Eco-Friendly Hotels: What to Look For

Eco-Friendly Hotel
Orchard Garden Hotel - CC flickr photo by DoNotLick

Choosing an eco-friendly hotel when you travel is a natural extension of your environmental commitment at home. Whether you incorporate eco-friendly products into your life because they are healthier for you and your family, because you are concerned for the environment, or both, supporting green hotels just makes sense.

What Makes a Hotel Eco-Friendly?

At first thought, you may wonder what kinds of things to look for when choosing the best eco-friendly hotels. Ideally, eco-friendly hotels should use some form of sustainable energy, such as solar, wind or hydro-power for at least some of their needs. This can be difficult for older hotels that are converting to an eco-friendly establishment. But even older hotels can use energy-conscious methods such as low-energy light bulbs.

An environmentally conscious hotel should incorporate recycling and water conservation into their program. One way hotels can conserve resources is to only change the sheets and towels in your suite when you request it. This cuts down on water and energy usage.

When researching hotels, look to see if they answer the following questions on their website:

  • How do they conserve energy?
  • Do they recycle?
  • Is the hotel involved in any community conservation projects?
  • Does the hotel encourage eco-friendly travel, and partner with transportation companies that offer it?
  • Is the hotel built and furnished using eco-friendly materials?
  • Do they offer a restaurant with locally sourced or organic menu options?
Green Hotel Credentials

You can also look for eco-friendly commendations from such organizations such as:

One of the most valuable commendations is the LEEDS hotel certification. In order to be certified by LEEDS, a hotel must meet various sustainability, energy and water efficiency, and indoor air quality criteria. The LEEDS hotel certification shows a great deal of commitment both in resources and financial investment by a hotel. There are four levels of certification based on the degree of eco-friendly points achieved. A simple LEEDS certification is given for hotels that meet 40 to 49 points. Silver and Gold are the two following levels, and Platinum hotels have achieved 80 to 100 points for the highest level of eco-friendliness.

Where to Look for Eco-Friendly Hotels

Eco-friendly hotels can be found world-wide. There are green hotels in countries from Thailand to the Caribbean, and all across the United States. Five of the top eco-friendly hotels around the world are:

  1. The Orchid in Mumbai, India: A 5-star hotel that offers high style built with sustainable materials. They even provide slippers and robes made of natural fibers.
  2. The Banyan Tree in Phuket, Thailand: Built in an old abandoned mine, it turned a once “toxic wasteland” as the UN called it, into a beautiful, thriving tourist attraction. The Banyan Tree donates a part of the proceeds from each stay to local conservation of wildlife.
  3. The Orchard Garden Hotel in the San Francisco, California. Built in 2006, the Orchard Garden is built with recycled materials. The concrete is even made from fly ash, a by-product of recycled coal. From its recycled carpet to low-emission paint, the Orchard Garden provides luxury with a conscience.
  4. Ecotulum Resorts & Spa in Riviera Maya’s sandy Caribbean beach. This luxury hotel blends in with the local fauna, and seeks a spiritual and physical harmony. It looks rustic, but it’s all about luxury in a smart way.
  5. Eagle’s Palace in Ouranoupolis, Halkidiki, Greece. One of the top eco-friendly hotels in Europe, it outdoes itself in its attempt to blend naturally with the surroundings and respect the environment.

Hotels Can’t Do it All

Don’t forget to play your part. We all tend to relax our habits when on vacation. Even the most energy-conscious individual may use a lot more water when on vacation than they do at home. It’s important to still be on your toes when traveling, and minimize water use when you can. You can also help by making sure you turn off lights and other electronics when you’re not using them. Don’t crank up the air, or heat. Keep your room comfortable, but help the hotel do its best by not going to extremes.

And finally, be sure to let the hotel know about your “green” preferences. Fill out a comment card if available, or speak to a manager. If you chose a hotel for its eco-friendliness, be sure to say so! And if you wish a hotel was more eco-friendly, let them know that, too.