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Part of the joy of going on holiday is finding the perfect place to stay. And though there seem to be options abound when looking into top destinations around the world, most hotels have yet to incorporate sustainability into their mission.

If you are anything like us and sustainability is part of your travel decision-making process, you might not want to stay in accommodation that’s detrimental to the environment and the community.

That’s where eco-hotels come in! Eco-hotels (also known as “green” hotels, or environmentally friendly hotels) are properties that embrace environmental sustainability and have a positive impact on the community they operate in. 

Waterfall Villas in Dominical, Costa Rica, a wonderful example of a great Eco-hotel

But what does an environmentally friendly hotel look like? What does it do? And most importantly, how do you go about finding one?

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to find eco-hotels around the world. Search engines like booking.com have not yet incorporated a “green hotel” filter in their system. So in many cases, eco-conscious travelers are forced to rely on their own research when deciding whether or not the property they are considering is “green.”

A simple Google search for “Eco hotel” or “green hotel” in the destination of your choice will often reveal a few options. But we’ve come to realize that there are some great responsible accommodation options that simply don’t highlight this information on their website.

Evaluating an Eco-hotel

If your search has led to a few potential options, start by browsing the hotels’ websites searching for sections dedicated to sustainable commitment or environmental practices. Below you’ll find a list of helpful questions to keep in mind. 

What sustainability practices does the hotel have in place?

  • Was the hotel built with consideration of the local climate?
  • If the hotel has central heating/cooling, is there a thermostat in each room to allow guests to adjust the temperature to a reasonable level?
  • How often does housekeeping clean rooms during your stay?
  • Do they stress the importance of conserving water and reuse of bathroom towels?
  • Does the hotel provide disposable toiletries or offer shampoo/conditioner in refillable containers instead?
  • Does the hotel food/beverage services use reusable products (glass cups, ceramic plates, cloth napkins, etc.)?
  • Is there a recycling program?
  • Is there a solar energy system in place on the property?
  • Does the hotel have a water separation system on the property?
  • If the hotel has grounds, are the plants being treated with pesticides or natural fertilizers?

How does the hotel utilize the local environment and does it support the local community?

Fanesca at Cinco Sentidos Restaurant in Quito

  • Is the food locally sourced?
  • Are the hotel staff locals?
  • If the hotel offers tours of the area, are the tour guides local?
  • Does the hotel embrace the local culture?
  • Does the hotel offer bicycles for guests? Alternatively, does the hotel have information available for guests about public transportation in the area?

Grant the hotel a point for every “yes” to the questions above and choose a hotel that truly “walks the talk” when it comes to sustainability practices.

If You Can’t Find an Eco-Hotel…

If you’ve tried to find an eco-hotel in the destination you are planning to visit but couldn’t settle on a good option, don’t be discouraged! Use the opportunity to spark a conversation with the staff at the hotel about sustainable accommodation, and some simple practices they can put into place to immediately make the property more environmentally friendly.

Here are some of our suggested conversation starters:

  • Start a recycling program on the property – start with separate bins for paper/plastic/compost/general waste in the lobby and kitchen, and then expand to guestrooms
  • Switch from buying individually packaged guest room toiletries to buying in bulk with reusable containers for shampoo/body wash/hand soap
  • Switch to non-toxic cleaning products
  • Switch to manual gardening instead of motor-powered tools (If hotel has grounds)
  • Consider adding solar panels to the roof or grounds of the hotel for water heating from Renew energy
  • Eliminate individual bottles/cans in restaurant/bar of hotel and to minimize plastic use

And there are so many more! Once you’ve started to do your research about sustainable accommodation, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for in green hotels and what to suggest to hotels that aren’t there yet! 

Remember, the more guests ask about it, the more likely it is that hotel management will consider incorporating sustainable practices into the hotel’s business model. 

Tell us, have you ever stayed in an Eco-hotel before? What did you love most about your stay?