It’s easy to take the luxury of travel for granted. With the combination of accessible airlines and online accommodation booking sites, it’s never been so easy to jet off to some far-flung paradise. But in our mojito-sunscreen-haze, do we give much consideration to our environmental footprint along the way? It only makes sense that if we try to live as environmentally consciously as possible in our daily lives, then it makes sense that in our holiday planning we look out for best practices to make sure the environmental impact of our travel is positive, not negative.
After all, people who invest in seeing the world are guaranteed to value it.
That said, sustainability doesn’t mean sacrificing luxury, and there are hotels, boutiques and lodges around the world that remain committed to staying accountable and taking steps in the right direction, by both protecting the land and eco-friendly practices, as well as upholding a high-level guest experience, from the design to the food. It’s also worth opting for accommodation that employs local staff and uses local produce, ensuring your holiday expenses feed into the local economy, whilst truly immersing yourself in the culture.
Before you become completely overwhelmed at the thought of all this research, we’ve rounded up 8 resorts and hotels across the globe that are doing it right.
Nihi is a resort with a conscience. The space is almost entirely preserved from urban development, and the motto is to “return to a life well lived”. The majority of the restaurants’ produce is grown in the resort’s organic garden, fed by a carefully constructed composting and water-recycling system, while the hotel’s green ethos extends through community outreach programmes in local villages. The turtle hatchery is a truly impressive initiative, and the Sumba Foundation is tirelessly working to clean water and reduce malaria on the island.
Cambodia’s Sihanoukville is a firm spot on the backpacker’s bucket list, but if you’re looking for sustainable luxury, Song Saa Private Island is the place. The hotel sits in a self-made marine reserve (Cambodia’s first – measuring one million square metres), and there’s a team of marine biologists as staff at all times. Waste initiatives are in place, and the hotel is involved in sustainability projects in nearby villages.
What’s more, the Song Sa Foundation provides vital healthcare to local people, and distributes items like educational materials and water filters to the community. It’s been said that Song Saa is the “pioneer in sustainable lodging in Asia”, the closest thing to “paradise” in Asia. This place is all about “Small Steps. Big Changes.”
From its green roofs and living walls to its solar hot water and recycled wood, Tri at Koggala Lake in Sri Lanka is dedicated to sustainable design through and through. The contemporary hotel with 11-rooms and villas is nestled in the lush landscape around the lake, so you can spend your time enjoying the natural beauty, doing yoga among the trees, and partaking in the luxe spa’s roster of holistic treatments. While you’re there, make sure to sample the super-fresh local Sri Lankan fare at the hotel’s lakeside restaurant.
Situated in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains, the 12-room Limalimo Lodge has been held to the strictest ecological standards. The minimalist space, built by more than 100 people from the surrounding area, is committed to promoting sustainable tourism and minimal environmental impact. The electricity (as much as possible) comes from renewable sources; toilet water is treated through an on-site biowaste system; and solar is used to supplement hot water heating. The lodge also promotes conservation in the Simien Mountains National Park through its $10 per night conservation fee; funds go towards conservation activities in and around the park. During your visit to the eco-lodge, enjoy soaking up the natural beauty that surrounds you by trekking in the Simien Mountains, going bird-watching with the guides, and partaking in the local activities like the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony and injera making.
If Ecuador isn’t yet on your list, it will be now! Set in one of the world’s most important bio-regions, Mashpi Lodge is a futuristic and environmental “cocoon in the clouds”. Powered with 100% hydroelectricity, it’s no surprise this lodge is praised for its ecological, modern design.
If Insta travel goals are your jam, t’s truly a lodge you’d compare to no other. Make sure to check out the reserve whilst you’re there – there’s a group of dedicated biologists and para-biologists who spend their days and nights within the forest.
Jean-Michael Cousteau Resort has made hugely successful advances in eco-tourism. It was the first resort in the South Pacific region to recycle paper and plastic – and in the process, it set up a recycling program for the entire town of Savusavu. Today, the resort has a reef protection programme, a giant clam-breeding project and an in-house marine biologist.
The resort has developed “edible landscaping”, meaning that the plants on-site also supply the restaurant with fresh herbs and produce. Buildings are tailored to the tropical environment, with sustainable timber construction and roofs thatched from local reeds. Oh, and if you’re keen for some spa time, Pure Fiji toiletries are used in the spa, and all water is recycled through lotus-dotted lagoons.
The UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has huge plans underway to raise awareness about the country’s conservation reserves and desert areas. With three new luxury eco-hotels opening this year—as part of the Sharjah Collection—this signals a huge shift in the hotel landscape for the region.
The new luxury but environmentally-friendly resort, Kingfisher Lodge in Khor Kalba, is located in Kalba’s protected Mangrove area, and includes 25 luxury tents with private pools and a thermal spa, all set against the sprawling natural landscapes and azure waters. Representing the best of eco-tourism, conservation of culture, heritage, and the environment, Sharjah is unlike any other Emirate in the UAE. It holds within its boundaries, an undiscovered slice of paradise. Nature thrives in Khor Kalba; a desert wetland where bountiful mangroves make way for tidal creeks and pristine beaches. An important breeding ground for rare bird species, Kalba offers birdwatchers a spectacular experience where sightings of the White-Collard Kingfisher and the Sykes’ Warbler are a common occurrence. Plus, there is The Turtle Sanctuary. Book now.
Honored by Relais & Châteaux in 2016 for its efforts in environmental advocacy, this 9-room luxury ranch just outside of Houston, Texas, boasts a 42-acre, USDA-certified organic farm. The heirloom fruits (lots of watermelon!) and seasonal vegetables are cultivated without the use of hormones, synthetic fertilisers, or pesticides. You can taste the fruits of the hotel’s labour at its Forbes five-star restaurant, helmed by executive chef Matt Padilla and his wife, Tara Padilla, who is the restaurant manager. Or hotel guests can visit the farm for lessons on organic pest control and starting their own garden.
Also, the geothermal heat transfer plates in the base of the hotel’s pond allow the water carrying excess heat to be later pumped back to the greenhouse and to the guest haciendas. All in all, a pretty healthy affair.