Travel is a tricky issue for the sustainably-minded. Really no form of travel is as sustainable as staying put, but where’s the fun in that? Plus travelling can help us understand other ways of life and points of view, hopefully preventing wars and prejudice. So this article isn’t intended to encourage you to travel more, it simple highlights better options for accommodation if you’re travelling to and in Europe.
If you’re going further afield check out my guide to Sustainable Ethical Accommodation in;
And for those staying close to home I’ve an article on accommodation in Ireland and the UK.
I’ve also a useful guide on how to reduce the environmental impact of travelling.
Nothing mentioned in this article has been sponsored. It’s all just my own personal opinion. If you like your sources to remain independent then please;
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Reuse is a huge part of sustainable living so I love the fact that that Sweets Hotel in Amsterdam is a collection of restored 28 Bridge Houses that can each accommodate 2 people. Some bridge houses are national monuments, some are in the middle of a bustling intersection and others are set against a quiet neighbourhood lake.
Conscious Hotels only used certified cradle to cradle materials in their hotel, clean with natural (or no) chemicals and use a circular laundry service that provides organic linen and towels. Their hotels run on renewable energy, some of which is generated on site, and they heat their water with passive underground heat. They serve local seasonal and organic food, where possible, in their restaurant and all their drinks are organic or fairtrade. In addition, the hotel group plants trees with every direct booking they receive and have planted more than 10,000 trees since 2018.
Ecomama Hotel is a boutique eco hostel with natural stone heating, water-efficient toilets and showers, a grass roof for eco isolation and an environmentally friendly water system and waste recycling. They have also banned the use of single use plastic on site.
If you’re heading to Amsterdam here’s an interesting set of Sustainable travel tips, including transport options, restaurants, tourist destinations and sustainable brands. You’ll also find a blog post on Sustainable Fashion hot spots in Amsterdam here.
The Solar Hotel in Paris is a stylish budget friendly hotel decorated with solvent-free paint and recycled materials. It offers an organic, zero-waste breakfast, cleans with certified organic products, harvests rainwater for its garden, offers free bike hire for guests to enjoy and uses solar panels to illuminate the façade of the building.
The Eden Lodge in Paris is a zero-carbon lodge built alongside a garden filled with mature trees and plants carefully selected to support local wildlife. The hotel is filled with vintage furniture, runs on renewable power and uses water saving devices throughout the hotel. They also offer bikes for guests to borrow.
Le Citizen hotel in Paris aim to reduce their waste production and reduce paper by providing information to guests via iPad and using refillable glass water bottles in the rooms. They work with suppliers to reduce waste too, using dispensers in bathrooms instead of mini bottles, and having food delivered in wooden crates which are returned. They’ve fitted water and energy saving fixtures throughout the hotel. 90% of the food in the restaurant is from France and they purchase organic wherever possible. They also use home-made and eco-friendly cleaning products.
Hotel Gavarni in Paris was the first independent hotel in Paris to receive the European Ecolabel and even pays for staff to cycle or take public transport to work.
You can find some sustainable things to do in Paris here.
Village Nature Resort in France is a collaboration between Disneyland Paris and Centerparcs and appears to be a ‘greener’ version of nearby Disneyland Paris, which you can access from this resort by public bus. The holiday park has a farm, gardens, a forest, a beach, shops offering fresh local produce. It also hosts workshops on bread making, honey harvesting and animal care. Their aquapark uses geothermal energy but other than that there is little information available on sustainability unique to the resort, although Centerparcs does publish its sustainability goals and strategy.
Parcel is a network of off-grid tiny homes on farms around France. Each tiny house is 100% autonomous, fitted with dry toilets (made in France), solar panels and water recovery.
The Circus Berlin includes a hotel, hostel and apartments, all with low impact cooling and heating systems, minimal waste standards, biodegradable and organic cosmetics and green cleaning products. In addition, The Circus Hotel has solar panels and the air conditioning system is based on innovative clay-cooling technologies, with excess heating turned into electricity. Wherever possible, Codos at the Circus Hotel uses regional suppliers and biodynamically grown ingredients. Bringing local even closer, the Circus Hostel houses its very own craft microbrewery, producing a range of different beers.
