How can I be sure my eco-hotel is actually sustainable?

Travelling sustainably is becoming less and less of a ‘nice to have’ and more of a way of life.  Most of us are now aware that staying local, avoiding plastic and not riding on elephants are ways we can make our globetrotting more planet friendly.  But, if we’re serious about aligning our trip with real sustainable values then we need to look more deeply at our choices.  Deciding which properties have real integrity versus those which are merely paying lip service to conscious and sustainable travel isn’t an easy task

The Gibbons Tent Cambodia


Combining luxury with informed and genuine sustainability is our super-power.  We work with clients and suppliers to improve conservation, sustainability and ultimately set ourselves on the path to regenerative travel.  

Here are our top-tips on what indicators to look for if you want to ensure your hotel walks the talk.

1. Credible accreditations

Look for genuine sustainability credentials that indicate reputable endorsements from third-party organisations. Earthcheck is ahead of the game in terms of certification and advice.  BCorp accreditation shows that companies have been legally required to consider the impact of decisions on their workers, customers, the community and the environment.

Does the property have substantiated links with NGOs and local initiatives? Being involved in community tourism prioritises local people in decision making and ensuring as much wealth as possible is left in the local economy.

Wind Farm at night
Capetown township

2. Employment & Human Policies

Sustainability isn’t just about emissions and materials.  It’s also about staffing.  We would expect a property to be involved in workers rights, inclusivity and what impact their organisation is having on local lives. Employing local people is a ‘win win’ – standard, not only is it socially responsibly but using locals offers a much more authentic experience for guests.  Employees should be from all walks of life and shouldn’t be discriminated against because of race, gender, background or sexual orientation.

In less-developed destinations that have seen huge investment from corporate hotel chains, often indigenous people aren’t supported beyond selling some artisan products in the hotel gift shop.

4. What is the hotels foodprint?

On reading the menu you should get the impression that all food is sourced locally (even better if it’s grown on site).  Does the menu fit with the season? Hotels that really care about the community will work with neighbouring farmers and shout from the rooftops about their relationship at every opportunity. 

Avoid any property offering a buffet as these tend to generate large amounts of food waste. 

Arbroath Smokies, Scottish

4. Energy and Water efficiency

Does the hotel provide clear information on how much electricity, air-con, heating etc is powered by renewable forms of energy?  Do they provide you with endless luxury extras that require washing, tumble drying and using harmful detergents?  Have they given guests the opportunity to re-use towels or bedlinnen?

Do they recycle grey water for gardening? Is kitch waste being composted? Are their showers ‘low-flow’?  A helpful indicator that a hotel is behaving responisbly towards water consumption is if they have their own borehole for extracting water.  This is particularly important in tourist-heavy farming islands such as Bali.


Greenwashing is unfortunately rife in the travel industry.  We ask you to be curious, look behind the platitudes and be aware of the signs.  These are complex issues, but for travellers who want to align their travel to their values, being informed is a great first step.  Much of the information and narrative surrounding sustainability can make us feel guilty or that we are sacrificing something when actually, quite the opposite is true.  There is huge joy to be had, knowing you are travelling responsibly and using travel as a force for good.

Please get in touch if you’d like any advice or help when selecting your next sustainable family trip.

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