Tourism has a notorious impact on the environment. But the good news is, more and more hotels are taking notice and doing things ‘behind the scenes’ to ensure our holidays are becoming more eco-friendly.
The token notices encouraging you to reuse your hotel towels (you know the ones) just don’t cut it anymore. We expect better. And it’s happening. Solar heated showers? Yes. Farm-to-table cuisine? Yep. Drinking water created from seawater? It happens in more places than you’d expect.
Even better, along with their bucket load of feel-good credentials, these hotels are equally Insta-worthy, too. Being stylish and sustainable are no longer mutually exclusive.
Soneva Fushi, The Maldives
In terms of sustainability policies, Soneva Fushi has to be number 1. For starters, they create drinking water by filtering seawater. They produce energy from solar panels. They even have a plastic recycling plant at the resort, which converts plastic washed up on the beach into building blocks used for construction. There’s a glass blowing workshop on the island – so when you’re sipping that cocktail on the beach, you’re drinking from recycled glass. Their resident artisan glassmaker creates beautiful vases and works of art from waste bottles.
The sandy, alkaline soil of the Maldives doesn’t lend itself well to growing crops; one of the reasons so much food in the Maldives is imported. But Soneva have an answer for that too, making compost from jungle cuttings and introducing innovative techniques to grow as much as possible on the island. In turn, they share that knowledge with neighbouring resorts. They even take steps to offset your carbon emissions from your flights – for example, by planting half a million trees in Thailand, building wind turbines in India and installing fifty-five-thousand clean cookstoves in Myanmar. Proving that it’s not just about what you do but what you give back, other good-deeds include teaching local people how to swim, giving them an appreciation of the ocean environment (and training swimming instructors, giving them a career path, too).
Palm Island, The Grenadines
Palm Island’s philosophy is to worry about the environment so that guests don’t have to. There are a lot of thoughtful initiatives being undertaken to ensure the resort lives in harmony with its neighbouring natural lagoon. To create drinking water, the resort’s reverse osmosis water plant purifies seawater. Organic carrots, beets, tomatoes, potatoes are grown on-site, eliminating food miles and the carbon cost associated with this. A local pig farmer gets the restaurant food waste, while vegetable and fruit peelings are composted. Used cooking oil is given to a supplier who converts it to engine oil. A local businessman takes old bedsheets for his decorating company. Paper straws are used instead of plastic straws.
Blue Waters Antigua Resort & Spa, Antigua, Caribbean
Joining the wave of hotels trying to eliminate single-use plastic is Blue Waters Resort & Spa in Antigua. Previously, the hotel was sending fifty-thousand plastic water bottles each year to the local recycling plant. Despite best efforts, the plant was often overwhelmed, and they were ending up in landfill. Recently, the resort has started giving out reusable bottles, which you can refill at various refilling stations across the resort. At the end of your holiday, you can take your water bottle home and carry on re-using it. It’s the first hotel in Antigua to do this, but the hope is more will follow. Antigua is hot on this trend; it was the first Caribbean island to go completely plastic bag free – a significant step to reduce plastic waste. Antigua has also gone one step further banning all Styrofoam, drinking straws and plastic utensils. Instead, they use biodegradable alternatives made from sugar cane, cornstarch, wheat, paper and even mushrooms.
Jumeirah Vittaveli, The Maldives
In a country predicted by some experts to be underwater within eighty years if sea levels continue to rise at current rates, and where plastic waste washes up on the doorstep every day, it’s understandable that awareness of environmental issues is at the front of many Maldives’ resorts minds. Jumeirah Vittaveli has been Green Globe Certified since 2015. This mandates taking simple steps like installing low energy LED light bulbs, as well as introducing a heat recovery system that heats water by channelling energy from generators. The resort also has a desalination plant, which treats and bottles seawater onsite, making it safe to drink. Refilling stations for reusable bottles are dotted around the island. The house reef at this island is particularly special, and the resident marine biologist is researching how to counteract the El Nino effect that leads to bleaching and coral dieback. While you’re there, you can take part in workshops to plant coral frames, which support natural growth. Children attending the Kids Club can learn the basics of marine science with the Junior Coral Rangers programme, which teaches environmental protection through fun activities.
The Datai Langkawi, Malaysia
This resort has always had sustainability at its core, even before it became a marketing buzzword. When it was originally built in the 1980s, care was taken not to harm the surrounding 10 million-year-old rainforest. The building materials were bought in by elephants. Last year, the hotel benefited from a $60 million renovation, and equal care was taken to preserve the beautiful surroundings. The resort is planning on being ‘zero waste’ by the end of 2019 – sending nothing to landfill. Single-use plastics are non-existent, and they upcycle when they cannot recycle. Drinking water comes from the sea and is filtered and bottled in-house. The resort’s marine biologists are creating artificial reefs, and they’re working with the local community and fisherman to promote stewardship of the surrounding ocean. The property has a permaculture garden to produce organic food. They’ve planted fruit trees, and although it’ll take a while before they’re up to full production, the aim is to produce over half of the all the food consumed at the resort onsite. There’s even a five-star worm farm, constructed from old bathtubs removed in the refurb, to produce organic fertiliser to use in the garden. National Geographic has declared Datai Bay one of the top 10 beaches in the world – definitely worthy of preservation!
JA Lake View
Dubai holidays – known for their flashy, glitz and glamour – aren’t the first things that spring to mind when you consider environmental awareness. JA Lake View hopes to change that. Set to open in October, this resort has been designed with sustainability in mind. Most of the water is heated via the use of solar panels. The resort’s vast golf course is watered with desalinated seawater, and a new plant is being built that’ll bottle the water for drinking – to eliminate single-use plastic bottles. They’ll also divert all food waste from landfill, using technology that takes photos of wasted food as it’s thrown away and, using the images, trains itself to recognise what has been put in the bin. This empowers chefs to make better decisions that dramatically cut food waste. Any remaining food waste is composted, to be used in the resorts bio-garden.
Ladera St Lucia
Ladera St Lucia welcomed the new year by organising a road clean up, getting islanders together to litter pick around nearby streets and learn about the importance of caring for the environment. But the hotel hasn’t stopped its green efforts here. It has a dedicated ‘Green Team,’ who all do their bit. Eustace, the Property and Maintenance Manager, has worked at the resort for 30+ years and built most of the furniture (including the beds) in the resort’s own workshop. The passionate head gardener, Ray, shares his love of flora and fauna with guests, and works with the head chef at the award-winning Farm-to-Table restaurant Dasheene, to grow ingredients including mangoes, apples, herbs and vegetables. 70% of what the kitchen uses comes from local farms. They also take care to use as much of a product as possible. Take, for example, coconuts – used for fresh coconut water at the bar, and coconut treats in the bakery. Any leftover fruit is put into one of the fifty birdfeeders across the resort. The shells are then used to border the gardens to contain earth. And, as you’d expect, single-use plastic bottles of straws are nowhere to be found. Even the yoga mats are biodegradable.
Melia Hotels International Brand, which has 350 hotels in 40 countries, has pledged to eliminate all single-use plastics from its properties by the end of 2019. This will stop over 20 million plastic water bottles from being thrown away each year – not to mention all the other single-use plastic items that’ll be saved. It’s not the only large chain starting to change. This year, Hilton also announced that it’ll remove plastic drinking straws from its 650 properties by 2020 as part of its initiative to cut its global environmental impact in half by 2030.