What Makes A Hotel Sustainable?

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the travel and tourism industry is one of the largest contributors to the global economy. With that being said, it is no surprise that hotels make up a large portion of this sector. Since travelers have started becoming more aware of their impact on the environment and the communities they are visiting, hotels are (thankfully) starting to adopt more sustainable practices as well. Before you book your next trip, it’s important to really understand what makes a hotel sustainable. Here are a seven things to consider.

Local Community Support

One of the best things you can do is see if a hotel is locally-owned. It’s one of the easiest ways to make sure your tourism dollars are supporting the community you are visiting. Hotels create jobs, especially in underserved regions, so it’s important that those opportunities are going to the locals.

If your only options are larger, multinational corporations, make sure they are at least hiring locals and investing into the local community through social programs or local sourcing of products.

Be wary of staying at all-inclusive resorts. Oftentimes you stay on the property the whole time and forego the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and support local shops and restaurants. Try taking a food tour or sightseeing tour led by a local to enhance your experience.

what makes a hotel sustainable
An oceanfront villa at the solar powered Six Senses Resort and Spas Fiji | SIX SENSES

Green Design

When most people think about what makes a hotel sustainable, they often think of green design. How a hotel is built and what materials are used is another aspect to take note of. The Six Senses Resort and Spa properties incorporate local culture, as well as sustainability into their design. Building materials are always sustainable, protecting natural habitats and may include certified wood, recycled and rapidly renewable materials as well as natural fibers, fabrics and flooring. Only water-efficient equipment and fixtures are incorporated throughout the properties as well. In Fiji, their property is 100% solar powered.

Something else to look out for is LEED certification. This building certification essentially means a hotel has taken environmental and human health issues into consideration. Solar panels, rainwater harvesting tanks and sensors in guest rooms that control lights are few ways green hotels make a difference. 1 Hotels are some of our favorite properties in the U.S., all of which are LEED certified.

what makes a hotel sustainable
Filtered water in a hotel room at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge; Featured image is the lobby at 1 Hotel Central Park | 1 HOTELS

Water Conservation

Water conservation might not be top of mind, but when you really think about how many people use water in hotels, you’ll realize how quickly it all adds up. The low-hanging fruit would be hotels that have implemented linen and towel reuse programs. This can significantly cut back on the amount of water used for laundry, which is great, but not enough.

See if the hotel has installed low-flow faucets, toilets and shower heads. This helps reduce the amount of water used by each guest. Recycling waste water for landscaping and golf courses, and using compost to retain moisture in soil are other ways hotels can conserve water resources.

Waste Reduction

Going zero-waste is tough, but look for hotels that are making an effort to reduce their overall waste. Some hotels have composting practices for food waste, which can divert upwards of 40% to 50% of waste from landfills. The replacement of toiletry bottles with refillable, permanent containers in showers is another easy way a hotel can reduce waste.

Single-use plastics are a huge offender, so kudos to hotels that have begun banning them. Filtered water in hotel rooms and throughout the property eliminate the need for plastic water bottles, which helps prevent single-use plastics from ending up in landfills. Bring your own reusable bottle when you travel in case they have refilling stations throughout the hotel. We love the convenience of the collapsible Hydaway Bottle.

Nontoxic Cleaning Supplies

The use of safe cleaning products is another important sustainability factor to consider. Look for hotels that have switched to cleaning products that are made with bio-based oils and other natural cleaners. These products are not only safer for guests and employees, but better for the environment as well.

what makes a hotel sustainable
Vila Planinka, an eco-luxury hotel in Slovenia, sources all food from the local village | VILA PLANINKA

Food Sourcing

Where a hotel sources their food is something that comes into play when considering what makes a hotel sustainable. Hotels that make a conscious effort to buy local products help contribute to the economic growth of that community.

Vila Planinka, a boutique hotel in Slovenia, is a great example for the industry. The chef visits local farmers in the village every day to find items for his menu. The menu changes daily, depending on what is available and everything is grown within a few miles of the property. Onsite or neighboring gardens not only give guests a place to relax but also prevent the need to import produce. This can significantly lower a hotels carbon footprint, while also providing nutritious, seasonal meals.

Cultural Immersion

If you want an authentic experience in the location you are visiting, try looking into boutique or family-owned hotels. These types of properties will offer a more culturally immersive experience. Hotels like Casa Delphine in San Miguel de Allende incorporate local art and culture into their design. They also offer architectural tours and cooking classes you wouldn’t otherwise get exposure to.

It might be hard to find a hotel that ticks all the boxes, but as long as you know what makes a hotel sustainable, you can start to keep an eye out for these things when researching properties!

-Carli Cuthbertson