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5 Sustainable Hotels to Inspire Us

By definition, sustainability and hospitality go hand in hand. To be hospitable means to be friendly and welcoming to guests, but it also means providing an environment that’s pleasant and favorable for living in. The bigger picture for hotels is how they contribute to the environment that surrounds them so that Planet Earth continues to be a pleasant and favorable place to live on. 

In previous articles, we’ve offered some practical tips for being greener, but it’s time to dream big. To inspire you, we’ve rounded up some of Earth’s most astounding ecological hotels that demonstrate sustainable hotel accommodations can also be luxurious—by not simply reducing their impact on their environment but fitting within it.

The Shift

We’re entering a new age for sustainable hotels. While initiatives like reducing linen washing and doing away with small single-use shampoo bottles continue to be important, there’s a shift from thinking about how to reduce our impact toward a mission to immerse ourselves and co-exist within the environment that sustains us—and even help it! Not only is this mind shift an environmental necessity for human existence but it creates a more desirable travel experience.

Statistics back this up to show the majority of travelers consider their environmental impact when trip planning. This trend is growing toward destination-specific properties, where hotels incorporate their environment to offer guests a unique experience. It’s all part of the larger experiential travel trend where guests long to immerse themselves in their destination. Check out the following exemplary hotels from around the world for inspiration.

Svart Hotel, Norway

The Svart Hotel superbly exemplifies the notion of sustainable destination accommodation. Set in the Arctic Circle, Svart is the world’s first energy-positive hotel, designed to generate more energy than it uses (which is 85% less energy than regular hotels)—further protecting the pristine surrounding environment. 

Situated on the banks of a fjord, a circular bagel-shaped design offers 360-degree views while it maximizes the sun’s energy with strategically placed solar panels. Named after the Svartisen Glacier nearby, the hotel puts guests within a dramatic landscape where they can experience ice fishing, midnight sun yoga, and the northern lights just outside their door. Svart’s architects describe it as dissolving the boundary between land and water. In this way, it’s not merely a hotel but an off-grid, non-disruptive, and most definitely immersive experience.

Futuristic Svart Hotel, the world’s first energy-positive hotel (photo credit: Svart Hotel)

Coucoo Grands Cépages, France

Located in Provence, Coucoo Grands Cépages features eco-designed floating cabins with reed-look exteriors to blend into the natural lake environment upon which they float. Each cabin (insulated with sheep’s wool) is situated to view outward and away from any other structure for a true immersive back-to-nature feeling—complete with no WiFi access.

Each prefabricated cabin was constructed offsite to protect the area’s delicate ecology by reducing construction impact. The interior is peacefully minimalist and natural while wrap-around decks feature a heated Nordic bath that’s free from chemicals, utilizing ozone technology that filters and treats water, which also reduces the need to change the water. The cabins are accessed by an elevated wooden walkway to further protect the area.

Guests can make this a complete eco-trip by exploring the area by bike since this hotel is an Accueil Velo accommodation, meaning it’s part of the region’s biking tourist organization and offers bike services.

Relax in eco-designed floating cabins and Nordic baths at Coucoo Grands Cépages (photo credit: Coucoo Grands Cépages)

The Headwaters Eco Lodge at Camp Glenorchy, New Zealand

The cabins and chalet at Headwaters Eco Lodge are shining examples of sustainable and immersive design. It was built in accordance with the Living Building Challenge—the Earth’s most rigorous building standard—which moves away from being “less bad” toward true regenerative design. Cozy private cabins were constructed with non-toxic materials and showcase the artwork of local and national artisans.

Headwaters Eco Lodge generates more energy than they need from solar panels, operates within the local water balance, uses 50% less energy and water than similarly sized properties, and minimizes and manages its own waste. It’s all in support of their larger mission to create a space that optimizes health and well-being through restoring relationships with nature. Guests come for the “unforgettable immersive experiences” offered by the verdant mountain trails, pristine glacier-fed lakes, and meandering river valleys of Mt Aspiring National Park—all in a way that protects this delicate ecosystem.

To help guests connect with nature, Headwaters have curated experience-based packages that include activities intrinsic to the region. Guests can explore the backcountry by heli hiking, skiing, biking, and rafting, or simply relax at the spa and enjoy sumptuous garden-to-table dining—or do it all!

Private chalets welcome guests after a day exploring the mountains at The Headwaters Eco Lodge (photo credit: The Headwaters Eco Lodge)

DistrictHive Podtel, International

DistrictHive Podtel thinks outside the box with self-contained boxed accommodations. Tiny-home constructions feature windowed walls that completely immerse you within a pristine natural environment.

Billed as an autonomous human-recharging sanctuary, each podtel is eco-friendly, off-grid, and carbon neutral, and utilizes solar power, converts humidity to water, and incinerates waste. There is no centralized lobby since podtels are found around the world (head office is in Portugal) but the concierge is always at your fingertips via the app, which is also used to control the air-conditioning, lighting, and even aromas.

While these tiny podtels are efficient, they’re not basic. On-site dining? Simply log onto the app to access 12 food and drink dispensers onsite—make your selections and pay online. Spa services? Enjoy the outdoor anti-gravity flotation tank or the bean bag stargazing deck! Ultra-modern, minimalist, functional, sustainable, and immersed in nature—we feel recharged already.

Recharge in a completely self-sustainable pod on top of the world with DistrictHive (photo credit: District Hive)

Klahoose Wilderness Resort, Canada

This special resort is owned and operated by the Klahoose people on Indigenous land within Desolation Sound and the Toba Inlet at the edge of the Great Bear Rain Forest on Canada’s west coast. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, Klahoose Wilderness Resort allows guests to truly get away from it all and immerse themselves in the traditional culture that is inseparable from the region’s pristine landscape and wildlife. 

Completely off-grid producing its own hydropower, the resort exists to preserve and conserve the land and ocean while supporting the local economy and community. They even have a tourism-career mentorship program for Indigenous youth. 

You’ll never forget where you are, surrounded by stunning views from the waterfront cedar-built lodge and cabins. You may never want to leave your serene room, except to experience bear watching, pristine-lake fishing, eco-adventure boat tours to see whales, and foraging nature walks. It’s fair to say you’ll never look at the natural world the same again.

The lodge and cabins at Klahoose Wilderness Resort blend into nature (photo credit: Klahoose Wilderness Resort)

The hospitality industry is at the forefront of innovation and we’re inspired by these properties that create accommodations that are not only ecologically sound but are a refuge as well. While your hotel may not be situated in the middle of nature, there are opportunities in any landscape to highlight the natural environment and support sustainable practices—whether it’s through local eco-tours and farm-to-table dining or technological innovations. Sustainability is in the very definition of hospitality, after all!