The Ecoventura is SmartVoyager-certified lodging on the water — Photo courtesy of Ecoventura
Where you rest your head while traveling can have a major impact on the community you are visiting, from the environment to the people.
The average conventional hotel uses a whopping 218 gallons of water per day, per occupied room. That's more than three times the amount the average American uses per day at home, according to Sustainable Travel International.
Saving on water is one way eco-conscious hotels are making improvements.
Luckily, travel has come a long way since Earth Day’s inception 45 years ago, and increasingly more travelers are interested in reducing their carbon footprint and choosing environmentally friendly hotels. In fact, a TripAdvisor survey found that two-thirds of travelers prefer to stay in a green hotel.
That’s why the website–in collaboration with Energy Star, the U.S. Green Building Council and the United Nations Environment Program–ranks hotels in its TripAdvisor Green Leaders program. There are hundreds of other green certifications for hotels, too, including the esteemed LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Here are just a few of the leaders and innovative-thinkers in the green travel movement, 10 green hotels that have caught our eyes, in honor of Earth Day 2015.
1. The Laguna Lodge, Guatamala
The Laguna Lodge is proof that luxury can co-exist with respect for the environment. This lakeshore property is nature-inspired and built from local materials, such as volcanic stone, and largely self-sufficient with regards to water, food and renewable energy. Laguna Lodge is built within a nature reserve, spanning 100 acres of bio-diverse land. Relax in the lava bar or hot river rock spa pool, and relax knowing only non-toxic, biodegradable products and cleaning supplies are used here.
2. Awang Awang, Indonesia
This dreamy lodging in Bali is as environmentally friendly as it gets. The building itself is built with natural materials, such as local stone. The pool is chemical-free. Soap is natural and organic. Waste is recycled to the garden via a bio-cycle septic system, and Awang Awang uses hydro-electricity from a Pelton wheel and solar power. It’s no wonder this enchanting property received the highest rating – six green trees – from EnvironmentallyFriendlyHotels.com by Healthy Stays.
The Sandpearl Resort was Florida's first silver LEED certification — Photo courtesy of Sandpearl Resort
3. Sandpearl Resort, Florida
Sandpearl, in Clearwater, Fla., is rooted in sustainability that earned it Florida’s first silver LEED certification. An energy-efficient geothermal heating system warms the pool, and a vertical garden grows inside the on-site fine-dining restaurant, providing fresh, organic herbs and greens. Rooms are equipped with special energy management systems to adjust temps in unoccupied rooms to cut back on energy waste.
4. Ecoventura, Galapagos Islands
The Ecoventura, an environmentally friendly SmartVoyager-certified yacht, has found the best way to minimize impact and protect the Galapagos Islands is to stay off it – and on the water. These tours value sustainability by serving locally inspired gourmet food to reduce the risk of introducing foreign plants into the ecosystem and minimizing carbon emissions through solar panels and wind turbines. Travelers can visit the land in small groups.
5. Bardessono Hotel, California
This Napa Valley hotel is one of only three in the world that has earned a platinum LEED certification, the highest level. The building was made out of non-toxic, non-allergenic materials and the wood from salvaged trees. The spa and restaurant value locally sourced products. Recycling and composting is a given. Everything has the Earth in mind, from the organic linens to cleaning products. Even during construction, the contractor was able to recycle more than 93 percent of construction waste.
The Earthship Biotecture in New Mexico is "radically" sustainable — Photo courtesy of Earthship Biotecture
6. Earthship, New Mexico
The Earthship Biotecture property in Taos, N.M., calls itself “radically sustainable,” and truly there is nothing like it. Stay completely off the grid in these fully sustainable, fully furnished homes, ranging from small units to luxury getaways. Food is grown on site, buildings are made out of recycled material, electricity comes from the sun and water is collected from rain and snow. Although you can get wifi on site, you can also choose to keep your vacation remote and simple.
The chef at the RItz-Carlton Charlotte harvesting honey from the rooftop beehive — Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Charlotte
7. Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, North Carolina
The Ritz-Carlton resort in Charlotte, N.C., was the first Ritz hotel to earn the LEED gold certification, for its unique and innovative green initiatives. Find a beehive and garden on the roof. Up there grows the chef’s garden, as well as 18,000 plants to slow rain runoff and insulate the building, reducing cooling costs. Patrons can take advantage of the free bike rentals, free shuttle service in a hybrid vehicle and a chemical-free pool. Even the spa is green, with all organic products.
8. Campi ya Kanzi, Kenya
Ecotourism is one of the core values at Campi ya Kanzi in Kenya, which means renewable energy (photovoltaic panels, solar boilers), rainwater collection, composting and recycling and locally purchased goods. Campi was the first lodge to use a special eco-friendly charcoal from the United Nations Environmental Program. In addition to protecting the Earth, the lodge works to protect the locals; 90 percent of staff members are local Maasai. Guests stay in thatch-roof cottages made out of local materials. No trees were cut down to build.
9. Lapa Rios, Costa Rica
Lapa Rios, nestled in an expansive nature reserve in Costa Rica, has earned a reputation and many awards for its ecotourism. The lodge aims to protect its forest, in part by educating guests and the community. Take a guided tour through virgin forest land and learn about the region. Participate in the reforestation program and transplant seedlings. Stay in a private and surprisingly luxurious bungalow in a tropical rain forest, among the wildlife and not far from the beach.
A living room in the 1 South Beach property — Photo courtesy of 1 Hotel & Homes
10. 1 South Beach, Florida
One of the newest developments in the ecotourism scene are the 1 Hotels, natural boutique hotels by the Starwood Capital Group. This nature-inspired brand launched this year with 1 South Beach in Miami, built and furnished out of regional, reclaimed and re-purposed materials. Rooms contain organic cotton sheets on hemp-blend-filled beds, salvaged driftwood accents and in-room glass terrariums. No paper or plastic in the rooms. Everything is mindful here, and the 1 Hotels hope to lead a transformation in industry standards.