7 easy tips for finding bold, brave, awesome sustainable lodging
Somewhere along the way – maybe between the marketing of hemp clothing and natural cleaning products – the concept of a green lifestyle became associated with femininity. Frankly, I don’t blame men for generally not getting excited about small electric cars, raw energy bars with live ingredients, or the eco-friendly office products that cost twice as much as the regular scotch tape or post-it notes.
I get it guys! Green seems like a lot of effort, a lot of guilt, and a lot of money spent with little personal upside, pizazz or machismo.
On the other hand, studies show that 82% of Americans (equally male and female) have good green intentions if the product, pricing, and value propositions are communicated clearly and effectively.
In other words, if Zipcar, (a car-sharing service) offers a great selection of convertibles and pickups combined with ease of use – while also happening to be great service for the planet (each Zipcar shared takes 20 personally-owned vehicles off the road), it’s a win-win for everyone!
So, what does all of this have to do with green lodging? One thing that we all have in common is that at the end of what we all strive to be one of the best days of our lives while on vacation, we all would like to comfortably rest our heads somewhere that we can brag about with our friends.
It is human nature and it’s also quite achievable when we choose sustainability we can sleep on.
1. Follow your sports passion to the great unknown – Admittedly, my husband was skeptical too when I first suggested staying at an eco-lodge in the middle of the rainforest. Skepticism quickly turned to downright excitement when I mentioned that the only way to gain access to the lodge was by whitewater rafting our way through Class III-IV rapids. For four days while we were there, Brian had one of the widest grins ever. To this day, he let’s his business associates and friends know about the time he got out of the raft, scaled a 65 foot cliff and jumped into the clear, cold river. Tip: Your passion for adventure (i.e. hiking, horseback riding, and sailing) can lead to you to remote lodges and since many enforce sustainable business practices out of necessity, you will likely be going green without feeling it.
2. Talk shop (technical innovation) with the guys - It may seem incredulous, but some of the most amazing energy conservation technologies are being applied in Africa and South America to lessen the environmental footprint of tourism. One example is a coffee plantation inn in Costa Rica that uses NASA-developed ionization technology to rid its swimming pool of impurities, thereby negating the use of chlorine and algaecides. Another example is a permanent camp in Patagonia that developed the world’s first Geodesic dome hotel, which has been replicated in Chile, Argentina and Switzerland. The last is of a safari lodge in Botswana that is entirely solar-powered. Tip: Owners of green lodges are quite thrilled to give you a back-of-house tour so you can talk technical shop as long as you would like – well maybe until it’s time to sit down for dinner!
3. Expand your idea of accommodations - It’s not all about chain hotels where the interiors are the same. Instead, consider the thousands of places around the world that offer distinct, unique accommodations that appeal to all the senses. Tip: Depending on your interests, you can stay at an agritourism farm (specializing in local wine tasting, truffle festival experiences or full culinary trips) or an old country house (that you can independently rent by the week) to a full-service eco-lodge in a national park.
4. Make a new friend (of another species) - Have you ever had the desire to learn about blue or humpback whale migration through the Sea of Cortez in Mexico – maybe before knocking back a few in Cabo San Lucas? Have you ever wanted to assist with vital research into the habitats and activities of koalas or endangered tiger quolls? While going piranha fishing, do you want to hear the booming sound of the howler monkey in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest letting you know who the boss is really? Tip: There are so many opportunities to stay at green lodges that specialize in safely integrating guests with their surroundings and inviting them as part of their research.
5. Know thyself against the standard criteria – Everyone has a different opinion about what “sustainable”, “eco-friendly”, or “green” means. It doesn’t help that there aren’t standard definitions. However, this does not mean that you cannot educate yourself about the general criteria for an eco-hotel against what you feel to be important to you. Tip: Review hotel websites to check on their environmentally-friendly policies and test their customer service by emailing the manager some specific questions that are essential for you.
6. Bookmark some quick search sites and save money – Whether you use Eco Green Hotel for U.S. listings or It’s a Green, Green World for worldwide listings, there’s a search site that can help narrow down your choices. Tip: You may be surprised how inexpensive it can be to stay at a green lodge.
7. Get to know eco-labels – Unfortunately, there are hundreds of “green”, “eco”, “natural”, “responsible” labeling systems out there. The more reputable ones have lodges go through an independent validation of green claims against standard criteria. To promote transparency, it is important to ensure that your accommodation is certified by a reputable accreditation body, such as the Rainforest Alliance, Green Globe, Green Key or the country’s individual eco-certification. Tip: Lodges will proudly display their eco-label on the home page of their website, but it is your responsibility to ensure that it is a legitimate label.
So, what is stopping you from going forth and going green?
About Irene Lane
Irene is the founder of Greenloons - a premier online resource dedicated to inspiring people to think different, be different and travel different – in ways that help to ensure a more sustainable planet. An advocate of social empowerment, financial viability and environmental preservation, Greenloons is the only company that connects mindful travelers with unique, meaningful and eco-certified travel experiences all over the world.
Drawing upon her professional and personal experiences to address authentic ecotourism from community, ecological and financial points of view, Irene is a frequent conference speaker, blogger and radio talk show guest.
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