Can Luxury Travel Be Eco-friendly?

Your Guide To Travelling the World and Keeping it Green.

When it comes to being eco-friendly, the luxury travel industry has historically been a bit of a culprit of not having the planet’s best interests at heart – statistics are plentiful; in the United States, the hospitality industry alone creates over 1.9 billion pounds of waste each year.

Today’s discerning luxury travelers care less for the gold-plated extravagance of traditional luxury hotels and resorts and instead are conscious of how their travel habits affect the natural world.

If you fall into this category, things can be tricky. You understandably might not want to have to sacrifice comfort and luxury or accept a sub-par experience, or eco-friendliness. This doesn’t need to be the case as it is becoming increasingly popular to travel in style while keeping it green.

If you’re planning a trip, and want it to be exceptional, unforgettable, and eco-friendly, then here are some useful things to think about:

The problem: How can you tell if your accommodation really cares about being green?

There are countless luxury resorts and hotels; the issue is that not all of these are remotely eco-friendly. It can be tough to sort the wheat from the chaff when choosing accommodation, because of things like greenwashing – the deceptive practice of misleading customers by over-exaggerating the use of environmentally friendly practices.

Greenwashing is a real issue, with an alarmingly large number of hotels and accommodation providers using eco-consciousness as a PR stunt. A sticker on the bathroom mirror saying ‘please reuse your towels’ might make a resort look like it cares, but it doesn’t really say anything about how it addresses and measures the impact it has on the environment.

The solution: Look for recognized certifications

Search for things like ‘eco-hotels’, or ‘living hotels’: these offer some of best luxury holiday experiences, from eco-pods in the Alps to living hotels built into treetop canopies, and reducing environmental impact is their priority.

Also, look out for recognized certifications – don’t just take a green sticker at face value, do some homework. For example, in the U.S, LEED Certification from the U.S Green Building Council shows a hotel has been built, developed and maintained sustainably.

Other certifications to look out for come from awarding bodies like the Rainforest Alliance or Green Globe. It’s worth double-checking your chosen accommodation, to ensure they really do care about the impact they have on local environments.

The problem: Luxury properties can be detrimental to local culture

Traditionally, one of the most popular ways for high-net-worth individuals to holiday has been in their own second homes. Private second homeownership is certainly luxurious, but it’s also detrimental to local communities.

Properties left vacant throughout the year take up space, and leave fewer homes for permanent residents who could stimulate local business during off-seasons. They can also drive up costs, effectively pricing people out of their own homes, and many communities have started to speak out against this.

The solution: Take advantage of new opportunities

For those considering purchasing a second home, new investment options are becoming available which allow wealthy individuals to holiday in private luxury, without the negative impact of traditional home ownership.

Fractional ownership packages now exist which prevent the negative impacts of second home ownership, because when one tenant leaves after a stay, another arrives. This means no more properties need to be built, and local communities don’t suffer from economic dry spells.

Investing in one of many new property funds such as The Hideaways Club can offer you the chance to travel the world in luxury, without leaving an empty property behind when you return. Funds like these also appeal to the sensibilities of travelers who don’t want to feel tied to one location.

The problem: Transport is bad for the environment

It’s hard to avoid the fact that all travel is in some way harmful to the environment. The high CO2 emissions of planes make minimizing your carbon footprint difficult, and few options for luxury intercontinental can do much to alleviate this.

The solution: Minimise impact where you can

When choosing your destination, try to pick somewhere slightly closer to home, or a flight that involves fewer stopovers – as take-offs and landings are particularly carbon-heavy.

The most effective way you can minimize the impact of your transport choices is how you travel around during your stay. If possible, rent a hybrid car; these can be highly spacious and luxurious and have far less of an impact on the environment.

Also, choosing to walk or cycle can give you a chance to really immerse yourself in the local culture and environment – and can lead to the discovery of places to visit and things to do which might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

There are countless other things you could consider when planning an eco-friendly getaway, from where to spend your money to whether you bring reusable bags with you to shops. The key thing is that you don’t need to sacrifice comfort or luxury. There are plenty of environmentally conscious opportunities for luxury travel.

High-end travel and accommodation providers are accepting responsibility, and are realizing that it’s their duty to take steps towards sustainability, not their customers.

With that said, there are steps you can take to make sure your holiday habits are in line with this – the main thing is to do a bit of research, and make whatever effort you can to support, stimulate and protect global cultures, ecologies, and economies.


James is a graduate of English and American Literature and a passionate writer. He loves to read and write about everything from film and music to artificial intelligence. James is keenly interested in sustainability and all things green. You can contact him at jamestghale@gmail.com. 

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