Contemporary hospitality industry frequently markets itself as environment-friendly, eco-aware, sustainable, and eco-conscious. However, how do we know if they’re just buzzwords and greenwashing? After all, if the only way to get to a luxury hotel is by flying, then it won’t be truly carbon neutral.
Do travelers and visitors care, though? According to a report from Marriot Bonvoy, sustainability does sell. The loyalty program’s 2023 Travel Trends survey found that 63% of participants state that environmental considerations have some impact on their travel planning, at the very least.
And of the 14,000 adults asked across Europe and the Middle East, 22% said environmental considerations dictate their travel plans.
It’s not much, but this number is likely to increase. Everybody can feel and see that the planet is changing and getting warmer. And, it has alarmed the public when they see images of deluxe European ski resorts not having the snow they used to always see.
Sustainable promise (but only promise)
Take the luxury tourism parts in Africa. A picture-perfect safari lodge is situated in a remote area. But rather than powering its air conditioners with solar grid or other renewable, eco-friendly energy source, it uses generators instead. Then, although some of the hotel’s menu is local-sourced, many ingredients are flown in.
Now, it would be insincere to not acknowledge the beauty that some luxury resort or lodge provides. And more often than not, the hotel offers community food program to alleviate visitors’ guilt. Unfortunately, an overnight stay doesn’t really make it eco-friendly.
Then, many other hotels state that the buildings have been built or renovated to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard. But as many certification processes goes, there are loopholes that can make everything appears good on paper, brochures, and websites.
For example, a building with LEED standards may replace all of its lighting with LED lights. But it would still meet all of the certification criteria even if it were in a car-dependent place with zero access to public transit.
In Jeff Speck’s book “Walkable City,” cites an example of the federal Environmental Protection agency. It relocated an HQ building from downtown Missouri that has plenty of public transport to a LEED-certified building in the suburb of Kansas which is rife with cars instead.
“The carbon saved by the new building’s LEED status, if any, will be a small fraction of the carbon wasted by its location,” Speck wrote.
Another example is an iconic hotel, dubbed one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Despite its impressive and grandiose quality, the eco credentials are rather obscure. In the list of stated eco-conscious efforts on its website, the hotel simply states about recycling bins found across the hotel and option to reuse towels.
Some improving green efforts from hotels
Things are improving, though, because other luxury hotels have really tried to be more environmentally friendly. Some newer eco measures are no longer about little cards saying hotels’ policy that ultimately benefits the hotel more than the planet, like towel reuse.
So, here are some luxury hotels which you can visit someday that aren’t just spamming buzzwords in their press releases, websites, and brochures. Enjoy!
Four Seasons Hotel, Hampshire – England
In all honesty, not all Four Seasons are entirely eco-friendly. However, the one in Hampshire has the credentials to be included in this list.
The Canadian hotel group has transformed a 19th century building into a manor equipped with LED lighting, 100% renewable electricity, and two Combined Heat and Power (CHP) co-generation plants. The plants generate up to 60% of the electrical consumption for the hotel and its spa. Then, the latent heat is used for hot water and heating throughout the hotel.
Moreover, the hotel planted a 200-tree orchard two years ago.
The Balmoral, Edinburgh – Scotland
To avoid confusion, this isn’t The Balmoral Castle that the late Queen Elizabeth II was reported to enjoy so much. Although, the two are magnificent all the same.
The Balmoral Hotel was built in 1902 by a railway company. And since it was first opened for public, guests have admired the hotel continuously.
Per a 1939 guide, “This palatial building occupies a position probably unequalled in any part of the world. The exterior is in the Renaissance style,” continued the guide and “there is also direct access to the Waverley Station.”
What’s unique is that the hotel’s baronial tower clock is always set three minutes faster to help guests reach their trains on time—except from New Year’s Eve. And since this hotel is close to a mainline train station, it makes the hotel more environment-friendly as well.
Geneva Marriott Hotel, Geneva – Switzerland
Now, we all know that there are numerous luxury hotels in this country. And from what I personally understand, a number of those are green or turning green, just like this hotel.
Geneva Marriott Hotel was designed with energy efficiency; that includes using a district heating network that produces heat from a central location using renewable energies such as waste heat. Underground pipes deliver hot water and heat to the hotel in a closed loop and then the water is returned to the plant to be reheated.
The hotel also features high-tech windows: tintable glass that guests can directly control, allowing them to have a clear view of the outdoors and natural light while also to optimize solar energy and minimize heat and glare.
Thanks to The Saint Gobain electrochromic glass technology, the hotel’s overall energy expenditure has reduced by an average of 20% and the peak energy demand by up to 26%.
Outside the buidling, there’s a ventilated façade with a space between its perimeter wall and the exterior cladding. This will manage the exchange of heat, air, and light that circulate between the interior and exterior of the building.
Per the hotel, temperature increase inside the gap during summer will push the air upwards, basically keeping the building cool. In contrast, during winter, the opening in the ventilated façade balances the temperature.
We can see that this hotel tries to be green by utilizing technology that will make the hotel environment-friendly.
Verdura Resort Hotel, Sicily – Italy
Let’s see here… This hotel has solar panels for warm water, a photovoltaic plant to produce electricity, energy efficient LED bulbs used to make the outdoor area bright, and a water recycling system to water the resort’s three golf courses. So far, so good, right?
Well, there’s more! The hotel has worked with the botany department of Palermo University to recreate nearby wetlands, restoring a stopping-off point for migratory birds.
The joint project has restored over 70,000 native Sicilian plants and scrubs species and was awarded the “Committed to Green” environmental recognition prize in the Biodiversity category. Committed to Green is a European project supported by the Italian Golf Federation and endorsed by the Italian Ministry of Environment.
Furthermore, Verdura Resort has its own organic farm called Verdura Societa Agricola. The farm has been producing extra virgin olive oil which is served in all of the resort’s restaurants and used for treatments in the hotel’s spa. Pretty circular.
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