I think daydreaming about a holiday is half the fun so to get the most bang for our book so to help make your dreams more sustainable I’ve published a series on sustainable accommodation, which I’ll update as I find new information. The other articles in this series include Ireland and the UK, Europe and the Americas.
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I harvested most of the information here from a range of websites but I was very selective. Some accommodation providers have a loose interpretation of what is required to be sustainable so I’m ignoring places that limit their efforts to energy efficiency and asking guest to reuse towels! I’m only including locations that give concrete information on the range of initiatives they’ve implemented to lessen their impact on the planet.
If you’re researching your own accommodation Green Suitcase Travel have a good article on how to ensure your hotel is actually green. In summary, they believe hotels are on the right track if they
- have someone in charge of sustainability,
- have initiatives that go beyond asking guest to reuse towels
- keep surrounding development to a minimum, i.e. no manicured lawns and golf courses
- clearly state their sustainability policies
- measure energy, water and resources consumption
- support local causes or charities
- use organic, ethically sourced products
- are sustainably built
- are independently certified by a credible organisation
- pay their staff a fair wage
Please leave a comment if you know of a hotel or resort that does a good job of operating sustainably and I’ll add them onto one of my travel articles.
The Wa Ale Resort in Mynamar funds social welfare and conservation projects in and around the Lampi Marine National Park through its own foundation in collaboration with other NGO partners, including: The Wild Life Conversation Society, Instituto OIKOS and Global Medical Volunteers. 20% of net profits and 2% of room revenues are donated to the Lampi Foundation. The resort was constructed by local people and the wood used was mostly recycled from old homes, warehouses and boats from Myanmar. 50 % of the energy use at the camp is generated from solar energy and water is sourced from an island stream and via rainwater harvesting.
Gili Lankanfushi is an eco-resort in the Maldives made from sustainably sourced plantation teak, palm wood, bamboo, palm fronds and telegraph poles harvested during the island’s rehabilitation process. All rooms provide organic toiletries in refillable earthenware containers. The island’s dedicated desalination plant provides bottled still and sparkling water for guests and the resort achieved silver status in 2018 from Earthcheck, an organisation that helps businesses reduce their impact on the environment whilst reducing operations costs.
Since 2012, they’ve employed marine biologists who manage Gili’s coral reef, give sustainable living training sessions, support guest education and reef cleaning experiences, and monitor any resort ecological issues. They report data from daily dives to the Marine Research Centre and the Manta Trust. They are the first resort in the Maldives to develop specific coral reef recovery techniques and are rehabilitating the coral reef by nursing coral on ropes and transplanting them onto degraded reef areas one year later, if suitable. Their marine biologists are conducting a research study on the subject of coral reef rehabilitation science, and 75% of the proceeds from every coral line donated goes to Gili SEAS (Social & Environmental Awareness and Sustainability) fund.
Reethi Beach Resort use an Energy Recovery System at the resort’s desalination plant, harvest rainwater system, recycle waste water for irrigation purposes, use a heat exchange system to generate hot water and dry clothes, provide drinking water in reusable glass bottles to guests, ban straws and plastic bags, use refillable toiletries and biodegradable cleaning products, minimise waste where possible, recycle and compost everything else, installing LED lighting and timers, native and low water-need planting, low-flow, low-flush and dual flush plumbing, ban napkins and coasters, clean pool without chemicals, no buggies or vehicles in resort, use biological controls and natural products against mosquitos and buy local where possible. The resort also engages in coral reef protection initiatives, voluntary maintain uninhabited islands and are actively involved in a wide range of local social and environmental programmes.
Soneva Fushi (see above) is one of 3 resorts in the Maldives that belong to the company Soneva. A mandatory 2% environmental levy is added to every Soneva stay, with proceeds going towards the not-for-profit Soneva Foundation to offset both direct and indirect carbon emissions from resort activities and guest flights. The Soneva Foundation funds a range of global projects that have a positive environmental, social and economic impact, including partnering with Coralive to build what will be one of the largest coral nurseries in the world powered by mineral accretion technology (MAT). They have just set up the first coral spawning and rearing laboratory in the Maldives with Coral Spawning Lab . The resort creates their own cooking charcoal and biochar from wood waste. They have provided fuel-efficient stoves that reduce deforestation and deathly indoor air pollution, to benefit over 300,000 people in Darfur and Myanmar. They also filter, mineralise and bottle their own drinking water while using the proceeds to provide 750,000 people with clean and safe water. They do not import any single-use plastics and upcycle any discarded plastic into colourful and useful objects. They run the SLOW LIFE Symposia to encourage environmental and social collaboration within the local communities and to bring academic, political and business minds together to work on the world’s most pressing problems.
