With more people than ever making a conscious effort to minimise their environmental footprint – from reducing waste to adopting a vegan diet – eco-conscious travellers are now seeking holidays that ascribe to the same philosophy.
As the sustainable travel movement gains momentum across all generations, hotels and resorts around the world are revolutionising their service and accommodation options to appeal to eco-travellers and drive positive change.
However, these changes go beyond simply swapping plastic straws for paper ones, recycling waste, and controlling water and energy usage.
At its core, sustainable tourism also means connecting with and investing in local communities, embracing strategies of diversity and inclusion, and formulating a green strategy for long-term success.
From the concrete jungle of New York to the leafy jungle of Rwanda, these hotels and resorts are placing greater emphasis on transparency, authenticity and community – and their popularity is soaring as a result.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Surrounded by a UNESCO-listed lava landscape, Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon is known for its soothing blend of sea water and geothermally heated water rich in skin-loving silica, algae and minerals.
Adding to the existing spa facility and built into the natural volcanic formations, a 62-suite Retreat Hotel opened its doors last year.
Guests can dive into the lagoon directly off their private balcony, and pamper themselves in the subterranean Retreat Spa, which boasts a range of beauty treatments and massages both on land and in the healing waters.
Sourcing only the finest, freshest local ingredients, the chefs at Lava Restaurant and Moss Restaurant utilise seasonal produce to deliver wholesome and dynamic Icelandic dishes, complete with a delicious vegan menu.
Sovena Fushi, Maldives
Since Sovena created its first resort in the Maldives in 1995, sustainability has been its mission, and the brand has been refining the concept ever since. To call Soneva Fushi an eco-friendly resort would be an understatement.
Located in the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, it was the first resort in the Maldives to recycle plastic on-site and collect discards from nearby islands with its Maker Programme.
It is a carbon-neutral, 90% waste-free resort – and through its Waste to Wealth program, hopes to be 100% waste-free soon. It utilises organic, locally-sourced produce, and is home to the world’s first 100% sustainable surfing program.
Sovena Fushi offers its guests a guilt-free holiday where they can relax in the knowledge that their surroundings were built using sustainably-sourced materials, the food on their plate was farmed ethically, and their hosts are truly passionate about what they do.
Six Senses, Bhutan
As one of the four pillars of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness philosophy – which declares that gross national happiness is more important than gross domestic product – environmental conservation is interwoven into every aspect of Six Senses’ newest location.
Made up of five individual satellite resorts in Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Bumthang and Paro, Six Senses Bhutan offers a total of 82 luxuriously appointed suites and villas, spa and wellness facilities, and organically sourced gastronomy.
Committed to protecting the culture, spirituality, heritage and natural resources of the region, each resort offers a range of community outreach programs from education to wildlife protection.
One visit to this magical destination and you’ll understand why it’s known as the Happiest Place on Earth.
One&Only Nyungwe House, Rwanda
The second member of the One&Only Nature Resorts portfolio (following the carbon-neutral Wolgan Valley resort in Australia), Nyungwe House is set within the rich tea plantations of Gisakura, bordering one of the oldest rainforests in Africa.
Twenty-two rustic rooms and suites are spread across eight locally crafted villas, which share their rainforest backyard with a collection of rare exotic birds, and a large population of chimpanzees and endangered monkeys.
With conservation at its core, Nyungwe House works with the local community on various initiatives, from supporting local tea pickers to participating in the monthly Umuganda – a traditional Rwandan community clean-up day.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, New York
Environmental impact, advocacy, education and engagement are the four sustainability keystones on which 1 Hotels bases its design, construction and operational decisions.
The brand’s second property in the concrete jungle of NYC, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge boasts reclaimed wood furniture, a living plant wall, and floor-to-ceiling windows that provide incredible over-water views of the Downtown Manhattan skyline.
Operating entirely on wind power, the 194-room boutique hotel also uses a rain water reclamation system to irrigate neighbouring Brooklyn Bridge Park.
From the stunning rooftop plunge pool all the way down to the basement-level Bamford Haybarn Spa, this industrial-luxe hotel is the perfect city escape for eco-friendly millennials.
Designed to prove that hospitality and environmental preservation can coexist to create a unique experience where nature is luxury, Whitepod hotel consists of 18 geodesic guest pods nestled deep within the pristine Swiss Alps.
Drawing on local spring water and heated by wood-pellet burning stoves, the pods (which come in seven different configurations) have all the comforts of a traditional hotel and yet require 30% less energy than conventional rooms to circulate warm or cool air.
Guests can hike through the meadows in summer, ski the slopes in winter, and enjoy delicious local produce at Restaurant Les Cerniers all year round.
If you’re looking for more sustainable travel inspiration, we’ve rounded up a handful of the best eco-friendly private islands in the world.