They’re a good start, but you’ll need more than energy-saving lightbulbs and some garden-grown greens to be truly considered ‘eco-friendly’ these days. The hotels battling for the Eco Award in the Smith Hotel Awards 2014 display a commitment to conservation, a drive for sustainability and an all-encompassing ethical approach – without compromising on comfort.
From off-grid jungle lodges to community-spirited castle retreats, these are the 10 best eco-friendly hotels shortlisted by your public votes – the places where five-star treatment is extended to the environment as well as the guests…
Eco highlights Striving to meet a ‘zero waste’ sustainability goal • Biodegradable fish-food golf balls • Enforces the protection of rare dugongs
If you need proof of attention to eco-detail, look no further than the golf balls at Six Senses Con Dao – 48 hours after a wayward whack into the South China Sea, they biodegrade into fish food. Those same waters are home to severely threatened dugongs, and the resort does all it can to protect them, even helping restore their sea-grass feeding grounds after Hurricane Katherine.
Eco highlights Cuixmala’s own organic farms provide 75 per cent of the food • Local materials are used for everything from thatching to tiling • Turtle protection program
Sir James Goldsmith’s sprawling plantation is the perfect A-list escape – and not just for humans. Zebras, caimans, antelopes and sea turtles are just a few of the species housed in – and protected by – the 25,000-acre Cuixmala wildlife sanctuary, with further programs in place to preserve the biodiverse forests and wetlands nearby.
Eco highlights Winner of The Eco Award 2013 • Promotes the region’s’ cultural heritage, once in danger of being forgotten • The buildings are restored as authentically as possible using reclaimed materials
Rustic-luxe retreat Sextantio Albergo Diffuso won the Eco Award last year for the way it transformed an abandoned Apennine village – using local craftsmen and authentic methods – into one of Europe’s most unique stays. Not that the team are resting on their laurels this year; plans are afoot to apply the same sensitive approach to other vacant towns in southern Italy.
Eco highlights Has made a real difference to the prospects of the community • Furniture made in the local village • Responsible tourism in action
Guests at Kasbah du Toubkal’s castle-conversion-with-a-conscience are invited to contribute to a number of innovative schemes which have already funded refuse collections, education initiatives and a local ambulance service, which has helped dramatically reduce the number of women dying in childbirth.
Eco highlights Most vegetables grown on-site • Electricity is generated by a creek-powered hydro plant • Cultural tours highlight neighbouring communities
Perched among the trees in a protected jungle, Gaia Riverlodge – a series of luxe low-key cabins made mostly from native materials – is powered by a special hydro plant, serves food fetched from a well-stocked garden, swears by local suppliers and helps several community-development projects.
Eco highlights Purpose-built system for recycling and waste management • Soneva Wellness Water initiative helps those without access to clean water • Built using sustainably sourced wood
Soneva Fushi is part of the Maldives’ first protected marine area, and its self-sufficient water supply, sustainably-sourced materials and on-staff biologist are just a few of the measures taken to ensure the preservation of its pristine island surroundings.
Eco highlights Guests are paired with their own eco concierge • The lodge’s footprint was carefully mapped to avoid tree removal • Most of the hotel’s grounds have been designated a private forest reserve
A private, wildlife-rich rainforest reserve takes up most of El Silencio’s 500 acres, acting as a biological corridor between two national parks. On site, eco-concierges lead guests on tree-planting trips, nearby farms provide most of the food and some strategically placed plants around the canopy-level cabins attract hummingbirds to your door.
Eco highlights A biomass boiler, solar panels, heat recapture and heat exchangers are used • The walls are lined with locally-made art • Guests are encouraged to support local environmental charities
Though it’s set high on Cornish cliffs, The Scarlet keeps coastal chills at bay thanks to inventive heat-management processes and scores further eco points for its log-fired hot tubs, reed-filtered and chemical-free pool, ever-changing menu of local produce and continual championing of local environmental charities.
Eco highlights A donation is given to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy for every guest staying • 100 per cent solar power; no internet or hairdryers • Bathrooms feature hand-pump showers
Remote camp Sal Salis is an inspiring example of how to protect a fragile ecosystem – these luxury tents are 100 per cent solar powered, use composting toilets, have a tightly controlled water system and swear by chemical-free toiletries. Other guests aside, the only visitors are kangaroos, leaving you to enjoy the splendour of the reef in peace.
Eco highlights Certified by the US Green Building Council • Existing features re-used in renovation • Almost everything used is sourced from within 20 miles
Inn at the Presidio is a statuesque former officers’ outpost that has tactically planted trees to maximise shade, sources virtually all of its supplies from within a 20-mile radius and uses shredded blue jeans for oh-so-American eco-friendly insulation.
We’ll be revealing all the winners of the Smith Hotel Awards 2014 on 7 November. In the meantime, if you’re inspired to book yourself a green escape, why not browse our full collection of eco-friendly hotels?