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The hotel industry has recently begun to embrace the “green” philosophy, or at least its marketing potential. As we mentioned in an earlier piece, this has occasionally resulted in some greenwashing faux pas. However, for every mistake there's usually another example of how to do it right. This list contains five of the world's best real eco-friendly hotels/lodges, which have proven both their commitment to environmental issues and their quality as vacation venues.
Trout Point Lodge, Nova Scotia
This small but luxurious Canadian retreat is located next to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and beside the Tusket River. Built with natural materials, the eco-lodge also supports the local community by doing almost all its hiring and shopping locally, an important piece of sustainable hotel management. It may appear to stick to the popular “really nice hotel stuck out in the middle of nowhere” philosophy, but it's got more to do than most city hotels could hope to offer. It's won multiple awards for its eco-friendliness, including the Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism award recently, but has also been given awards for its popular cooking school, being named one of the world's top cooking destinations by publications from Forbes to Conde Nast.
Price: Starting at $99 for bed and breakfast.
Gaviota Coral Reef Resort: Gaviota, Belize
Belize has positioned itself at the epicenter of the eco-tourism boom, embarking on one of the first concerted efforts to bring eco-tourists through its national tourism agency. It's worked. Eco-tourists worldwide now know of the tiny Central American country, although it's still relatively far off the beaten path and its location means Belize is hardly overrun with tourists even during the high season. That's good news for you, as it means you'll be able to enjoy this eco friendly lodge but won't be disturbed by dozens of families with wailing kids. The “resort”, which might be a bit of a misnomer as it's not quite the Club Med style fortress you'd expect from the word, is more a loose grouping of rooms and cabanas, located on isolated Tobacco Caye. It's accessible only by a boat from the mainland (but you can catch regular water taxis, or try and hitch a ride with a fisherman, for a reasonable fee). With prices as low as $25 a night it's quite a steal. At that price, you're not expecting much in the way of luxurious rooms, but they are clean and the price includes 3 meals a day. The snorkeling is fantastic on the island, and the resort makes sure it keeps the water and land clean so it will stay that way, by creating their power with sustainable, natural sources.
Orchard Garden Hotel, San Francisco
The Orchard Garden Hotel, which everyone and their mom describes as being “nestled in the heart of San Francisco” (but I am just going to say is in the middle of the city), is seriously committed to making sure it's green. Rather than just saying it's an eco hotel, refraining from washing your towels and calling it a day, the Orchard Garden decided it would just go ahead and get certified eco-friendly by the Green Building Council, achieving it's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. It's not a particular surprise it achieved the award, given that it goes about 10 extra miles in ensuring its eco friendliness. The furniture is made from certified sustainable wood, while natural paint and carpets round out the stylin' décor. They clean only with non-chemical cleaners, and the hotel is outfitted with the latest technology, from CFL and LED lighting to card systems that turn off energy use while you're not in the room, to ensure that its energy use and carbon dioxide emissions are as low as possible. The hotel is fairly small, billing itself as a boutique hotel, so its footprint is much lower than your average Hilton or Marriot, but now it's even lower.
Butjani Lodge, South Africa
Located on a private game reserve in the South African province of Pretoria, this lodge is an anomaly in the eco tourism world in that it doesn't go around yelling “Hey look at me I'm eco friendly, give me a green star!”. However, it has quite a few features any responsible eco traveller would look for, such as composting, a hotel-wide recycling program, water conservation and recycling measures, and energy conservation programs. If you're one of the million or so people planning on visiting South Africa next year for the World Cup (as the Europeans have shown us, soccer and environmentalism can go hand in hand, particularly in stadium design), you could do a whole lot worse than stay here. The hotel features a number of special packages, usually starting about R1200 for a couple on a weekend.
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