Gone are the days when a vague commitment to conserving water and electricity was the marker of an eco-friendly hotel. Today, a growing number of accommodations have implemented innovative strategies to become more environmentally and socially sustainable.

The rise of greenwashing, however, can make it difficult to separate hotels striving for best practices from those simply pretending to. Here are four key signs your hotel is committed to the cause.

Editor's note: during COVID-19 there are restrictions on travel. Check the latest guidance before departure, and always follow local health advice.

1. It has a sustainability policy

A hotel committed to sustainability will almost always have a sustainability policy on its website. This will spell out if it has been certified by a credible organisation such as EarthCheck or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and flag specific sustainability initiatives it has implemented. If you can’t find this information online, contact the hotel. If they can’t provide specifics, be wary. Keep in mind that smaller hotels often struggle to afford the oft-expensive improvements required to meet certification criteria, so don’t be too quick to judge accommodation providers on that basis alone.

2. It’s committed to limiting its environmental impact

Hotels that have had sustainability at heart from conception are generally more low-impact, but many other hotels have done a commendable job of greening up their act. Beyond the implementation of energy and water-conserving technologies, initiatives to look out for include an on-site garden that supplies the hotel restaurant, rooftop beehives, single-use plastic-free amenities, locally made furnishings, recycling bins in guest rooms, the use of eco-friendly cleaning products, and washing linens only on request.

A swimming pool set in a green garden lined with palm trees
The hotel should have a sustainability policy © Jaya House Riverpark

3. It works closely with the local community

Sustainable hotels empower local communities. This typically takes the form of hiring local staff (and providing adequate training and paying them fairly), using local suppliers, supporting sustainable community programs, and integrating guests with the community on the community’s terms, such as via tours run by locals that support local businesses and encourage the preservation of cultural traditions.

4. It encourages guests to get involved

A truly sustainable hotel will inspire guests to follow their lead by incorporating interactive initiatives, such as offering reusable water bottles and/or filtered water refills, free or cheap bicycle rental or shared transport options, guest experiences that support local people and businesses, incentives for guests who arrive by public transport or opt out of having their room serviced, and hosting environmental clean-up events. Sustainable hotels also typically encourage guests verbally to support the hotel’s mission upon check-in.


You might also like:

Explore 8 of the world’s most sustainable cities  
How zero-waste travel is becoming a reality  
How to choose a sustainable volunteering project  

This extract is from Lonely Planet's Sustainable Escapes book, which published in March 2020. This article was updated in January 2021.

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This article was first published March 2020 and updated January 2021

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