Sustainable travel is becoming more and more popular as people begin to realize the urgency of the global problems we face. But it can be a challenge to work out which options are best for an eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable vacation. Learning how to choose sustainable accommodation is one key part of the puzzle. So in this article, we'll take a look at which types of accommodation are best, and what travelers should look for to find a sustainable place to stay.
What Type of Accommodation is Most Sustainable?
No matter how large your budget, the most sustainable option for accommodation is often also the least expensive. While there are also plenty of sustainable hotels, home-stays, farm-stays, and hostels, camping often offers the best options for a low-impact adventure. Low impact tent camping offers opportunities to get close to the natural world, and sustainable campsites can have only minimal impact on the environment both locally and globally.
While camping is obviously not for everyone, if you are youngish and relatively healthy, it is most definitely something to consider. Camping can be far more luxurious than you might imagine. 'Glamping' or glamorous camping, as it is called, can offer a stay on a par with hotel accommodation. So you could still choose a sustainable glamping option even if tent camping and 'roughing it' is not your cup of tea.
Consider How and Where the Accommodation Was Built
One of the reasons why camping or glamping can be more sustainable than other options is that often, the infrastructure and building required on site is less polluting and impacts the local environment less than the building of a large hotel or other accommodation.
Remember that a large part of the carbon cost of tourism is in the construction of accommodation and other tourist facilities. Sustainable options might make use of existing structures. They may also reduce the impact of construction by using reclaimed materials, eco-friendly options, and natural materials like, for example, wood, straw, and clay.
It is also worth bearing in mind where the accommodation was built. Was habitat destroyed in the process? Is it a green or brown-field site? Would the land used better be utilized for conservation efforts, or for growing food? When choosing sustainable accommodation, it is important to consider not only the carbon cost and other environmental costs of construction but also the impact it had and has on the surrounding environment.
Consider How It is Furnished and Kitted Out
It is also important to think about how the accommodation has been furnished and kitted out. Is the interior décor natural and non-polluting? Is the furniture upcycled, or made from natural materials? Have all the details been worked out to provide comfortable and attractive accommodation without harming the planet? If the answers are positive, the accommodation in question could be a sustainable choice.
Consider How Much Energy Is Used and Where it Comes From
Of course, another major factor in the sustainability of vacation accommodation is the energy used, and where it comes from. Sustainable accommodation options will always derive their energy from renewable power sources such as solar, wind, or water wherever possible. Such accommodation will also have taken measures to reduce energy use – such as installing low-energy LED lighting, reducing heating or cooling needs through clever design, and by being careful about how and how often laundry is done, for example.
Consider How Much Water is Used and Where it Comes From
Reducing water use is another important factor for sustainable accommodation. A truly sustainable option will be reducing freshwater use wherever possible – again, through careful laundering practice, and through other measures such as greywater catchment and reuse, and perhaps even through replacing water-flushing toilets with a composting system. Sustainable accommodation might also harvest rainwater from roofs and even filter it for use within the premises.
Consider the Food that is Provided
In a truly sustainable system, a place that provides accommodation can also provide a certain amount of locally-grown food grown for guests. Best of all, many sustainable accommodation options grow at least some food on their own premises. By providing organically grown food grown right there, sustainable accommodation options can help reduce food miles, their carbon footprint, and plastic pollution.
It is obvious that campsites, farms and rural accommodation can have kitchen gardens. But even sustainable hotels in cities or built-up resorts can provide local, organic food. Food can be, for example, grown on roofs or balconies, or even indoors. Even in small spaces, it is possible to grow a surprising amount when the right techniques are used.
Consider What Happens to Waste on the Premises
Food waste, plastic waste and other forms of waste can be a major problem within the tourism industry. The influx of large numbers of people into an area can put a strain on local waste management systems. Sustainable accommodation will always work to get as close to zero waste as possible. Food waste, for example, can be turned into compost to grow more food. Plastic use can be reduced to the point that little to no plastic waste is generated. By reducing, reusing, repairing and recycling, sustainable accommodation owners can do their part to reduce waste problems.
Consider How the Local Community is Impacted by the Business
One final thing to consider when choosing sustainable accommodation is that no business operates in a vacuum. A truly sustainable accommodation option will always be fully integrated into the local community. It will bring jobs and income to local people, and channel profits back into making the area a better place to live for local people.