support local businesses and wildlife. At ground level, every staff member spends two days a year volunteering with one of the charity partners.
The stunning retreat in Puerto Rico's Vieques island is more than just a perfect place for a sun-filled getaway. Solar panels channel Puerto Rico's sublime weather to heat the pool, showers, and all other appliances, while all soaps and shampoos are eco-friendly. Design wise, the beauty is in the details: every part of the space was designed to harmonize with the surroundings, from how the sun shines on the property to the direction of the breezes.