Coco Palm Resort has a full-time marine biologist on staff whose team releases baby turtles into the ocean during the hatching stage to increase survival rates. It is home to the Olive Ridley Project Marine Turtle Rescue Centre and has a resident veterinary team, surgery and lab, dedicated to looking after any injured turtles. The resort has an on-site drinkable water production and glass bottling plant, and a comprehensive waste management centre that recycles materials such as aluminium, glass, and styrofoam. They have also banned plastic bags and bottles. They have replaced toiletries with non-plastic alternatives. They grow a selection of organic, home-grown herbs, fruits and vegetables, helping to reduce food miles. They have a tree planting programme in partnership with neighbouring islands, to minimise their carbon footprint, using environmentally friendly fertilisers and pesticides.
Six Senses Laamu provides drinking water in reusable glass bottles and wastewater is then treated onsite in a water treatment plant. Fruit and vegetables are grown in their organic gardens, natural insecticides are made from plants and herbs are grown for spa treatments and food. They have their own chickens for eggs and support local farms. Biologically active cleaning solutions are grown onsite and used to replace chemical cleaners and waste minimisation is prioritised with guests encouraged to take disposable and hazardous waste items back to their own countries where recycling facilities are available. They also advise what to pack prior to visiting.
The resort won the Global Gold Award for Reducing Plastic Waste in the Environment from World Travel Market Responsible Tourism Awards in 2021. Organic waste is composted for use on site and a waste heat recovery system is used to create hot water for the whole island. Villas have been designed to take advantage of passive cooling and natural ventilation and overhanging roofs create shade and reduce the need for air-conditioning.
Unfortunately, the resort uses diesel engines to generate its electricity, however in June 2021, they launched the first phase of generating on-site solar energy within the resort and in the first six months saved the use of 6,914 litres of diesel.
In January 2023, the Sea Hub for Environmental Learning in Laamu (SHELL) was opened on the resort’s sunset beach. It will be home to the Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI), a marine conservation collaborative involving Six Senses Laamu’s marine biologists and partner NGOs; The Manta Trust, Blue Marine Foundation, and the Olive Ridley Project.
Noomadi Barefoot Resort use ecologically grown wood, solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity, a heat recovery system to heat water, an in-house water bottling plant to provide drinking water in reusable bottles. They also have a conservation centre to help develop ‘responsible activities’ for tourists, such as collecting data on the ecosystems while snorkelling. They recruit staff from the local community, buy locally grown food, support local environmental education programs in collaboration with the local school and have developed a project of waste sorting within the local community.
With caring for the environment is part of its core values, Kudadoo gets all of its power from solar cells, is built from sustainably sourced timber, with environmentally conscious activities and biodegradable toiletries. The resort offers locally desalinated water in reusable bottles and uses biodegradable alternatives to plastic straws and cutlery. They serve line-caught fish as much as possible, reducing bycatch. They are partnered with Olive Ridley Project and Manta Trust with their own marine biologist on site.
Chiva Som is an adult-only wellness resort designed and built to minimise impact on the 7 acres it sits in. Rainfall is harvested within the resort, and waste water is collected and purified onsite before being used for landscape irrigation and maintaining resort lake levels. Perishable food items are distributed to local livestock farmers for animal feed, while other waste is recycled. Plant waste from garden maintenance is composted for use onsite and eco-friendly products are used. The venue also participates in social welfare programmes, hiring local staff and, whenever possible, purchasing local fresh food, products and services. Also, all proceeds generated from sponsored events run by the resort goes to Preserve Hua Hin Group which funds environmental awareness, education and preservation activities. . Through this, Chiva-Som is the environmental preservation steward of Krailart Niwate, the only remaining urban mangrove ecosystem in Hua Hin. It is a reconstructed wetland and an urban nature reserve extending over 7 acres.
At Eco Logic 100% of profits go towards the development of local children. They have a solar powered aquaponic fish and vegetable farm, they plant trees to offset emissions, and run environmental educational projects. They hire only local staff and pay fair salaries and provide insurance. They share a premises with their partners, the Thai Child Development Foundation. They also have a waste recycling bank, zero food waste policy, water filter systems and have banned plastic bags.
Keemala Resort use an onsite water treatment system to purify waste before discharge and methane from the on site waste management system is directed into the ground rather than the air. Greywater is reused to water the gardens and landscape. They state that they use environmental friendly synthetic material to prevent further deforestation, but don’t state what.
