These 10 Eco-Friendly Hotels Help Reduce Your Impact on the Environment
In celebration of World Environment Day this June 5, we're highlighting 10 show-stopping resorts where protecting—and restoring—the places we live and vacation in is an everyday mission.
It’s no secret: we love nearly everything about The Brando—its dreamy real estate on a French Polynesian atoll, its history (Marlon Brando discovered the island during filming back in the 60s, and fell so much in love that he bought it), its 35 beachfront villas with their own plunge pools and views of the lagoon, included spa treatments… Behind all that luxury, however, is a serious commitment to the environment. The LEED-platinum-certified resort is carbon neutral. It utilizes a seawater system, coconut oil, and solar panels to produce renewable electricity for lights and air conditioning. It even collects rainwater for plumbing and laundry. Guests can get in on the action by taking on-island courses on eco-technology, coral reefs, and local animal life to better understand how to protect them.
The Sumba Foundation represents Nihi Sumba’s (formerly Nihiwatu) longstanding investment in its tiny, vulnerable Indonesian island. A portion of hotel profits is siphoned directly into the foundation, which, over the course of the resort’s life, has raised money and muscle to build scores of water wells and stations, 16 private schools, and four medical clinics that provide healthcare to over 25,000 island inhabitants. That’s all in addition to the property itself, whose 33 suites and villas were hand-built using sustainable materials and whose facilities are powered by bio-fuel produced from coconuts.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
It may sit in one of the busiest neighborhoods and biggest cities in the world, but once you step inside the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, you’ll understand its commitment to innovate. Tear your eyes away from those guest room views of the bridge and Manhattan skyline and you’ll notice that everything about it—from the furniture to the building itself—was made from local and recycled materials and designed with Earth in mind. Showers come with hour-glass timers to encourage conserving water, guests sleep on hemp-blend mattresses wrapped in organic cotton sheets, and even the typical “Do Not Disturb” sign has been replaced with rocks instead.
Six Senses Con Dao, Vietnam
The entire Six Senses ethos is built around what they can do to offset their footprint—and contribute to the local community. You’d never know it from the personal butlers and private guides on call, but Six Senses Con Dao, on an island archipelago off the coast of Vietnam, might do it best. In addition to operating a turtle sanctuary (where guests can join early-morning hatchling releases on the resort’s beach), the hotel has also partnered with the local national park to protect the bay area and coral reef fronting the property (where the endangered dugong survives). Every Six Senses also runs an Earth Lab, a place for guests to learn about the property’s sustainability efforts—which, among others, includes bottling their own water, producing natural pesticides, and incorporating local plants into spa treatments.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji
This Fijian paradise does well by the conservationist it was named after. The 25-villa eco-resort on Vanua Levu was built entirely from local materials (the wood, for example, was sourced from certified local forests), uses low-energy light bulbs, and employs only sustainable methods to grow its produce. What’s more, beyond world-class snorkeling , spa-going, and waterfall hikes, every guest has the opportunity to get a hands-on volunteer experience that will last long after they’ve said their goodbyes. Last Earth Day, the resort hosted all-day “Protect Our Species” programming that included chances for guests to plant mangroves and coral and participate in endangered giant clam restoration.
Song Saa, Cambodia
It costs a pretty penny to stay at Song Saa, a stunning private island resort made up of overwater bungalows and land-based villas, but your money goes to more than just room-and-board. The Song Saa Foundation, its philanthropic arm, is one of the most ambitious collectives on this list. In addition to missions aimed at social and community development (such as employment opportunities and medical clinics), the foundation has made serious goals towards the protection of its lands. The visionary owners founded Cambodia’s first government-recognized marine reserve (the Song Saa Reserve) which supports community fisheries, and also supports local mangrove and rainforest restoration programs with a five-year plan to plant 5,000 more saplings and establish a long-term coral nursery.
All three of Aman’s resorts in Bali put sustainability first, but Amankila, the brand’s flagship whose hilltop villas built around a three-tiered infinity pool offer commanding views of the Lombok Strait, stands out for its commitment to protecting the Bali starling—the country’s national bird—and its contribution to ROLE Foundation’s “Waste to Wonder” program, which takes the energy-saving and recycling programs used on property and applies them to surrounding communities.
Long before the Maldives was overrun by resorts, there was Soneva Fushi—a pioneer in blurring the line between sustainability and a truly luxury vacation experience. Its stunning multi-room villas and private seawater pools are just the façade for its many environmental achievements, which include hosting two on-site nature reserves that protect species like sea turtles, operating one of the largest solar power plants in the Maldives, and (perhaps our favorite feature) the Glass Studio, where Soneva’s (and other resorts’) waste glass is melted down and re-blown into works of art. Buying a ready-made piece—or better yet, designing one of your own—is the ultimate keepsake.
Nestled between pristine white beachfronts and lush mangroves, Playa del Carmen’s Mayakoba resort community (a 1,600-acre development that comprises four luxury hotels) was created with sustainability at its core. Carefully constructed around the existing landscapes, the resorts keep 80 percent of the mangrove untouched—that clocks in at over 60 acres where wildlife can roam free in their natural habitats. In addition to an ecology-focused boat ride across the water canals that connect the properties, Fairmont Mayakoba leads a coral reef reforestation initiative that invites guests to contribute to the restoration of the Mesoamerican Reef, the largest barrier reef system in the Atlantic Ocean.
Limalimo Lodge, Ethiopia
Limalimo Lodge is relatively new on adventure travelers’ radars—a minimalist (but nonetheless stylish) 12-room outpost in the hills of northern Ethiopia. Built by locals, the property is a study in sustainability, incorporating key details like living roofs and rainwater harvesting systems into its slick design. The most tangible feature, however, is the $10 per night conservation fee tacked onto room rates, which goes directly to conservation efforts happening inside Simien Mountains National Park.
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