As the green revolution grinds on, we’re being introduced to an ever-changing spectrum of new concepts and words. “Sustainable travel” is one such concept. But what does it actually mean?

Last year, Booking.com found that 46 percent of travelers define “sustainable travel” as the choice to stay in eco-friendly accommodations.

Here’s our top-ten list of the most beautiful eco-hotels—they may spoil their guests, but they’re careful not to spoil anything else.

North America

Banff Aspen Lodge, Canada

I can’t think of a better place than Banff National Park to remind the 21st-century traveler of the importance of sustainability. Sublime mountains, crystalline lakes, expansive skies: this is what’s at stake, my fellow travelers.

The Banff Aspen Lodge, hunkered in the Albertan Rockies, has a number of green initiatives in place to sustain the beautiful natural environment which sustains it—these include a strict property-wide recycling program, motion sensor lighting in the hallways, biodegradable soaps and containers, and low-flow toilets. My personal favorite initiative: if guests staying two or more nights choose to opt out of housekeeping services, they have two options: the Lodge will either make a $4 donation on their behalf to the Banff Community Foundation (which supports environmental initiatives in the community), or they can enjoy a complimentary beverage at the Whitebark Café, located in the lobby of the Aspen Lodge.

Treebones Resort, USA

“Glamping in Big Sur, California”—what a musical sentence. You could make it a little better, though: glamping in Big Sur without leaving a trace. Treebones Resort is a completely off-the-grid eco-glamping resort which swears by the Big Sur pledge: leave no trace (pick up your trash), be mindful of the impact of your actions, and protect and respect Big Sur’s natural resources.

Treebones takes the pledge to heart: for all electrical needs, it utilizes a mix of clean-burning, California-made microturbines and solar energy; their restaurant offers dishes created from organic products grown in the resort’s gardens, and all the scraps are fed to “twenty happy chickens,” or composted in an organic garden. The resort also boasts one of the most creative green-initiatives I’ve encountered so far: instead of offering plastic stir- sticks, Treebones provides guests with uncooked pasta noodles!  

  • Red yurt overlooking trail, succulents and the Pacific Ocean.
  • Cozy yurt interior with double bed and fireplace.
  • View of twig hut at Treebones Resort in Big Sur, CA
  • View of Pacific Ocean from a twig hut at Treebones Resort, Big Sur, California.
  • Wooden stairs leading to a lodging nest made of tree branches, fittingly, at Treebones Resort in Big Sur, California.

Europe

Whitepod Hotel, Switzerland

The Whitepod Hotel houses guests in geodesic dome rooms. Aesthetic benefits aside (domes are sweet-looking), domes are foundation-less and self-supporting, meaning they require far fewer resources to build; plus, the energy required to heat a dome is approximately 30 percent less than a conventional building. Whitepod also offers locally-sourced food and biodegradable consumables.  

  • Landscape surrounding Whitepod eco luxury hotel in Swiss Alps.
  • Trees surround white queen bed with green hammock in close view.
  • White king size bed with fireplace in white-walled interior dome.
  • Three geodesic pods line a hillside with Swiss Alps in the background.

The Green House, United Kingdom

A restored Victorian villa in the heart of Bournemouth, England, the Green House closed its doors back in 2008 for a whopping eighteen months, during which time it considered the environmental impact of every single one of its decisions. Free charging ports in the parking lot, solar-powered water heating, UK-made furniture, local + organic food, and a staff-training policy that centers on environmental sustainability are just a few results of this closure.  

South America

EcoCamp Patagonia, Chile

Located in Torres del Paine National Park, EcoCamp offers Patagonia’s first fully sustainable accommodation. Like the Whitepod Hotel, it’s also made up of geodesic domes, each of which is powered by solar panels and equipped with a composting toilet (guests’ waste is actually used for soil regeneration in the spring). Seventy-five percent of the site’s energy is provided by water, 20 percent is provided by the sun, and less than five percent is generated by non-renewable sources.

  • People doing yoga in lit up interior dome at night in mountains.
  • Expansive interior of dome with large "Bar" sign and various types of lounge seating.
  • Inside of a suite dome at EcoCamp in Patagonia.
  • Green dome rises above trees with mountain backdrop.
  • Red, blue, black, yellow and green recycling and compost cans at EcoCamp Patagonia.

The Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador

The Mashpi Lodge feels incredibly remote, nestled as it is in the Ecuadorian Cloud Rainforest, but it’s actually situated within the Metropolitan District of Quito (Ecuador’s capital) and can be reached from the city within just three hours. The lodge is self-effacing: made primarily of glass, and built using the latest materials in sustainable construction, its design puts the focus on the natural beauty surrounding it, not on the building itself. The Lodge also staffs a team of scientists involved with the active conservation and discovery of species within the Mashpi Reserve. Mashpi has been dubbed a “Unique Lodge of the World” by National Geographic—lodges are granted the accolade for their continued commitment to sustainable practices and to defending natural and cultural heritage.

  • Lit up lodge in middle of rainforest as nighttime looms.
  • View of hotel in the rainforest with fog and foliage everywhere.
  • Woman sitting with open-wall view of rainforest.
  • People eating breakfast on deck overlooking the rain forest.

Asia

The Yard, Thailand

The Yard Hostel is located in Ari, Bangkok, a relatively undiscovered hipster district bursting with quirky bars and cafés. The hostel’s most visible sustainable initiative is their rooms, all of which are made of upcycled shipping containers. The containers are insulated with recycled paper, to keep out the Southeast Asian humidity. The Yard has also installed water-saving toilets and provides guests with glass water bottles.  

  • Check-in area of a hostel in Bangkok.
  • Woman sits and reads at kitchen and bar area of The Yard Hostel in Bangkok, Thailand
  • Room with neatly tied curtain and bright light filling in from the window.
  • People hanging out in large yard with lights and various seats

Baby Elephant, Cambodia

Located just eight miles away from Angkor Wat, Baby Elephant boutique hotel is a self-proclaimed “social enterprise in a developing country—we know we still have steps to achieving complete sustainability, but with limited resources, it all takes time.”

Baby Elephant is proof that even with a little you can do a lot. Most notably, they’ve partnered with Naga Earth, an environmental recycling plant in Siem Reap, to which they donate all used cooking oil to be upcycled into sustainable biodiesel—a renewable, biodegradable fuel that produces 90 percent less hydrocarbon emissions than regular diesel. The Baby Elephant also hosts neighborhood team clean-up days and staff training sessions to hone environmental conscience (most recently, a plastic-free workshop with Plastic Free Cambodia).

Australia & New Zealand

Daintree Ecolodge, Australia

The Daintree Ecolodge in Queensland, northern Australia, is composed of fifteen “banyans” perched in the rainforest canopy. On top of being entirely carbon neutral, the Ecolodge is involved in the active reforestation of areas of the Daintree Rainforest that have been affected by human development. They also donate $50 per guest stay to the Reef Keepers Fund, which supports Great Barrier Reef conservation projects.

  • Canopies line the road with lush dense foliage all around.
  • Oval-shaped pod seats with candle on table and foliage and a pond nearby.
  • View of pond and outdoor seating area of nice restaurant in rainforest.
  • Inside of luxury eco-hotel, Daintree Ecolodge

Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses, New Zealand

Situated in Kaikoura—a South Island township that became, in 2002, a Green Globe certified community—Hapuku Lodge is restoring the spectacular scenery of Kaikoura by planting native trees, reintroducing native birds, and being sustainable in their operations: the lodge has been constructed with recycled materials, 75 percent of food ingredients are sourced from local New Zealand farmers. Their ultimate aim is to become a zero-waste community.

  • Ecolodge treehouses line a mountain backdrop in New Zealand
  • Sun shining down on pasture, water and mountains.
  • Farms, with treehouse lodges in background.
  • Jacuzzi overlooking calm green pasture and mountain backdrop.
  • Interior of nice treehouse at Hapuka Lodge

These next few decades are crucial for the future of our planet. It will become increasingly important to support organizations that are doing their part for sustainability. This list is just a springboard — there are a ton of others out there.

Have you stayed at a green-forward hotel, lodge, resort, hostel, bed and breakfast, or otherwise? Share a favorite memory in the comments!

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Molly Gelpke

Molly Gelpke

Molly is a writer and traveller currently based in Montreal, but who will probably be somewhere new by next month. Find her—with a coffee in one hand and a book in the other—at your local, free-WiFi-supplying café.