One of my favorite parts of traveling is choosing and staying at hotels. It’s always so hard to pick just one!
I love looking into the ways that some hotels give back to their local community, and the beautifully innovative green and biophilic design solutions they come up with.
Eco-conscious travel is a rapidly expanding market as more travelers are looking to reduce the carbon footprint of their holiday. Unfortunately, some hotels have picked up on the sustainable tourism trend and are using the eco-friendly hotel label as a marketing tactic without actually adopting more sustainable practices. This practice is what is known as “greenwashing.”
As there is currently no universal certification system for green hotels, these hotels are not held accountable for their false advertising. Luckily, if you know what to look for, it is easy to see if a hotel puts their money where their mouth is.
Here are some things I always look into when booking an eco friendly hotel.
Seven Things to Look for When Booking an Eco Friendly Hotel
1. Does The Restaurant at the Hotel Use Locally Grown, Seasonal Ingredients?
Not only does this mean fresher and tastier food, but the less distance the ingredients of your food travels, the fewer carbon emissions. Locally sourced ingredients also mean more of your money is going towards supporting local families and communities. While many hotels are proud of their sustainable kitchens, not all hotels will champion these facts on their website, so it might be worth getting in touch with the hotel to find out.
Another way to reduce your carbon emissions is to look for hotels that offer vegan or vegetarian food on their menus. While these lifestyle choices might not be for everyone, even eating one or two vegetarian meals a week can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Other things to consider are whether the hotel uses organic ingredients, has an onsite edible garden, or follows sustainable seafood guidelines.
2.Does The Hotel Look To Limit Food Waste?
Rotting food produces a lot of methane, so even if food scraps are used in compost, they still contribute to global warming. It is estimated that approximately 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every single year, so we all need to do our part to reduce food waste. An eco-friendly hotel should look to reduce their food wastage in their restaurants. There are many ways they can do this:
- Offering a simplified menu to reduce the amount of ingredients kept in the kitchen
- Monitoring reservations and stocking based on predicted business
- Composting any food scraps
- Donating surplus food which has not been used
- Reducing portion sizes
- Including signage at buffets to inform customers of their food wastage mission and request customers only take what they need.
All of these can help reduce a hotel’s carbon footprint. Not many hotels will have this information available on their website, so it might be worth contacting a hotel to find out how they reduce food wastage in their kitchen.
3. Does The Hotel Give Back To The Local Community?
Tourism has the potential to enrich local communities or decimate them. It all depends on how hotels and tour companies conduct business and how much of your dollar stays in the local community. Some things to consider:
- Do they hire local workers in their hotel?
- Do they recommend locally-owned restaurants?
- Is the hotel artwork sourced from local artists?
- Does the hotel hire local musicians to provide entertainment in the restaurant?
Look for hotels that have social and environmental responsibility programs. This doesn’t have to be big things; it could be something as simple as planting trees in a community impacted by deforestation. Other projects could be education about conservation or waste management programs, empowering local women, sponsoring local schools, or organizing beach clean-up.
As eco-conscious travelers, we want most of our dollar to go back into the local community. Some travel destinations are becoming well known for their commitment to sustainable and regenerative tourism.
4. Does Renewable Energy power the Hotel?
Does the hotel use alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, or hydroelectricity to power their resort? Even if a hotel only has parts of their hotel running on renewable energy, it can still make a significant impact on their carbon footprint.
Other things to look at are if the hotel uses energy-efficient lighting and sensors in the room so that electricity and heating are either turned off or go into power-saving mode while guests are out. Does the hotel forgo offering motorized water sports to prioritize the environment over guest convenience?
5. Does The Hotel Offer Alternative Transport Options?
Transportation can be one of the most significant sources of carbon emissions on your holiday, so look for hotels that help guests to ditch car hire and taxis. Look for hotels that offer free bike hire so you can explore the local area on your own steam.
Hotels that provide courtesy shuttles either to the local town or to the airport, also help to reduce the number of private cars on their roads. When planning your trip, you can also choose to fly with airlines that are making an effort to be more eco-friendly.
6. Does The Hotel Save Water?
Water is a precious resource, especially in hot countries, so finding a hotel that has policies in place to conserve water is a must. Most hotels will ask guests to consider keeping the same towels or linen for a week of their stay. They have seen it as a cost-cutting benefit as well as an environmentally conscious decision.
However, look for hotels that also seek to reuse greywater, which is the water from showers, laundry, sinks, and bathtubs. Most of the time, this is used for maintaining the hotel gardens along with rainwater collected in tanks onsite.
7. Are Natural Toiletries Provided?
Everything we wash down a sink ends up back into the soil and waterways, so it is important to opt for safe toiletries where possible. An eco-friendly hotel will allow guests to stick to their values while away by providing natural or organic toiletries in their bathrooms.
This is particularly vital if they are reusing greywater in their gardens. Most hotels will mention the brand of their toiletries, so it is easy enough to research if the brand is eco-friendly or not. Another thing to look for is if the hotel has made the switch to larger dispensers of products rather than small bottles for guests to take home.
This reduces a lot of manufacturing and waste on toiletry bottles, which will sit in the back of our cupboards for years. While we all enjoy taking home little bottles of fancy bath products, the health of our planet comes first.
Choosing an eco friendly hotel is just one way that you can become a more responsible traveler.