Sustainable Accommodation – The Americas 2023*

Fogo Island Inn

When I started this article I mentioned to my children that it was on the American continent, which includes the USA but other countries too. They didn’t believe me. In their mind America is the American continent, which is unsurprising but sad all the same. This is the side effect of them watching American dominated YouTube. I often wonder what we’d be like culturally if English wasn’t our main language.

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My husband and I had a disastrous trip to South American in 2005. We started in Chile where our planned trip to Salar de Atacama got cancelled because it snowed in the driest place on earth! Then we moved onto Bolivia, where we got really bad altitude sickness and had stuff robbed on us. Next was Peru where there was a bus strike, which meant we couldn’t visit Machu Picchu because all of other forms of transport (of which there was very little) were booked out. So after 18 days of hard slog and set backs we travelled to Lima and decided to take a flight home two days early. We were beat!

So if that little anecdote hasn’t put you off travelling here are some options for sustainable accommodation on the American continent. And remember it’s more sustainable to stay longer so if you’re flying long distance make it count and stay as long as you can.

North America

Shadow Lake Lodge in Canada runs on solar power, which they maximize with the use of energy-efficient light bulbs. Drinking water at the lake originates from an underground spring and they process grey water and disperse it into the ground soil. They also minimise packaging through the purchase of bulk foods, purchase no bottled water or soft drinks, use phosphate-free soaps and detergents and recycle all glass, metal, and plastics.

The Chelsea Hotel in Toronto, Canada use sensors and timers, LED & CFL bulbs, high-efficiency boilers, water saving shower heads and low-flow toilets. They have an electric car charging point. They have also eliminated paper guest receipts and plastic water bottles in guest rooms. They source local food and were awarded Gold Certified status by EarthCheck in 2022, an environmental management program for the travel and tourism industry and 4 Green Key ECOmmodation rating by the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC). They also support a range of environmental and social initiatives and have a team dedicated to green initiatives in the hotel.

Hotel Le Crystal in Montreal have two regular electrical car chargers and two Tesla car chargers. All of their room keys are reusable and all hotel cleaning products are biodegradable and water-soluble. The pool and hot tub use salt water instead of chlorine and the hotel fundraises for charities.

Wickaninnish Lodge in British Columbia in Canada was constructed so as to minimise the impact on surrounding trees. Reclaimed douglas fir was used to construct guest room furniture and the liners and trim at every door and window. They source their produce, seafood and meat locally from Vancouver Island and greater B.C. Their spa uses high-quality spa products that employ ecologically responsible practices. They have an onsite composter for food waste and use high-efficiency Viessmann boilers. They also have chargers for E-bikes and two Tesla electric car chargers. They organise beach clean ups and an annual golf tournaments they raised over $120,000.00 for the local high school’s athletics programs. They also contribute funds and time to operate various not-for-profit festivals in Tofino.

Lake O’Hara Lodge in Canada conserve water through the use of vacuum toilets, operate an advanced membrane bioreactor tertiary wastewater treatment facility and an efficient hot water pre-warming system utilizing waste heat from their generators. They use native plants and shrubs to reclaim disturbed areas, avoid phosphorus based soaps, purchase seasonal produce from local producers, have an extensive in-house recycling program for paper, glass, tin and plastic products, support local charities and contribute financial and in-kind support for ongoing environmental research activities.

eco cabin in Canada

Nimmo Bay is run by the Murray family to have minimal environmental impact. Their hydro power system fuelled by streams and waterfalls, providing clean drinking water and up to 80% of the resort’s power needs. They also built floating docks instead of felling trees on land. They serve local produce, compost their organic waste, use eco-friendly cleaning products, and fund wildlife research including conservation of local bears. Guests are encouraged to help with the research by collecting hair samples and checking wildlife cameras. Since 2012 the venue has invited people to trade in a license to trophy hunt a Grizzly bear for a bear viewing trip for 2 people to Nimmo Bay. They also lobbied for a ban on the hunting, which eventually came into effect.

Here’s an article on 10 spots in Vancouver for vegan and ethical fashion lovers and another one on how to sustainably shop, eat and travel your way around Vancouver, and if you’re visiting the city of Edmonton check out their Borden natural swimming pool.

Fogo Island Inn (see image above) in Newfoundland is filled with of folk crafts made by a guild of local craftswomen and serves cuisine made with locally grown ingredients, some of which is foraged. According to the hotel’s website locally sourced, sustainable building materials were chosen for the hotel whenever possible. All of the Inn’s rooms were created using only natural materials such as wood, wool, cotton, and linen. The only plastic in the guest rooms is the telephone. Harvesting of rainwater is used to serve the toilets, laundry, and kitchen appliances, and wood-fired boilers and solar panels are used for hot water and underfloor heating. The hotel is effectively owned by the community with all profits funding local micro-lending projects and the hotel’s Shorefast Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the tradition of boat building in the area.

Two Bunch Palms in California is a resort built around the natural hot desert springs. It uses only locally grown food in its restaurant, irrigates with recycled water, only uses biodegradable cleaning and treatment products, and generates its electricity from renewable sources, making it the first carbon-neutral resort in America.

sustainable accommodation in Albuquerque

Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque in the US use fluorescent and LED lighting throughout the building, use motion sensors to turn on/off lighting, generate hot water on-site from solar panels, use dual-flush toilets, oxygen-assisted shower-heads, low-flow fixtures, and employee training to reduce water waste, irrigate indoor and outdoor landscape using on-site captured rainwater, reduce storm water runoff to help protect natural hydrology, minimize heat island effect by using high reflective roofing materials, recycle all cardboard, paper, plastics, metal, and compost all food waste, provide on-site bike racks and showers, etc to encourage bike use, use environmentally friendly cleaning products and housekeeping standards, use refillable containers for toiletries, have bedroom furniture made from bamboo or rubberwood and make 70% of their energy from renewable sources. And on and on and on. This is one of the most committed green hotels I’ve come across yet!

sustainable accommodation in Mexico

Monte Uzulua in on the Oaxaca coast of Mexico. When it was being built only local wood, earth and lime were used and construction was done so to protect the ancient forests nearby. It was also constructed with the help of 4 Mexican artisan groups, helping to preserve indigenous art and culture. The hotel has a rainwater collection system and only use biodegradable soaps.

Central America

Lapa Rios is a luxury eco-resort in Costa Rico that uses renewable materials for sustainable and low-impact construction, composts its waste, promotes use of locally-sourced biodegradable products and organic foods, employ exclusively local staff, educate staff, their local community, and guests about sustainability, cultural and environmental matters. They use solar water heaters, biodegradable cleaning products, grow organic food and avoid single-use plastics where possible.

Nantipa Hotel

Nantipa is a small beachfront hotel in Costa Rica with a low-impact approach to hospitality. They actively try to avoid single-use plastic by offering water in glass pitchers, avoiding straws or offering reusable ones where necessary and using biodegradable packaging for take-away food. All waste water is treated to result in clean water used to irrigate the hotels gardens, which feature only native plants. Solar Water heaters are installed in each room and energy sensors are used to minimise energy usage. During construction of the hotel only 6 trees had to be felled and replacements were planted elsewhere. Timber used from the felled trees was used in furniture and construction. The hotel prioritises the hiring of local resident and where possible food is purchased from local producers, fishermen and small businesses.

Chaa Creek in Belize gives 10% of all revenue to environmental and community projects under our Chaa Creek Cares™ initiative. The resort only uses environmentally safe products in reduced or bulk packaging, provide water refilling stations, filter their own drinking water, use only energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps combined with automatic timers, motion detectors and photo-voltaic switches, maximise the use of natural lighting to reduce energy consumption, run their Macal River Camp facility completely on solar power, compost kitchen waste and other organic materials and use it on their Maya Organic Farm, give restaurant leftovers to a local farmer as pig feed, return packaging where possible and recycle all others, use recycled paper and our commercial printing is done on recycled paper, use low-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads and harvest rainwater to supplement water consumption.

Hotel Belmar in Costa Rica uses air drying facilities, solar panels, skylights to reduce energy consumption. They also use Energy saving light bulbs, presence-detecting lights, and photo-voltaic lamps. Their shower heads use 65% less water than conventional shower heads, they harvest rainwater and use a bio digester to treat waste water and produce biogas for water heating. The cleaning products and toiletries are environmentally friendly and biodegradable and their lawns and gardens are chemical-free. The purchase locally produced, organic goods and minimise solid waste wherever possible.

Adults only resort Kura in Costa Rico have banned all single-use plastic, have an organic garden, minimise solid waste as much as possible, make furniture from sustainable local timber, use solar panels to heat water, use salt instead of chlorine in their pool, use waste water to irrigate their gardens, and uses 100% organic biodegradable products.

El Silencio Lodge and Spa is supporting efforts on the preservation of endangered tropical stingless bees and their onsite meliponary is home to protected beehives that play a key role in the region’s ecosystem. They also hold a 5 leaf rating in Costa Rica’s Certificate for Sustainable Tourism

South America

Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort in Aruba organise a beach clean once a month, offer reusable cups for cocktails, save water by using Aerators and Dual Flush Systems, use solar heaters, minimise waste generation, protect and minimise air quality, participate with NGO’s in conservation programs, protect laying turtles on a nearby beach.

eco resort in Guyana

Rewa Lodge in the small country of Guyana in South America is run by locals. They serve local seasonal dishes and locally made alcohol. Energy at the venue is limited and is generally solar powered with the occassional use of a generator.

