Hotels, boutiques and lodges for the conscious traveller…
It’s easy to take the luxury of travel for granted (guilty). Whilst it’s a sad reality that the travel industry is responsible for an increasing amount of environmental damage, there are ways in which we can try to do our part. Yes, it’s true that one flight alone means that all efforts to offset your carbon footprint are insignificant – but we’re not willing to stay on the ground just yet. After all, people who invest in seeing the world are guaranteed to value it.
Though the answer to truly travelling sustainably is not (yet!) within our reach, we’re in full support of hotels, boutiques and lodges that are staying accountable and taking steps in the right direction. Wherever you’re choosing to stay with the family, it’s worth opting for accommodation that employs local staff and uses local produce, ensuring your holiday expenses feed into valuable income, whilst truly immersing yourself in the culture. Plus, it’s great to get kids thinking about their impact on the environment and community from an early age – so encouraging that on holiday is a bonus! Eco hotels also offer educational opportunities at every corner (for the little ones and the parents), simply by taking the initiative to stay conscious and setting an example.
If you’re looking for meaningful ways to donate your time, check out WWOOF and Voltra for options – ideal if you’ve got a travelling teen on your hands. Whether you’re keen to volunteer abroad or explore responsible family travel, there are plenty of ways for you to give back to the community without compromising on the holiday you’ve been craving!
Surf, sand, sun, sustainability… It all goes hand-in-hand, really. The Harmony Hotel is a passion project of the couple who own it. Priding themselves on creating an eco space, the hotel composts, uses solar-powered water heaters, landscapes with native plants and ensures at least 60% of the staff are locals.
We love that a greenhouse and farm provide most of the organic food served in the restaurant and Juice Bar! The experts here actually calculate and compensate for the hotel’s carbon emissions with a “Plant a Tree” project, where guests and staff plant trees in the local community. Ideal for little ones looking to develop that green thumb! The dedicated staff also work with a local non-profit to protect the local sea turtle habitats and end poaching. There’s even a spigot near the reception area that provides purified rain-water.
If Ecuador isn’t yet on your family wish 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. For Instagram goals (for yourself or your travelling teen), it’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. They offer kids and parents alike a wealth of knowledge. Oh, and if you’re looking for the trip of a lifetime, it’s worth checking out Jacada Travel’s Ecuador itinerary. This luxury travel company offsets 100% of carbon emissions from every trip sold (proving it’s possible!).
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”. Majority of the restaurants’ produce is grown in the resort’s organic garden, fed by a carefully constructed composting and water-recycling system. And 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.
Read more: 3 Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand
Boutique hotel Soneva Fushi’s eco-chic villas are straight out of a daydream. The relaxing resort has made sure responsibility and sustainability are at the core of the philosophy. The hotel strives to offer a community that works hand in hand with the environment to craft beautiful, bespoke experiences.
With one of the largest solar power plants in the Maldives, food grown and sourced locally wherever possible, and a purpose-built centre for waste management and recycling, it’s incredible to see more luxury hotels taking the initiative. We’re particularly impressed by the marine conservation programme – the hotel has managed to keep pockets of the island’s coastline untouched so turtles can continue nesting there.
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.
There’s even a Song Sa Foundation, which provides vital healthcare to local people, and distributes items like educational materials and water filters to the community. Kit Wong, Expert Travel Designer from Jacada Travel says 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”, and we’re fully on board.
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. We’ll applaud to that! 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. Check out the family section for more to do with the kids.
Though China may not be a place you’d automatically associate with sustainability (or your travel bucket list), Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain won’t disappoint. Located at the picturesque gateway to the majestic Qing Cheng Mountains, it’s a natural paradise. In fact, the hotel was created specifically to complement the UNESCO World Heritage & Natural Cultural site near Dujiangyan. Plus, the multiple room villas are great for families with two or more kids!
Staying in line with Six Senses’ philosophy, the resort is committed to improving the ecological and carbon footprint resulting from the resort operations. The idea is that the hotel and guests can work together to ensure maximum benefits. For example, the Six Senses purifies and mineralises its own drinking water (in re-usable glass bottles), sources responsible ingredients and produce from the local community and grows its own organic gardens. Stay tuned for the upcoming partnership with Panda Mountain, and the efforts to support a sustainable education within local schools.
Featured image courtesy of Soneva Fushi, image #1 courtesy of The Harmony Hotel, image #2 courtesy of Mashpi Lodge, image #3 courtesy of Nihi, image #4 courtesy of Soneva Fushi, image #5 courtesy of Songsaa, image #6 courtesy of Jean-Michael Cousteau Resort , image #7 courtesy of Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain