Sustainable Luxury Escapes
Countless lodging properties are putting greener alternatives and environmentally responsible practices at the forefront.
LEIGH has long been an eco-conscious company. Reducing waste and reusing post-consumer materials is important to our mission, and the travel bags in our newest collection are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. But sustainability is more than just our practice, it’s at the core of our decision-making process both personally and professionally.
Keenly aware that travel contributes to the world’s carbon emissions, the LEIGH team looks to make smart, thoughtful actions when on the road, from how we get where we are going to where we stay. The good news? Lodging properties from large brand-name hotel chains down to inns, BnBs and even short-term rentals are implementing environmentally conscious practices. But do you have to sacrifice luxury?
We’ve rounded up five extraordinary eco-centric hotels and resorts that allow guests to luxuriate with minimal impact on the environment.
Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is the birthplace of ecotourism, and with more than two million visitors a year contributing to its thriving hospitality industry, preserving the Central American country’s delicate ecosystems is critical. The country possesses almost 6% of the world’s biodiversity, boasting 12 different life zones, 20 national parks, 26 protected areas, nine forest reserves, eight biological reserves and seven wildlife sanctuaries. It is one of the only developing countries to have adopted a tax on hydrocarbons, and has become the largest buyer of forest carbon in the world
Pacuare Lodge in the heart of Costa Rica’s Talamanca Mountains embodies the marriage of luxury and green living. Nestled in the rainforest on an 840-acre private reserve, the lodge was specifically designed to exist in symbiotic harmony with its natural surroundings. Structures are crafted from sustainably sourced woods and other eco-friendly materials, while the lodge’s renewable energy is produced by 120 solar panels, micro water turbines and other sources on-property designed to have a minimum impact on the environment.
When it comes to temperature control, the surrounding jungle typically keeps accommodations cool, but highly efficient eco-fans are provided to stir the breeze. Guests are provided rubber boots to traipse through the occasional mud if the manicured gardens become a bit over-saturated. Electric golf carts shuttle guests around the property when not on foot. And when it comes to sustainable dining, the coffee is locally sourced, most fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown on their organic farm, and the free-range chickens and goats there provide the chef with conscientiously harvested meat, eggs, yogurt, and cheeses.
Hotel Terra, Jackson Hole
This time of year, the slopes are on the minds of many travelers, and Wyoming’s Jackson Hole valley often tops their list. Conveniently located at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the heat of Teton Village, the Hotel Terra affords breathtaking views, private in-room fireplaces, a rooftop spa, and a carefully curated wine list at their highly touted restaurant, Il Villaggio Osteria.
But the Hotel Terra is also decidedly committed to providing a luxurious guest experience with minimal eco-impact. The hotel is Wyoming’s first LEED Silver Certified hotel, meaning it shows exemplary leadership in sustainable building practices. The roof’s “eco shingles,” which look like traditional wood shingles, are 100% recycled and made from reinforced vinyl, cellulose fiber, and recycled tires.
Inside, 100% of Hotel Terra’s electric power is offset with the purchase of alternative energy from wind, solar and hydro sources. Restrooms throughout feature water conservation-oriented fixtures, and refillable aluminum water bottles are available in all rooms and suites.
Las Nubes de Holbox, Mexico
Picture it: warm weather, untouched white sand beaches stretching as far as the eye can see, and dining on seafood caught just outside your door. Set on the Yucatan Peninsula where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean, Las Nubes de Holbox is a boutique eco-chic hotel where guests want for nothing yet their stay yields a minimal impact on the environment.
A rainwater collection system on the roof that captures water and stores it for later use. Inside, guests will find biodegradable, organic shampoo and conditioners made from ingredients sourced from surrounding communities. At the oceanfront palm-thatch roofed restaurant, El Sabor de las Nubes, you won’t find plastic bottles or plastic straws, but you will find a seafood-driven menu with locally-caught sustainable fish and shellfish, many prepared using authentic Mayan and Yucatec recipes.
Holbox Island is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, encompassing 154,052 shore and off-shore acres. The reserve is home to 420 bird species, a whale shark sanctuary (the immense creatures, the world's largest fish, migrate here May through September), and is the home of multiple endangered species.
1 Hotel, Toronto
Lodging properties don’t have to be surrounded by green to be green, as brilliantly evidenced by the 1 Hotel in downtown Toronto, Canada. Nestled comfortably in the city’s chic King West Village, (dubbed “the Soho of Toronto”), 1 Hotel is a sustainable urban retreat overlooking the sweeping city skyline and Lake Ontario.
A place where “ luxury isn't derived from extravagance,” 1 Hotel has deployed a wide range of energy, water, and environmental design strategies to keep its footprint small. Details like reusable wooden rooms keys, reclaimed wood throughout the property, hangers made from recycled materials, shower timers to encourage reduced water use, and a program where guests can leave gently used clothing behind to be donated to a local charity for reuse, reduce guest impact. To raise awareness of light pollution, once a month, the lobby lights are turned down low and candlelight illuminates the space.
The hotel’s loyalty program, MISSION, invites guests to redeem their rewards to offset the impact of their stay by funding projects like forestation, renewable energy production, and land conservation efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Baker's Cay Resort, Florida
Bordered on the west by Florida Bay and the Everglades National Park backcountry, and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, Baker's Cay Resort on Key Largo has woven elements of sustainability and conservation throughout its property. Sustainable and locally sourced materials were used throughout the resort’s fairly recent redesign, with details meant to encourage guests to practice stewardship of the earth and oceans not only throughout their stay, but in their everyday lives – but they don’t have to go it alone. An on-site Eco-Educator leads daily nature walks to talk about the Keys’ ecosystem while beach and underwater clean-ups are organized monthly.
Guest rooms include canvas laundry bags (in lieu of plastic), eco-sensor thermostats, bulk toiletries from Lather (a carbon-neutral business using EcoPure recyclable packaging and soy-based ink), and PATH water bottles – the first certified refillable and 100% recyclable bottled water packaged in an aluminum container. Complimentary recyclable bottles are also issued once per stay so guests can utilize multiple stations located throughout the resort.
When it comes to dining, Baker’s Cay Resort was the country’s first resort partner to unveil a “Dock to Dish” local seafood initiative, a program designed to connect diners with small-scale fishing communities to enjoy high quality hyper-local seafood sustainably. Here, guests become the fisher – from threading the line to hand-picking the herbs that will accompany the day’s catch.
Luxury and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive. By making mindful decisions when we travel, from where we go to how we get there and the small decisions we make in our day-to-day activity, we can strive to leave nothing but the smallest footprint behind, taking nothing but extraordinary memories and inspiration with us.
Andrea E. McHugh is a travel and lifestyle writer, food editor and content creator whose work has appeared in USA Today, Family Circle, Yankee Magazine, Yahoo! News, MSN, Travel Pulse, The Hartford Courant, Providence Journal and Daily Candy in addition to appearing on Good Morning America, featured in Conde Nast Traveler and more. She’s the founder of NewportStylephile.com. And in her free time (lol), Andrea blogs for LEIGH 2-3 times per month (lucky us)!