Only glass-bottled water and paper straws are used and plastic packaging is avoided where possible. Landscaping has been done in such a way as to limit the impact on the environment and daylight use is maximised to reduce energy consumption. Guest toiletries are 100% natural, paraben-free and are not tested on animals, including Irish brand VOYA. Organic herbs and vegetables are grown onsite and a focus on ethical eating is present in their menus.
The resort does not sell tickets or accept commissions for tours and shows that exploit animals, such as elephant rides and shows, tiger shows, and dolphin shows. They have rescue buffalo, goats, ducks, peacocks and chickens at Keemala. Fabrics and textiles used at Keemala are produced by ethnic minority groups in Thailand under the Doi Tung Development Project, by the royal patronage of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The Park Royal Hotel in Singapore harvests rain water, has 2sqm of greenery for every 1sqm of land the hotel occupies. It also has EV charge points on site, uses solar panels for energy production and sensors to minimise energy usage. Water dispensers in all guestrooms replace single-use plastic bottles, toiletries are biodegradable, paraben-free and cruelty free.
Undiscovered Mountains is an mountain focused adventure holiday tour company that use small independent accommodations wherever possible and local guides and instructors so the money you spend on your holiday is ploughed straight back into the local economy. Their activities consist of those which have the least impact on the environment, such as walking, rafting, etc. They also run an Eco-Challenge to raise money for Tourism Concern and operate a carbon offsetting program through a rewilding project with our partner Mossy Earth.
Starting out as a marine reserve Song Saa in Cambodia is an island based resort run by a married couple. The resort was constructed using salvaged materials by local people and ingredients are sourced locally – including from wildlife-friendly Ibis rice from farmers. The resort carries out environmental and social projects via its foundation.
In 2010 Sokoun Chanpreda and Bill Bensley, purchased a 350-hectare wildlife corridor in the Cardamom National Forest. In order to protect the land from development and fund conservation they decided to open a luxury tented camp on the site, called Shinta Mani Wild. Some of the fund for the camp go towards funding a dedicated Wildlife Alliance ranger station on the grounds, which guests are invited to help while there if they wish. The camp also provides employment for 120 people, who might otherwise have become involved in the logging industry. Shinta Mani Wild does not use any single-use plastics and they bottle our own water and use recycled containers. Food is locally sourced with some picked by staff from the surrounding forest. The resort also funds some sustainable community and environmental projects in the area.
World Nomads have written a articles on sourcing responsible hospitality in Cambodia.
Misool Eco-Resort in Eastern Indonesia aims to protect and revitalise their natural surroundings and the community in which they operate. The resort was built entirely from reclaimed wood, on land leased from local landowners. Non-reef-safe sunscreen is banned in the resort and biodegradable soap and shampoo are provided for guests.
Shower heads and toilets are low-flow. and 60% of the water used by people comes from rainwater collection, the remainder from desalination units. Free, reusable aluminium water bottles are provided with drinking water refill stations located around the resort as well as in each accommodation. Guests are asked to leave single-use plastics at home and take their used batteries back with them.
The resorts uses a combination of existing diesel generators and solar photovoltaic (PV) and Li-ion batteries. Low power appliances and air conditioners are installed throughout our resort, lights are timer-operated, where appropriate. Organic waste is composted on-site and used on the garden, waste water gardens.
All fish served at Misool is line-caught outside the marine reserve. They do not serve food that is either religiously unethical or unsustainable, such as prawns, pork, endangered fish, MSG or palm oil. They source 100% of fresh food from the local area and have their own hydroponics farm, choosing high-quality local ingredients over imported ingredients whenever possible.
$100 of each guests booking is donated to the Misool Foundation, their sister organisation. They run a suite of marine conservation projects in Misool, safeguarding biodiversity and empowering locals. The Marine Reserve is a sanctuary consisting of two No-Take Zones inside which no natural objects, including shells, coral, orchids, can be taken.
The Sukau Rainforest Lodge sits on the banks of one of Borneo’s most important waterways, the Kinabatangan River. The Lodge is built with local hardwood species and 80% of the lodge’s staff are locals. They recycle their cooking oil to light lamps in our restaurant and lounge area and use rainwater harvesting to provide water for the kitchen and washing.
They use BioSolv Treatment System, which they say is a greener sewage treatment. Organic waste is composted, while non-organic is sent to a local town for disposal and recycling. The lodge is designed for unrestrained air circulation and ventilation, thus minimizing the use of fans and water dispensers are located around the lodge and guests are encouraged to fill reusable bottles from them. Sukau Rainforest contribute to community projects under non-profit BEST Society.