How about staying in some stylish converted shipping containers? Well you can in My Home in Wertheim. The containers are clad in untreated local timber and strip foundations were used allowing the land to be more easily be returned to its former state if the aparthotel is decommissioned.
Creativ Hotel in Luise is said to be Germany’s first climate positive hotel. It uses solar power and green district heating, refurbishes rooms with recyclable and biodegradable materials, avoids small(set) packaging to reduce waste, set up a local car sharing platform, installed a solar EV charging station on site, promotes bike use amongst staff and have a wildlife-friendly garden. They offer organic locally sourced food, and give discounts to guests that arrive by bike. They offset their carbon emissions by planting trees in Panama. They also support a range of positive social initiatives.
If you’re visiting Rotterdam check out their sustainable shopping centre.
Magdas Hotel (NOTE: when you click this link it says it’s not secure but if you google the hotel and access link that way, it’s fine?) in Vienna positively discriminates towards refugees when hiring. It has been fitted out with second-hand and upcycled furniture and fittings, uses organic toiletries and gives a discount to those arriving by bike or public transport. As part of a crowdfunding collaboration, they transformed the former car park of the building into a beautiful garden “Flowers instead of concrete”. They heat and cool with geothermal energy, have installed photovoltaics on the roof as well as water-saving fittings. Culinary-wise, they offer many vegetarian and vegan products, their meat is sourced from Austrian farms and dairy products, drinks, fruit and vegetables are organic.
Boutique Hotel Stadhalle is a zero-energy balance hotel has a passive-energy wing, which effectively means that the building creates as much energy as it uses by way of its groundwater heat pump, photovoltaic technology and solar panels. Water from their well is used to flush the toilets and to tend to their hotel garden and lavender roof. When they refurbished 14 rooms they did so with upcycled materials and they offer a Green Bonus on their room rates to guests travelling by bicycle or train. Just by relinquishing minibars, Boutiquehotel Stadthalle saves 21,024 kg CO2 per year. They also serve an organic breakfast.
La Doniera is based on a working organic 1500 acres farm at the top of the Serranía de Ronda, in Andalusia. It has a nine-room cortijo with a natural spring pool and spa. They use organic products grown on their own land for meals and guests can enjoy tours on sustainable agriculture and holistic permaculture.
Dear Hotel, Madrid has eliminated all single use plastic containers, using refillable dispensers and packaging made of compostable materials as well as refillable glass bottles with filtered water. They also employ low energy use lighting, water saving systems and a waste sorting and composting policy.
The Hotel Rural Vale do Rio in Portugal is run entirely on renewal energy. Constructed on the site of a mini-hydro in operation since the 1800s, the hotel was awarded a Green Key from the international hospitality organisation of the same name.
Ecork Hotel in Portugal generates some of its electrical energy through photovoltaic panels, while the heating of the main building, the pools and water is done through geothermal and solar energy, certified by Biosphere. They also pioneer the use of natural, sustainable materials, most notably cork.
Bryggen Guldsmeden in Copenhagen uses water saving devices, eco bedlinen, natural fibre mattresses, eco toiletries and has an organic restaurant. The company that owns this hotel also has properties in Berlin, Oslo, Reykjavik, Cote D’Azur and Bali, but none with as many eco features or certifications as their original spot in Copenhagen.
And if you’re visiting Copenhagen check out the sustainable department store Censuum
Green Solutions Hotel in Bornholm has been purposely designed to reduce its carbon footprint by maximising daylight and fitting out interiors and creating garden features with salvaged material. Their food is local and organic, they have biodiversity friendly garden on site with lawns mowed by sheep. The rooms have air purifying carpet and Auping circular mattresses while bathrooms use refillable eco toiletries and water from showers is cleaned and reused for toilet flushing. They provide bikes for free for guests and have EV charging points.
The alberghi diffusi model in Italy isn’t technically ‘green’, as we might interpret that word, but I’m including it because I think reusing existing properties in a new way is sustainable. This initiative revitalises dwindling communities by repurposing their unused buildings into ‘scattered hotels’. So instead of staying in a traditional hotel you might be staying in one of the villages’ houses or apartments and popping to the local café or restaurant for your breakfast! Read more on the origins of the model and participating places in this article (but beware of the 2016 prices!).
