How to pick sustainable accommodation for the climate
Organizing a planet-friendly holiday? Here are a few accommodation options which protect the environment and cut your carbon footprint.
Over the past few decades, travelling has become accessible and affordable to more people around the globe. Although this growth has come with loads of social and economic benefits — providing a stable income to millions, as well as opening up new opportunities to discover our planet and different cultures — it’s also had its toll on the climate, natural ecosystems, and local communities.
Did you know that European citizens tend to consume double the amount of water when they’re on holiday, compared to their day-to-day lifestyles? Think of washing all those towels and linens daily, or the maintenance behind swimming pools and green lawns. Plus, American hotels spend more than $2,000 per room each year on energy, which is more than the yearly electricity spending of an average American household.
When it comes to travelling, it’s all about decisions: Which destination should I pick? How should I get there? How should I behave to benefit the local community and safeguard natural resources? Questions like these determine the size of your carbon footprint and will shape your impact on the planet.
How to make your stay planet-friendly
Enjoy the great outdoors: Wake up to the first morning rays by going camping. Outdoor sleeping options are basically endless, and much more planet-friendly than conventional hotel stays, as you will use fewer natural resources. The rule of thumb: Pack light and enjoy the perks of a minimal lifestyle — but don’t forget to bring hiking shoes, blankets, and warm, comfy clothes. If you pick a fully equipped campsite for more comfort, check whether they follow sustainability standards.
Give glamping a try (but do your research first): In case you don’t know, glamping is simply a chic version of camping, where you can sleep in fully-furnished yurts, tree houses, or eco-pods, to name a few. As with hotels or resorts, the carbon footprint of glamping facilities can vary. Here are a few benchmarks: Check if your accommodation was built with sustainable materials or repurposed furniture, whether electricity and water are supplied with renewable energy, or if the facility has any direct connections with the local community.
Less is more: Want the comfort of a bedroom and private bathroom? Downsize. Did you know that sleeping in a five-star hotel uses 111% more water compared with a three-star hotel? Insane, isn't it? So next time, pick a guesthouse, a family-run bed and breakfast, or a hostel instead (read on to know how to pick sustainable options). Smaller facilities can’t afford to waste water or electricity and usually have lower carbon footprints than large hotel chains. Plus, you’ll be able to build a stronger connection with locals, which will change your holiday experience completely.
Get to know your destination: Have you ever thought about volunteering on a farm or staying at a stranger’s place? Sometimes it’s good to look at things from a new perspective, so why not try out something completely different on your next trip? Homestays and farm stays are great ways to connect with locals, learn about your destination on a deeper level, and give back to nature and the community.
Check out planet-friendly accommodation platforms. Here are a few helpful resources: Bookdifferent only lists eco-certified facilities from certification organizations that carry out on-site visits and third party audits. Earth Changers is a travel platform focused on creating value for local communities. Bio Hotels gathers European facilities that only use organic products and are powered by renewables. Ecobnb lists B&Bs and guesthouses that are ranked depending on their sustainability criteria.
Make sure facilities practice what they preach: We all know the term “sustainability” is often misused. The best way to overcome this hurdle is simply by doing research. Check customer reviews and mentions on other sustainable tourism platforms, look into the facility's website to make sure they provide detailed explanations of how they are sustainable, and check whether their environmental commitments are specific and measurable.
The big picture
For decades, the tourism and hospitality industry has been dominated by massive hotel chains offering comfort and luxury for all budgets, at the expense of natural resources and our climate. Choosing to go minimal on your vacation can not only have massive benefits for the planet, but also help you discover new ways to travel — closer to nature and people.