Just because a hotel uses the phrase “eco-friendly accommodation” on its website, doesn’t mean it’s truly the most eco-friendly option. In a world full of greenwashing, many hotels claim to care about the planet, but how can you be sure to choose the most eco-friendly hotels when traveling?
Sustainable travel includes a respect for nature, the local economy, and local communities. A little bit of comfort and style doesn’t hurt, either!
We’re here to say that it is possible to find eco-friendly accommodation that actually cares about its impact on the planet and local community.
5 guidelines to choosing eco-friendly accommodation:
1. Look for LEED or Green Key certification
There are more than 8,000 sustainable hotel certifications. Not all are considered equal, that’s for sure. A couple that are well-established and trustworthy are LEED and Green Key.
- LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized green building certification system, ensuring a building was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all these metrics: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. LEED certified buildings put less stress on the environment. Learn more here.
- Put in their own words, “ Green Keyis the leading standard for excellence in the field of environmental responsibility and sustainable operation within the tourism industry. The high environmental standards expected of these establishments are maintained through rigorous documentation and frequent audits.”
2. Use a search tool
- Eco Bnb is an easy-to-use vacation rental search engine mostly in Europe. This site focuses on environmental responsibility with 10 criteria that must be met for listings to appear on their site.
- Fairbnb is a short term rental platform for cities whose residents have see the worst of overtourism like Venice, Barcelona, Bologna, Valencia, Amsterdam and Genova. FairBnb’s motto is “community powered tourism”. For example, they donate half the income they earn to local environmental (and social) projects, such as community gardens and food waste recovery centers.
- BookDifferent.com – This accommodation search engine shows the greenest, most sustainable accommodation choices for your trip, so you can easily make the best choice. They take the guesswork out of choosing sustainable accommodation. There’s even the CO2 footprint in kg per guest night of every single hotel on the website.
- I-Like Local – If you’re like me, when you travel you want to truly get to know a place when you visit. This is where I-Like Local comes into play! It’s a responsible tourism site that offers tours and home stays in Africa and Asia. A very important note: local people earn 100% of the money and I-Like Local adds their fee on top.
3. Connection to nature/surrounding area
- If the accommodation is on the beach, do they put effort into maintaining the cleanliness of the beach? Are they supporting wildlife conservation or reforestation? How far does the food they serve come from, and what do they do with leftover food? Do the research and ask questions!
4. Actions speak louder than words
- It’s important to note that certifications (or a lack thereof) aren’t the only way to know if a hotel is sustainable. Some types of accommodation are naturally more sustainable. (i.e. off-grid cabins, eco-lodges in the jungle, tiny homes, etc.) Keep that in mind!
- Look for actionable achievements. On their website, do you see any facts on initiatives, impacts, or achievements? Use your own discernment, but if they don’t have any real answers to these questions, you can probably be right to assume they are just using these terms for marketing.
5. Community involvement
- Does the eco-lodge have local workers and managers? Is the lodge locally owned? Where does your money go? Does the local community economically benefit at all? Think about issues like water use, the disruption of ecosystems, and overtourism stress on local residents. Does it prioritize selling local and fair-trade products? These are all important factors to know if the hotel is inclusive and beneficial to the local community.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Having standards for eco-friendly accommodation means we are working within some kinda framework, right? THAT’S RIGHT.
In 2015 the United Nations created 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) for ALL countries to strive for. These SDGs are a worldwide framework to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change.
Tourism is a HUGE industry, friends. Globally, 1 in 10 jobs are linked to the travel and tourism industry.
As consumers, we have the unique opportunity to CHANGE THE WORLD by pressuring tourism industry key players (hotels, museums, restaurants, etc.) to adopt more sustainable practices. How do we accomplish such a feat?
Firstly, you can choose totravel consciously . For instance, you can support companies that align with your values, shop locally, and eat less meat. Additionally, you can travel with the desire to learn about yourself and other cultures. And finally, bringing it back full circle…you can choose to stay in sustainable accommodations.
As a conscious traveler, you’ve got to put in a bit of extra research to ensure you’re supporting eco-friendly accommodation that aligns with your values. Luckily, you could also hire an expert travel coach to help you out! (wink, wink)