E.c.h.o Hotel in Milan is furnished with materials awarded with an EU Ecocert and some of the hotel’s lighting is powered by solar panels. Greywater is used for plant irrigation and water is heated from heat recovered from cooling units. The hotel restaurant also serves organic local seasonal food with an emphasis on slow food ideals.
Kolarbyn is a hostel composed of charcoal huts made from natural materials in the middle of a spruce forest. This accommodation is really for those that don’t mind roughing it, as there is no electricity or running water. There ‘hostel’ includes twelve huts with two inflatable mattresses and sheepskin rugs to sleep on. All the huts have a fireplace that you chop your own wood for. There is a compost toilet, paper, water and soap but no shower so you’re invited to take a dip in the local river, the Skärsjön, or heat water in the floating sauna. The owners of this hostel avoid chemicals and toxins and use KRAV certified products as much as possible but have increased the number of soap, water and rubbing alcohol stations since the Covid-19 pandemic. Part of the proceeds from the hostel goes to the conservation of nature and culture in the locality. The owners are also members of the Swedish Ecotourism Society and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
Treehotel in Sweden offers a range of treehouses, built using sustainable materials and methods by local contractors to make as little environmental impact as possible. The electricity to the tree rooms is supplied locally from green hydroelectric power stations and the lighting comes by way of low-energy LED-systems. The tree rooms have combustion toilets where everything is incinerated at 600 °C by electricity. Bathrooms have water-efficient sinks with running water sufficient for washing hands, face and brushing teeth with all wastewater collected in a container that is emptied daily. The tree rooms are also only cleaned with eco-friendly products.
About 90 minutes away from Stockholm is the second-life department store Retuna, where individual shops resell pre-owned, upcycled and refashioned goods in a fabulously modern retail environment.
The Ion Adventure Hotel (see photo at top of the article) in Iceland is furnished with locally sourced recycled materials and was extended using pre-fabricated modules so as to minimise its impact on the site as much as possible. The bedlinen used in the hotel is organic and fairtrade, as is the food served in the restaurant. A lot of the fittings in the hotel are made from natural or recycled materials including lights made from lava and reclaimed wood and sinks made from recycled tyres. The hotel is equipped with water-saving shower systems and uses geothermal energy for heating and hot water.
Bohinj Eco Hotel in Slovenia is a highly-insulated building heated via a heat pump, with an aquapark that is heated by the engines in an on-site energy station. They have their own water well but optimise its use as much as possible. For example, heat from shower and washbasin grey water is extracted and used before it is discharged. Similarly the heat from their computers and servers is utilised in the building. Lighting throughout the hotel is LED and the hotel is certified as being sustainable by Green Globe.
Pure Crete is an online portal for individually-owned rental properties. Most of their rental properties are locally owned by Cretan families and, according to their website, Pure Crete has helped to restore village houses in co-operation with local families using traditional building methods and assists in subsidising the installation of solar energy in the houses they rent. They have also been awarded Star Status for Responsible Tourism by AITO.
The Chain Effect
The Iberostar chain of hotels and resorts have committed to become more sustainable, although currently this seems limited to banning single-use plastics, providing sustainably sourced sea food and supporting ocean conservation and active restoration. The chain now has four coral nurseries in the Caribbean.
Other Points of Interest
If you’re going to Budapest here’s a fabulous Green Guide to the City of Budapest
Denmark opened the park, Naturkraft, in 2020. Run by a non-profit it’s goal is to educate and enthuse visitors about the power of nature.
Before I go …
The content for this article has been gathered over the past few years and honestly I’m a bit surprised there aren’t more. I have checked out way more than the few I’ve listed here but a lot have fallen short of the bar I set. I think it’s great that places are aiming to wash towels less or use low-energy lighting but they’d need to do more than that to be included in this article. Have you come across any places going the extra mile for sustainability on your travels? If so let me know by email or in the comments below. Thanks
Till next week, in the meantime find me on on Facebook or Instagram
Writen by Elaine B, and reviewd by Elaine McD
2 thoughts on “Sustainable Accommodation – Europe 2023”
Elaine this is fantastic thank you.
You’re most welcome Marie. Thanks for the comment. Elaine