Asking guests to hang up their towels when they don’t need them washed or banning single-use plastic toiletries is no longer enough when it comes to satisfying travellers’ desires for more environmentally friendly hotels.
These days, when it comes to booking travel, people are more sustainably focused than ever before and are seeking hotels that allow them to enjoy low-impact holidays.
1. room2 Chiswick, London
The world’s first whole-life net-zero hotel is the 86-key room2 Chiswick in London. Calling itself a hometel, the boutique property uses nearly 90 per cent less energy per square metre when compared with other UK hotels.
It's the first hotel in the world to account for its entire carbon footprint, and all emissions from the property, including operations, maintenance and refurbishment, will always equal zero. There are solar and ground source heat pumps, ultra-low-flow high-pressure showers, occupancy sensors, a blue roof to filter rainwater and a green roof flourishing with thousands of flowers, plants, beehives and insect hotels.
Inside, rooms and communal spaces were created in collaboration with local artisans and there's handcrafted mirrors and wooden furniture created from timber salvaged from a forest less than 16 kilometres away. There’s a zero-waste policy and in-room recycling bins, as well as two labs in the hotel that allow researchers to learn from guest habits to refine and improve future efficiencies.
Rooms from £129 ($169) per night; room2.com
2. Las Qolqas Eco-Resort, Peru
Located in the Andean town of Ollantaytambo, halfway between Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru, Las Qolqas is a sustainable haven that pays testament to the environment, local community and indigenous culture.
With capacity for only 50 guests, the tiny tented hotel welcomes visitors to spend the night in safari-style abodes where every single element – from the shampoo to the bed frames – has been locally sourced.
A greenhouse-style restaurant serves dishes made with hand-picked ingredients that are organic, seasonal and locally cultivated either by the community or from the property’s orchard.
There are on-site compost and solar systems to help reduce water and energy waste. And, of course, there are no single-use plastics to be seen. When it comes to what to do, rest easy knowing that all of the resort's activities and experiences have been carefully planned to help propel a positive impact in the local community.
Bungalows from $163 per night; lasqolqas.com
3. Pikaia Lodge, Ecuador
Located in one of one of the most ecologically diverse hotspots on the planet, Pikaia Lodge in the Galapagos Islands is a former cattle ranch turned eco-luxury lodge that is entirely carbon neutral.
The hotel uses only recyclable, eco-friendly building materials in its construction and maintenance, and only biodegradable cleaning products are used on site.
Hot water comes from solar panels with excess energy fed back into the island’s electricity grid and any CO2 emissions created are offset by a reforestation programme. Interiors and furniture make use of locally sourced teak and bamboo from the Ecuadorean mainland.
There’s also a social responsibility programme with guests invited to join activities led by local village residents, with excursions to visit lava tunnels, craters and wildlife refuges. It also encourages guests to "pack for a purpose" — saving some luggage space to bring supplies that can be donated to local schools and nurseries.
Minimum three-night stay with rates from $4,305; pikaialodge.com
4. Shaam-e-Sarhad Village Resort, India
In the grasslands of Banni, on the southern edge of the marshy salt flats of Kutch in India’s Gujarat, travellers will find Shaam-e-Sarhad Village Resort, which is fully operated and run by the local community.
With a name that means sunset at the border, the resort offers eco-friendly mud huts, family cottages and traditional bhunga-style accommodation, all with en-suite bathrooms. Freshly cooked Gujarati lunch, Kutchi dinner and Indian breakfasts are served daily and guests have the chance to find out more about life in this part of India, which is famed for its rich wildlife and biodiversity.
Community techniques on how to live lightly on the land is at the forefront of the experience, which was built to improve the quality of life for local people and the environment.
Rates from 4,000 Indian rupees ($50); open seasonally from October to March; hodka.in
5. Arenas Del Mar, Costa Rica
Tucked between Costa Rica's rainforests and the wild Pacific Ocean within a private, 11-acre nature reserve, Arenas Del Mar finds itself at the heart of an important corridor for the region's wildlife.
Guests staying here can enjoy the country's famous pura vida at this luxury beachfront resort, with views over Manuel Antonio National Park, the rainforest and the ocean. Food is organic, locally sourced and served on the beach, with Costa Rican street food nights one of the highlights – just watch out for monkeys keen on getting their hands on your dinner.
There are plenty of experiences for guests to get involved in and in-house naturalist guides can help you discover more about the national park. Guests also have the option to give back during their stay, either by donating to local schools to help fund classroom supplies and eco-education programmes, or to be a part of the resort’s "Plant a Tree" initiative where they can physically contribute to the surrounding ecosystem.
Rates from Dh1,487 for an ocean breeze superior room; staybeyondgreen.com
6. &Beyond Bateleur Camp, Kenya
At the foot of the Oloololo escarpment in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve is &Beyond’s Bateleur Camp. Here, surrounded by forests and an unsurpassed concentration of wildlife, travellers can check into one of nine intimate tented suites.
Guests can explore the area with twice-daily game drives, walking safaris, spotlit night drives and hot-air-balloon safaris. Luxury isn’t an afterthought, so expect private butlers, polished silver, fine antiques and temperature-controlled swimming pools — but it’s also not the focus, which instead lies in &Beyond’s commitment to sustainability.
A farm-to-table culinary programme sources produce from local farmers or the resort's shamba (vegetable garden). Honey is purchased directly from an organisation that supports a Masai women’s group and there's an on-site bottling machine, eliminating the equivalent of 20,000 single-use plastic water bottles each year.
Community excursions are also on the cards, as &Beyond works closely with locals to offer cultural interaction experiences where guests can learn first-hand about the noble Masai tribe.
Tented suites from $790 per person; andbeyond.com
7. Impact House, Lisbon, Portugal
A hostel rather than a hotel, Impact House, among the cobbled streets of Lisbon's buzzy riverside Belem district, offers a sustainable place to stay when you're travelling on a budget.
With both traditional-style dormitories and private double rooms, it also has a communal living area, huge garden, rainbow-lined swimming pool and large dining room. Here, guests can tuck into highly rated plant-based meals all created with locally grown or sourced ingredients, often from the hostel's on-site vegetable garden.
Partnerships with local non-profits, events to champion green issues and a space for the community to come together are central to the property’s mission. The hostel uses renewable energy and compensates 100 per cent for any excess CO2-emissions — it's also on track to be entirely carbon neutral in the next eight years.
All rubbish is separated for recycling, items are upcycled whenever possible to give them a second life and any surplus food is donated to homeless charities.
Private double rooms from 50 euros ($54); impactrip.com