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5 remarkable hotels innovating in environmental and social responsibility (2019 version)
A growing wave of travelers are now choosing hotels based on their eco credentials and social responsibility. As a result, independent hotels and major global chains alike are stepping up their game.
From harnessing innovative technologies such as energy-generating gyms, to investing in the local community through supportive projects, the following five hotels are taking huge steps to go green and be a force for good in their respective communities.
1. Stanford Inn By The Sea — California, USA
This four-star eco resort in California prides itself on going way beyond traditional sustainability initiatives.
Guests can charge their plug-in vehicles at the hotel’s six EV (electric vehicle) charging stations for no cost, and the hotel uses trucks fueled with locally-produced biodiesel. Organic produce, herbs, and fruit are used at the on-site restaurants, and all food and organic waste is composted in the gardens.
At the Wellness Center & Spa, guests can get involved in numerous educational programs, ranging from foraging and nature walks, to classes in organic gardening, vegan cooking, nutrition, and composting.
There’s also a focus on the future. For instance, Stanford Inn By The Sea has an Environmental Leadership Field School that trains students in sustainable farming methods. Lessons include nutrition & plant-based cooking, the science of sustainability, and an on the ground farm experience that encompass soil development, planting, harvesting, and composting.
The hotel also plays a leading role in the community. There’s space for local artists to display and sell their work; canoes and kayaks are provided to community schools, and sponsorship is offered to community, arts, theater, and athletic events and programs.
2. Mosaic House — Prague, Czech Republic
Combining the feel of a four-star hotel and boutique hostel, Mosaic House uses around 25% less energy than a hotel or hostel of its size.
Eco-friendly rooms and penthouse suites boast chic bathrooms with water-efficient rain showers and low-flow toilets. Mosaic House is the country’s first hotel to use 100% renewable energy, and the second hotel in the world to introduce a greywater system with heat recuperation that reuses wasted water and heat from showers and sinks.
A ticking counter on the homepage of the Mosaic House website continually updates the amount of water saved since 2010 — a clever marketing tool to appeal to environmentally conscious travelers.
Other green technology includes intelligent heating and cooling systems, energy-saving lights, and automatic window blinds that open or close according to the temperature in the room.
3. Cayuga Collection — Costa Rica, Panama & Nicaragua
With ten luxury properties in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama, Cayuga Collection has truly set the standard for social responsibility. It hires 100% of employees from the surrounding area and provides professional development to staff that often come from humble backgrounds.
Cayuga Collection also supports domestic suppliers and craftsmen at every opportunity. Minibars are exclusively stocked with local drinks and snacks, all spa products and bathroom amenities are made nationally, and gift shops are stocked with handmade products from local artisans. A ‘Dock to Dish’ sustainable fishing program also ensures the restaurant’s seafood is responsibly caught.
Guests can choose from an array of locally-led tours, from exploring the surrounding mangroves by kayak and paddleboard, to visiting rustic eateries, coffee shops, and farmers markets.
In addition, Cayuga Collection supports Earth Equilibrium — a non-profit charity that helps rural schools by improving infrastructure, providing essential classroom supplies, and educating students about the value of environmentalism.
The chain also has its own guide school aimed at raising the standard of tour quality and creating advocates for the preservation of the surrounding rainforest.
4. Tower House — Oxford, England
Combining a charming townhouse and restaurant, this historic eight-room hotel in Oxford, England might be on the small size, but it’s making an undeniably big difference to the local community.
Created as a social enterprise, the Tower House hands over all its profits to the Oxford Hub — an initiative that supports university students through practical volunteering and placements with charities. These volunteering projects include mentoring school students, assisting disadvantaged children on activity days, and connecting with elderly people who live alone.
The hotel’s Turl St Kitchen restaurant takes an equally thoughtful approach. It adheres to The Oxford Good Food Charter, whose recommendations include eating more plants, making less waste, and choosing quality over quantity. The restaurant wine list also includes several organic and low-intervention bottles.
As for the decor? Following a refresh in recent years, rooms feature upcycled furniture and bathrooms are stocked with locally made toiletries.
5. Hotel Verde — Cape Town, South Africa
As the first African hotel to offer 100% carbon-neutral accommodation, Hotel Verde sets the standard for sustainability. Its plethora of international awards include LEED Platinum certification and a 6-star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa.
The surrounding wetlands were restored and now support over 100 types of water-wise vegetation, a population of over 60,000 Cape honeybees, and an eco trail, eco pool and outdoor gym for guest use.
This property’s array of sustainable technology is truly impressive. Notable features include photovoltaic panels on the roof and north-facing facades, wind turbines, and energy-generating gym equipment. Lifts also use regenerative braking on “light” travel cycles, saving 30% on power consumption.
Guests can also earn an in-house currency (known as ‘Verdinos’) for making green choices. These include not using the air-conditioning or additional room pillows, taking the stairs instead of the lift, and correctly separating waste into the split bins. Verdinos can be spent towards the bill, at the hotel bar, at Hotel Verde’s deli, or donated to a charitable cause.
Far from paying lip service to social and ecological responsibility, these five hotels showcase some of the incredible efforts being made by sections of the hospitality sector.
A plethora of energy-saving technologies are reducing carbon footprints, new initiatives are regenerating precious ecosystems, and community projects are helping disadvantaged members of society. In some instances, guests aren’t merely being encouraged but actively rewarded for participating in green practices.
For the growing numbers of eco-conscious travelers, hotels that invest in social and earth-friendly practices provide a compelling reason to book.
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