Bawah Reserve is on the islands of Bawah, which is the home to rare and endangered species of flora and fauna including some 2000 year old trees. The building in the resort were constructed without machinery and using bamboo and other locally sourced natural building materials. All mirrors, sinks and bathtubs were made on the island using copper recycled from elsewhere in Indonesia. The iconic jetty was constructed over the coral reef that divides the two lagoons. To achieve this without damaging the coral, a team of specialist divers were employed to guide construction.
The resort harvests rainwater and uses a desalination plant for drinking water. All wastewater is collected and pumped to a series of treatment areas: aerobic, non-aerobic, filtration system including UV, biological pond, and reed bed system. A range of Bawah branded, locally-made ‘reef-friendly’ sun screen and other products are available for guests to purchase on the resort. All solid waste generated on the island is sorted and sent for recycling where possible.
There is an ongoing reforestation project to irrigate and grow a new forest in areas where the canopy has become depleted. Anambas Foundation (AF) was created in 2018 as an independent, not for profit organisation in alignment with Bawah Reserve focussing on turtle, mangrove and reef conservation with many more planned. The six islands of Bawah are a designated marine conservation area.
Pugdundee Safaris run a series of eco-lodges in National Parks in India. They state that they practise sustainable wildlife tourism in remote locations away from regular tourism hubs, which helps generate income for those living in remote areas. In fact, over 70% of their procurement needs and services are provided locally. They also regularly train their staff on conservation related issues as they believe that to conserve our forests, we must look after the needs of local people by helping them earn a livelihood.
In 2022, they took Silver in the ICRT Awards for Reducing Plastic Waste in the Environment by removing single-use plastics from six of their seven lodges. The lodge premises are rewilded with native species which extend into natural forests. They also adopt a farm-to-table model, serving fresh food grown in their organic gardens and from local farmers, reducing carbon miles.
The company is a signatory of TOFT , an organisation that supports the protection, conservation and rewilding of natural wilderness and their wild inhabitants through responsible eco-tourism.
Prakruti Farm in India is a family-run 5 acre natural farm that uses permaculture, palekar and other natural farming techniques to grow fruits, vegetables, herbs, medicinal plants and grains along with few livestock. Their private guest house which consists of a living room, fully equipped kitchen, one bedroom and a bathroom can accommodate 6-8 people. The owners provide fresh South Indian food for breakfast. The place is a host to a wide variety of wild birds and the owners offer guided natural farming educational tours.
Hara World, is an experiential education organisation for young changemakers. The concept of two NGO workers, they ensured community projects across India could keep up with the financial challenges of the pandemic by raising $5000 to support 6 organizations with micro-grant funding.
Hara House Manali is a two bedroomed guesthouse on Hamta, bookable through AirBnB, that sleeps up to 6. It is a low waste property and the house is plastic free, with all food prepared onsite by the local community of about 8 houses. 20% of profits from Hara House go towards subsidising socially beneficial programs run by Hara World.
Taj Exotica Resort & Spa on the Andaman Islands is located in a medley of rainforests, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, unspoilt beaches and ancient tribal cultures. The resort has its own biogas facility, water bottling plant, a reservoir for rainwater harvesting and partial solar energy. They’ve also partnered with the Pollution Control Board to keep the island plastic free while developing a plastic collection centre on the mainland. They also state that they are working consistently to reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint.
Travel Blog Soul Travel has written up a very useful guide to responsible travel in Goa.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan
Serena Hotels have properties in some parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. They state that their hotels endeavour to emulate local sustainable architecture, promote awareness of local cultures, national heritage, conservation of the natural environment, empowers the local community, provides literacy and early learning opportunities, promotes health, safety and wellbeing and facilitates the sharing of its achievements and knowledge on environmental responsibility to its guests, schools, communities and various stakeholders. we encourage and promote local community based suppliers and eco-friendly products – fresh food stuff is purchased from local farmers and companies that support small scale producers and dis-advantaged groups. Suppliers are also encouraged to reduce packaging or package in recyclable/biodegradable material and comply with international human rights and labour standards. The hotel group is focused on empowering local communities to benefit in sustainable income, food security and improved health and nutrition to more households thus improving the quality of life. I like the fact that you can read individual stories on the company’s sustainability page.
Written by Elaine, Reviewed by Lisa
PS – In previous years at this time I’ve written about My Experience with Conker Laundry Liquid