Uxua in Brazil has been nominee for Virtuoso’s Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award for 3 years in a row. The resort in partnership with NGO Despertar has created MAMA TRANCOSO – Movimento Ambientalista Mukaú Aponem, an eco-education initiatives that provides 15 students per-year a paid internship focusing on environmental and activism basics. In an effort to keep the tradition alive the hotel also supports the academy Capoeira Sul Da Bahia. It also supports local fishermen by loaning tools or providing wood for boat repairs and is a founding member of the Fishermen’s Association of Trancoso

Inkaterra has been offering ecotourism and sustainable development tours in Peru since 1975. They are committed to scientific research and conservation and help to fund the Inkaterra Asociación, a non-profit research organisation. Since 1978, Inkaterra Asociación has registered 903 bird species, 362 ant species, 313 butterfly species, 100 mammal species and 1266 vascular plant species.

Peru Ecocamp

Peru Ecocamp offer a range of trips to Machu Pichu in Peru. Every Ecocamp has 28m2 (300ft2) dome sleeping tents, a Dining Dome and at Pincopata and Soray a Lobby Bar Dome. They have grey water management and irrigation systems and compost kitchen waste and human waste – separately – and use renewable energy sources. All of their water is filtered and treated with UV reducing the need for single use plastics. They grow some of their produce and source the rest locally. They are also focused on regenerating the land their sites are on, for example they are helping to reforest the area around Pincopata.

Hulio Hulio

Hulio Hulio in located in the middle of the Chilean Patagonian Rainforest, under the Andes Mountain range. Their website states that the hotel owners are committed to the conservation of nature and local culture but very little detail about this was given.

eco camp in Patagonia

Huemules is based on a 6,000 acre nature reserve in Patagonia in Argentina, which is run entirely by locally hired personnel. Accommodation is in geodesic domes, which have a smaller impact on the environment than other structures. The furniture on site is made from recycled timber, they use eco-friendly cleaning products and they have created an advanced sewage treatment system that sterilizes waste in a clean and odourless way. They compost organic waste, which goes on their vegetable garden as fertiliser and they minimise single-use and plastic as much as possible

Eco Camp in Torres del Paine National Park

Ecocamp in Patagonia is a dome hotel in Torres del Paine National Park that gets 95% of their power from hydro and solar. Although the domes are designed to capitalise on solar gain for heating, they also have wood burners in the domes for heating. The camp has been offsetting any emissions it creates since 2007. The camp was constructed on wooden platforms in order to have minimal impact on the local area, and timber and other natural materials are used for its construction. There are compostable toilets, a biofiltration system for waste water and a composting system for organic waste. They serve locally sourced food in the camp and sell locally made crafts. They also provide long-term employment to people in the locality. They have frequently teamed up with charities and environmental organisation on initiatives including providing accessible holidays to wheelchair users and blind people. They can also accommodate lots of dietary requirements at the camp.

Here’s a relevant article on the best ethical fashion stores in Cusco, Lima and Peru by eco blogger Ecocult.

And if you’re heading to Columbia Ecocult have also written articles on the most sustainable restaurants in Medillin and sustainable and ethical shopping in Medellin and Bogota.

The same blogger has also done a piece on the most sustainable ethical fashion shops in Bueno Aires, Argentina.

Other Resources
Undiscovered Mountains is a 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. 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.

Responsible Travel allows you to search for sustainable holiday accommodation by country, date and type of holiday but its directory appears limited.

Green Tourism allows you to search for businesses that have won a Green Award by location. Green Tourism is a not-for-profit organisation established in 1997 with a mission to encourage and enable companies in the hospitality / tourism industry to make sustainable choices that reduce their impact on the planet. They have 2000 member in the UK and abroad. They claim to be one of the most rigorous certification programmes of its kind, stating that it is the only one independently validated by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT). I have searched for eco-accommodation in Ireland using its website and I was surprised at the results. None of the destinations I listed in previous articles appeared, in fact the main result was for a Jury’s Inn, which wouldn’t strike me as a particularly ‘green’ hotel.

One Planet Rating appears to be a green version of Trip Advisor, where you can view hotels, restaurants and attractions based on their eco-rating. It seems to depend on the rating of the public and could be great if it works like Tripadvisor but so far the only hotel in Dublin that received a rating was the Radisson Blu, which I’d hardly rate as a particularly green hotel.

Written by Elaine, Revised by Shelia

PS – This time in previous years I’ve published Six Weeks Towards Zero Waste and Why I don’t like Biodegradable / Compostable Plastic

Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

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