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Sustainable luxury is the new black, which is an excellent thing for the planet, but what does that look like when we talk about hotels and resorts? When travelers think of sustainable accommodations, they’re likely harkening back to the early days when eco-travel meant rustic, no-frills and simplicity. Of course, those accommodations still exist, but that’s not the only option. For those who want to experience a climate-friendly escape without sacrificing opulence and comfort, postcard-perfect locations, and white glove service, here is a selection of sustainable luxury hotel brands doing their part for the planet.
The Hawaiian Islands have led the charge regarding sustainable travel initiatives over the last couple of years. The Hawaiian Tourism Board, in direct partnership with Indigenous Hawaiian organizations, has been working hard to curb over-tourism, manage popular cultural sites with more care, and requires hotels and resorts to become more sustainable. The Andaz Maui Wailea is Hawaii’s first LEED-designated (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) hotel. This all-villa, luxury beachfront resort features a solar-powered hot water system, low-flow plumbing, motion sensor light controls, and an architectural design that reduces energy waste. Even the glassware is made from recycled wine bottles; no detail is spared in the sustainability model. LEEDS is a highly prestigious certification recognized globally and includes a very exclusive collection of buildings.
The Six Senses luxury hotel brand was named Travel + Leisure’s number one luxury hotel brand in 2019 and continues to wow its guests. For travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path type vacation and who also want to experience award wining eco-friendly luxury, Six Senses Bhutan should be the next stop. Bhutan is the world’s only carbon-negative country and is home to five Six Senses luxury lodges. Located in various valleys across the Kingdom, each lodge has a distinct design and ambiance reflective of the region’s geography and diversity.
Everything from the serene meditation huts of Six Senses Punakha and stunning reflective sky pools of Six Senses Thimphu to the spacious forest suites and traditional Bhutanese cuisine served at Six Senses Bumthang about this sustainable luxury hotel brand is meticulously managed. Waste water is recycled, chemical usage is measured, and immersion into the local communities is not only encouraged, but they are an integral part of ensuring the environment is both honored and protected. In addition, the Six Sense’s hotel brand now falls under Mariott’s Autograph Collection, which is excellent news for Mariott Bonvoy cardholders.
The Melia hotel brand is one travelers are likely familiar with. This Spanish brand can be found throughout popular destinations like Mexico, the Caribbean, and Europe. But travelers may not know that in 2019, the SAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment announced Melia as the world’s most sustainable hotel company. For a hotel brand that operates several all-inclusive models, it’s hard to believe they have been able to increase their renewable energy usage to 60% in their international hotels. The Melia brand operates with 100% renewable energy in their home country of Spain. Their ultimate goal is to reduce their emissions by 50% by 2035, and they are well on their way. Many of their hotels underwent significant renovations before and during the pandemic.
With nearly 600 hotels operating worldwide, attaining sustainability was no easy feat for one of the world’s largest hotel chains. However, Hilton Hotels has made significant changes to its policies and has made impressive gains, such as reaching its goal of producing 94% of its electricity from sustainable resources. They also reduced water consumption by 10% and waste production by 20%. They’ve also overhauled their menus and sourced sustainable produce, poultry, and meats. The Hilton brand has also invested in local communities, contributed to disaster relief funds, and invested in initiatives that support women and youth. Sustainability is more than just having eco-friendly policies; it empowers local communities, supports local economies, and advocates for change.
From the first motor hotel in 1957 to the St. Regis’s, the W’s, and the Ritz Carlton’s, the Mariott brand has come a long way. A hotel brand once known for comfort, convenience, and simplicity, travelers can now enjoy opulent luxury in some of the most exclusive destinations in the world, and all from a room in the Mariott portfolio. With more than 8,000 hotels, becoming a sustainable luxury hotel brand across the board is a monumental task. Marriott International is the original driver behind the LEED, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Programme. Mariott plans to have 100% of its hotels obtain a certificate of sustainability and a further goal of at least 650 hotels reaching LEED certification by 2025.
1 Hotel is a boutique luxury travel brand based solely on a sustainability model. Their ‘sustainable sanctuaries’ are located across the United States and Asia, with locations opening in Europe. Hotel 1 believes luxury and nature go hand in hand. They use sustainable and renewable materials to build their properties, considering local geography, nature-focused architectural design, and textures. Special touches like hourglasses in the rooms gently remind guests not to waste water by taking shorter showers. Room keycards are derived from recycled wood, 100% natural and paraben-free bath products, and menus with locally sourced produce and ingredients. And the best feature? Hotel 1 properties are pet-friendly, so fido gets to enjoy an earth-friendly luxury escape too.
With climate change affecting all aspects of travel, the only way forward is to reduce the carbon footprint, better manage overcrowded destinations, and design eco-friendly accommodation options. Sustainable luxury goes far beyond eliminating straws, using solar power, and cutting down on waste; it’s the best way to boost local economies and empower communities to overcome socioeconomic challenges.