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.
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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.
If you’re heading to Amsterdam here’s an interesting blog post on Sustainable Fashion hot spots in Amsterdam.
The Solar Hotel in Paris is a stylish budget friendly hotel decorated with solvent-free paint and recycled materials. It offers an organic breakfast, cleans with certified organic products, harvests rainwater for it’s garden, offers bike hire for guests and uses solar panels to illuminate the façade of the building.
Village Nature Resort in France is a collaboration between Disneyland Paris and Centerparks 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 product. It also workshops on bread making, honey harvesting and animal care. Their aquapark uses geothermal energy but other than that I can’t really see any other information on sustainability of it’s infrastructure.
The Circus Hotel and Hostel in Berlin purchases carbon neutral electricity, uses energy-saving light bulbs and timers, have solar voltaic panels on the roof and use waste heat to generate power. They intentionally don’t have air conditioning or mini-bars and and have a waste minimisation strategy. Their bathroom products are supplied by a small, traditional organic manufacturer and the venue actively works to increase energy efficiency when renovating.
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.
Boutique Hotel Stadhalle has a passive-energy wing, which effectively means that this part of the building creates as much energy as it uses by way of solar panels, wind turbines and ground water heat pumps. Their hotel sign even generates its own electricity! Water from their well is used to flush the toilets and to tend to their hotel garden and lavender roof. When they refurbished 7 rooms they did so with upcycled materials and they offer a Green Bonus on their room rates to guests travelling by bicycle or train. They also serve an organic breakfast.
If you’re visiting Rotterdam check out their sustainable shopping centre.
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 be a farmer for a day.
The Hotel Rural Vale do Rio in Portugal is run entirely on renewal energy. In an article about the hotel the owners state that they have water regulating taps in all rooms, LEDs indoors and outdoors, electric car charges and sensors on the air conditioning so that it shuts off if the balcony doors are opened. The hotel was awarded a Green Key from the international hospitality organisation of the same name.
Ecork Hotel in Portugal generates some of it’s electrical energy through photovoltaic panels, while the heating of the main building, the pools and water is done through geothermal and solar energy.
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!
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. 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.
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.
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