What is a sustainable lodging?

how green is my hotel
When you go on holiday, one of the first things you plan is where you will sleep. Even if you’re on the road trip or backpacker travel mode, you’ll still want to have an idea of what lodging experiences you can find on the way.

When it comes to sustainable travelling, how can you be sure that the hotel or bed and breakfast you’re planning to stay at is eco-friendly and sustainable? Are only certified lodgings the go-to places? Are there any tricks to recognize an eco-friendly destination even if it is not certified. Is a sustainable holiday lodging necessarily hidden in the middle of the woods?

What is a sustainable lodging, anyway?

You’re an urban travel fan and you can’t even imagine a minute spending your holidays in the middle of the forest to meet your friends’ eco-conscious lifestyle? Here’s good news we’re going to kill those good old stereotypes!

Choosing a sustainable lodging does not mean spending your next holidays lost in the middle of nowhere or in the woods with birds waking you up every morning (even if maybe one day you may like that). Going to an eco-friendly place does not mean you’ll be forced to wash in the river, light candles to read your book, or use the eco-toilets in the backyard.

Feeling better now?

Eco-friendly hospitality businesses generally have a variety of initiatives in favour of sustainability. Those initiatives can concern:

  • The use of renewable energy, like solar panels to reduce the energy consumption of the building, or the use of LED lights everywhere
  • Reducing waste and banning single-use items from their lodging or serving no bottled water
  • Reducing the use of chemicals at all steps (from laundry, cleaning up the rooms, to the bath amenities placed in the rooms)
  • Reducing water consumption at all levels of the hotel (guest room, swimming pool, spa…)
  • Contributing to the local community’s development by employing local staff at maximum and favouring local suppliers for all their supplies (not only food)
  • Having an eco-friendly natural swimming pool, or a program for a low chemical / chemical-free swimming pool
  • Offering a sustainable architecture, using eco-friendly material, and respecting the heritage and construction rules making sure the architecture is integrated into the landscape (use of local construction materials)
  • Offering healthy food experiences with a maximum of seasonal, fresh, local ingredients and fitting the diet requirements of any visitors
  • Using organic or natural bed linens and materials
  • Encouraging clean energy / renewable energy vehicle usage on their premises and as rental for their guests

Of course, the list is incomplete, and if you have other suggestions, I’d be happy to edit it. But to sum it up in case you still had a doubt: No, it’s not just because your hotel offers you to skip changing your towels and linen every day or skip room clean up and pay you a coffee at Starbucks for that #realtravelexperience (the coffee was good though) that it’s green.

What is a certified lodging?

If you did not know it, we’re glad to tell you that there are green labels for businesses in the tourism industry, mainly lodgings and restaurants. Lodgings concerned can be hotels, boutique hotels, hostels, guest houses, B&B’s, rental apartments and even campings.

Different certification entities exist around the world (Green Key, Green Globe, European Ecolabel, among others), but the system is quite similar from one label to another. Businesses must be compliant with a variety of different criteria to be certified. Depending on the certification body, the criteria can be very much environment focused, but a lot of them include the 3 P’s of sustainability, People, Profit and Planet. As for example the ratio of staff that is local or the focus on favouring local suppliers for any kind of supply the business needs from the electrician to the vegetable supplier.

Having a green label for a tourism business is an official guarantee for tourists that the place they are visiting has settled sustainability initiatives and is monitoring practices that correspond to the criteria of the label they are certified by. But certified businesses represent a very small part of the hospitality industry.

Why aren’t all eco-friendly lodgings and restaurants certified?

A few clues could be related to the cost of the certification. First the audit itself can be costly and the certification is limited in time and needs to be renewed every once in a while;

Second, the requirements for the certification can imply that the business will need to make additional investments in the building to meet the requirements. That means more money and time to consume for the business owner and not all organizations especially small independent ones can afford it, or prefer focusing their investment to continuously improve the guest experience.

How can I know it’s green if it’s not certified?

More and more hospitality businesses tend to promote their initiatives in favour of the environment or the local economy. Look up for the information on the lodging website, use sustainable travel review sites.

Sometimes you’ll discover it when you’re there and it will be a good or a bad experience.

If you want to keep it secret, that’s fair, but if you want to build our knowledge base and spread the word on a great sustainable lodging you found, come share it with us!


Holiable is an eco-friendly travel planner helping you find sustainable hotels, green restaurants and ethical tourism activities around the world. Holiable was developed to share experiences, advice and reviews on sustainable travel, making it easier to prepare your next eco-friendly holiday.
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