How to spot an eco-friendly hotel

Treehouse Hotel in the Port Lympne Reserve, Kent, which supports the Aspinall Foundation – a conservation organisation that breeds endangered species and reintroduces them into the wild. Image: Aspinall Foundation

Eco-conscious travel is on the rise, with hotels around the globe adopting environmental initiatives on all manner of scales. Whether large or small, they all count in our book and, with such a variety out there, you’re spoilt for choice. Many hotels implement eco-initiatives as standard, so their efforts aren’t always publicised on their websites. For the fully fledged eco-warriors to the casual domestic recyclers, here are few easy ways to spot an eco-friendly hotel when you see one…

You can taste it

Hotel chefs often turn to fresh, seasonal and local ingredients when it comes to designing their menu – for the flavour if nothing else. Add organic into the mix and you’ve got a menu that not only contributes to the local economy but leaves the land in good shape too. The produce itself can enhance your entire experience, as you taste honey from the rooftop beehives of a city-centre bolthole, sample vegetables fresh from a hotel’s kitchen garden or tuck into fish that have been freshly plucked from the very sea you’re gazing over. A simple land-to-table approach helps with food waste too; a benefit indeed when you consider that UK hotels alone waste just shy of 80,000 kilos of food a year (according to Green Hotelier).

IDW Esperanza Resort & Spa in Lithuania offers an all-round luxury, eco experience. Image: IDW Esperanza Resort & Spa

The community’s involved

Hotels make an obvious impact on the communities that they pop-up in, but adding to the local tourism industry is often just the start. Preserving the environment is a common concern for hotels, be them countryside retreats or city-centre boltholes. From safari lodges that champion animal conservation projects, to not-for-profit hotels that re-invest into local businesses, people and education – the co-operation between a hotel and its environment has never held so much potential.  This all benefits visitors too, as a successful hotel-community relationship can create a more interesting and authentic experience for those who travel there to discover it.

The environmental Rs

Reduce, reuse and recycle are considered the three Rs of environmental practice and, whilst they sound familiar within a domestic context, scaling them up to a commercial hotel’s heights is a much taller order. Still, many hotels adopt this motto with gusto and seamlessly implement environmentally friendly practices that serve to put less waste in landfill and use up less of the earth’s non-renewable resources. It’s often a lot of smaller changes that make the big difference, from using energy efficient light bulbs to running a linen reuse programme. You can often spot larger scale efforts built into brand new hotels, such as water recycling or solar-heated swimming pools.

Heritance Kandalama in Sri Lanka, one of the Top 15 Green Hotels in the World and holder of a Bronze LEED Award for Green Building. Image: Heritance Kandalama

Count the carbon

However you travel, you’re bound to add to your carbon footprint but, if you want to, there are ways to reduce it, even if you’re not heading for one of the world’s few carbon neutral hotels. If your break involves a flight or two, you’ll find that some airlines offset their carbon, or give you the chance to do so when booking. You can also calculate your carbon using an online tool and offset it accordingly. Once you’re in resort, you could consider less carbon intensive ways to explore, such as walking, cycling or horseback riding – they all make great ways to immerse yourself in the local environment and are often well supported, or even offered, by the hotel itself.

Look for the signs

With environmentally friendly travel slowly growing in popularity, a variety of certificates and awards have developed to highlight hotels that commit to leading the way, making it even easier to recognise an eco-friendly hotel. TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders Programme makes an excellent starting point, as it awards a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum status to the hotels that apply for consideration – keep an eye out for the green leaf motif. When it comes to newer hotels, look out for the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, which recognises excellent examples of built-in eco-improvement practices.

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