In order to qualify for this list, a hotel needed to do more than simply recycle water or use biodegradable soap. Rather, hotels were considered based on a sustained and dedicated commitment to environmentally friendly operations throughout their property. This ranges from a five-star nature reserve nestled among the African wilderness, to canvas tents in the Australian outback, to an isolated treehouse community in the Malaysian highlands.
For these properties, ecological responsibility is more than a tagline in a brochure. A stay at any of the hotels on our 2014 list promises to be equal parts educational, enjoyable, and memorable.
With the objective of creating an authentic, ecologically sustainable Australian bush experience, Paperbark Camp was one of the pioneers of ecotourism, back when the word was still a fringe catchphrase. Eucalyptus trees tower above the award-winning property’s 12 canvas tents, which provide superb comfort with a tiny ecological footprint. It has with dual-flush toilets, solar powered lighting, rainwater collection, and electric buggies. During construction, no large trees were cut down, and tents were designed to sit on shallow pilings to avoid disturbing the fragile wetland system. Wastewater is pumped to a nearby water treatment plant, and steps are in place to prevent feeding of wildlife, which would interfere with the natural ecosystem. Even the soaps and lotions guests are provided with are handmade with natural ingredients.
The Jetwing Group is committed to community outreach and sustainability programs, and the Jetwing Vil Uayana is one of the standouts. Built on a specially constructed wetland system and nature reserve, it constantly aims for the highest standards of eco-friendly tourism. Energy-efficient equipment is used wherever possible, and the hotel has worked with suppliers to the point that 98% of them – soon to be 100% – use environmentally friendly packaging. Regular environmental audits keep everything on the up-and-up and provide feedback for improvement, while local people, products, and services always take priority. On top of that, Jetwing initiatives also help support various environmental and community causes, from school and hospital construction projects, to youth development programs, to responsible whale watching excursions.
Looking up from the busy streets of Singapore, the lush greenery overhanging the ParkRoyal Pickering’s curving terraces immediately mark it unique among Singapore’s densely packed towers. Committed to urban eco-living, the hotel utilizes solar power, rain harvesting, and distinctive architectural designs to reduce its environmental impact. It boasts 150,000 sq.m of gardens – 2sq.m for every 1sq.m of land area the hotel occupies – and uses efficient LED bulbs and motion sensors throughout for a 20% reduction in lighting power. In fact, the hotel’s annual energy savings could power 680 households. Impressive for a hotel in one of Asia’s busiest cities.
Built around three main pillars of sustainability – environmental awareness, social sustainability, and having a positive impact – Fivelements Puri Ahimsa Hotel is committed to eco-friendly operation. During construction, planning with local ecological experts and use of natural materials ensured zero net impact. In addition, stewardship of civic waste management programs give the hotel a direct link to its community. Water pressure controls, wastewater treatment and creative landscape design have minimized upset of existing ecologies. In addition, super-efficient LED bulbs have reduced electricity used for lighting by 95%, while uniquely designed Sycamore ceiling fans provide even further savings. Indeed, the hotel is so proud of its eco achievements that guests can download a detailed sustainability report here.
If you’re looking to experience our planet’s ecosystem by really getting back to nature, Terra’s Tree House is about as authentic an eco-hotel as you can find. Perched amid the rolling tea plantations in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands, each of the structures was hand built by the indigenous Orang Asli tribe using bamboo and palm leaves. Fresh water is piped in from a pristine mountain stream, and electricity is only available from 7:30am-10:30pm, when the generator is running. The common kitchen is stocked with organic ingredients, and mealtimes are often a social experience, with staff and guests alike pitching in to create delicious meals. Backpacks are preferable to rolling suitcases though – guests are transported a few kilometers up the mountain in a 4-wheel drive. From there it’s a short walk to the tree house where the views, unsurprisingly, are spectacular.
In such a crowded city, Hong Kong hotels have to work extra hard to stand out, and the Langham Place Mongkok Hotel does that by being one of the city’s leading eco-properties. One of the pioneers of eco-friendly tourism, the hotel was first in several respects – recycling food waste into compost and offering a charging station for electric vehicles, among others. The hotel also donates its excess food to charity in order to help disadvantaged communities, and recycles its used cooking oil into biodiesel, which fuels the hotel’s delivery vehicles. An organic garden onsite helps supply the kitchen, food waste is processed into fish food, and strict measures are in place throughout the property to reduce the amount of electricity, water, and chemicals used.
Built on the site of an old rubber plantation, Six Senses Yao Noi has put a lot of work into building around the natural landscape rather than on top of it. Indeed, careful planning preserved many of the original rubber trees to provide shade and reduce soil erosion. Working with local government authorities, the hotel has led a project to rejuvenate the area’s mangrove forests. Guests can see firsthand the success of the project via a 500m boardwalk through the lush natural landscape. The hotel also uses heat recovery systems to reduce wasted energy, and has banned imported water, preferring to bottle its own in reusable glass bottles. Organic vegetables, eggs and chickens raised on-site help reduce waste even further, and various funds are set up to support local educational and health programs.
Preferring to let the location speak for itself, the Veravian Eco Resort is perfectly blended into the natural surroundings, with rooms set into the sloping landscape and roofs covered with grass to act as natural insulation. Guests love sitting outside to take in the view across the rolling green hills, with fresh air and a constant gentle breeze. To bolster the resort’s power needs, solar cells and windmills are set up around the grounds, which are popular with guests as a great backdrop for pictures. In addition, mealtimes are ultra-healthy affairs, with vegetables provided by the resort’s hydroponic garden. Bonus – stunning sunsets across one of Thailand’s largest national parks every night.