It’s easier than you think to find green accommodations. There are 5 basic types of accommodations to consider when you are looking to lessen your impact: camping, hotels, eco-lodges, hostels, and what I’m going to call “shared housing.” There’s even a bit about green cruises. First, it’s important to be aware of greenwashing.
What is greenwashing?
As greenwashing becomes ever more popular, it’s critical that we are cautious when searching for environmentally-friendly lodging. Basically, greenwashing is the practice that involves a company — through advertising, public relations and marketing — stating that they have green practices or products when they really do not.
These are the companies who work hard to “talk about” being green and spend more money promoting themselves than they are spending actually being environmentally-friendly.
Camping green accommodations
Camping is generally the greenest and hotels are generally the least green. When you go camping, always remember and put into practice the following:
- Check with the ranger station and signs to know what the fire danger reading system is that day. If it isn’t safe to start a fire, don’t!
- Follow all rules about fire safety, including setting and putting out fires.
- Leave no trace by taking all of your trash out with you or by putting it in the proper receptacles.
- Recycle when you can or bring it back home to recycle.
- Do not disturb or feed wildlife.
- Keep your food in closed, covered containers to ensure animals can’t access it.
- Stay on marked trails.
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is an educational, nonprofit organization dedicated to the responsible enjoyment and active stewardship of the outdoors by all people, worldwide.
U.S.: About.com’s Find a Campground Just click on a state to get started. ReserveAmerica /Reservations.NPS.gov / Recreation.gov These three sites recently merged. You can search by type of campground, state, park name, and dates.
International: L.L. Bean’s Park Search Thousands of campsites across the world, searchable by country, outdoor activity, or park name.
European: Europe Camping Guide 5,600 campsites searchable by country.
European Federation of Campingsite Organisations and Holiday Park Associations
Interhike Book 4,200+ hostels and find information about 19,000+ camping sites in Europe.
Australian: Aussie Camping Information on the many camping and caravan sites around Australia. camping.com.au Over 2,800 listed campgrounds and holiday parks, hotels and resorts, campervan, RV and motorhome rentals.
If you’re looking to camp with your furry friend, check out 5 Tips for Camping Green with Your Dog.
Before you make your hotel reservations, consider your preferences. Do you want the most environmentally-friendly? The most convenient? The most centrally located? How much are you willing to pay? All of these considerations will factor into your choice of green accommodations. After you’ve answered these questions, use these resources to explore your lodging options.
You can make your choice green by selecting a hotel that has received LEED certification or a Green Seal or Green Leaf. These hotels may be built using recycled materials, have highly developed recycling programs and look for ways to reduce water usage and electricity among other green initiatives. Supporting these hotels is a great first step toward greener travel.
Once you’ve checked in to your hotel, you can participate fully in the property’s recycling program. Also, take advantage of the ability to reuse sheets and towels over the course of multiple days. Keep showers brief, and elect to use your own toiletries rather than the trial sized ones that the hotel might provide. Before heading out for a day of exploration, turn off the lights, television and heating or air conditioning to conserve energy.
Find environmentally friendly hotels through Green Accreditation Directories
How does one go about finding an eco friendly hotel? How do you know if a hotel’s efforts to “go green” are actually paying off? Finding environmentally friendly hotels through green accreditation directories can be a way to start. As I began researching standards for Conscious Travel and green hotels, I became increasingly interested in the newly created “green” accreditation programs and standards that exist.
What I found, as you will see below, was absolutely atrocious. Many of these “green standards” merely involve a hotel executive filling out a survey and sending in their self-administered questionnaire with their membership fee. Thus, while these sites are helpful to a certain extent, none are foolproof. Use your best judgment when looking for an environmentally friendly hotel and green accommodations in general.
Tips to finding environmentally friendly hotels
Using common sense, being proactive and doing your due diligence can lead you to finding environmentally friendly hotels through green accreditation directories. Here are a few places to research.
- Sustainable Travel International offers an eco-directory (look under Lodgings). Generally, I have found STI’s information to be excellent.
- Responsible Travel specializes in holidays and tours and has an accommodation only section of their site.
- The EU has the EU Eco-label and through their search catalogue you can search for tourist accommodation.
- Energy Star rates American buildings including hotels. According to their website these facilities “are among the top 25% in the county for energy performance.”
- Eco-Index Sustainable Tourism focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean.
- Green Globe is a consulting and advisory company that allows you to search for accommodation.
- International Ecotourism Society members must sign a code of conduct stating that they meet certain requirements.
- Audobon offers a “green leaf” rating system. However, it is based on self-evaluations and a membership program.
- Green Hotels Association while it has a nice name, seems to be more of an advertising membership directory where you pay to be listed.
HostelBookers No booking fees on all hostel bookings.
HostelWorld Over 15,000 Hostels in over 168 Countries.
Hostels.com Featuring 22,897 Hostels and other cheap places to stay worldwide.
CouchSurfing Meet locals and stay for free, then host travelers in your home. It’s a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit.
WWOOF: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms – Volunteer on organic farms across the world. Read about our experience at Chacra Millalen and about what to know before you WWOOF.
Eco Hotel & Lodge Collection: An association of environmentally and socially responsible hotels, lodges, inns & resorts.
ResponsibleTravel.com A selection of eco lodges that caters to the responsible traveller at all budget levels.
Green cruises can offer green accommodations
While not traditionally thought of as a green travel choice, many cruise lines are making huge strides in offering green cruises. Green cruise lines are becoming more popular than ever. The Disney Fantasy and other Disney Cruise Lines are catching the green spirit.
Green travel apps and green travel guide books
What about those tried and true travel guides? To buy them or not? We like to check them out from our local library. Another responsible alternative to a green travel guide is to do your research online and print off only exactly what you need. But our best answer is to travel lighter and save paper by taking advantage in the top eco apps and eco-friendly apps.
If you really want to have the book in your hands, consider looking for travel guides for your exact destination. There is probably a travel book about it! Off the Beaten Path is a beautiful book which describes interesting and not-crowded destinations.
Check out 12 Paper Free Guidebooks.
Protect the environment while travelling
Most people work to keep their lifestyle environmentally friendly by reducing, reusing and recycling at home. So be sure to remember to protect the environment while travelling. It’s easier than you might think, and there’s no reason that green travel has to be more expensive than traditional travel.
Another great way to protect the environment while travelling is by making eco-friendly transportation choices. Instead of renting a big, gas guzzling SUV, choose a hybrid. Alternatively, look into using the local mass transportation system. Choosing to walk or bike your way around your destination is a wonderful way to get a bit of exercise while also lessening your impact on the environment.
If any guided tours are on your itinerary, select an eco-friendly operator whenever possible. Look for tour operators that run hybrid buses or vans, and that tend to book smaller groups since fewer people have less environmental impact. You can respect the natural environment by staying on marked trails, packing waste out with you and by not disturbing local plant life.
Adventures that take you under the sea can have less environmental impact when you refrain from touching coral and choose a sunscreen that won’t harm the delicate reef ecosystem.
With a little research, you will be able to find great green accommodations. Anyone can protect the environment while travelling by following a few guidelines. It helps to think local, much like you do at home.
Choose restaurants that feature locally sourced menu items and buy only sustainable souvenirs that are produced locally and don’t make use of rare or endangered species. And remember to be aware of greenwashing.