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How to Find Eco-Friendly Accommodations

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

Key criteria to look for when searching for an eco-friendly hotel or vacation home, and why you should want to stay in one.

Pinterest image for How to Find Eco-Friendly Accommodations.

Hundreds of rooms, conference centers, massive pools, numerous restaurants, a car park filled with vehicles… these elements contribute to the huge carbon footprint many hotels create. However, there has been a hopefully lasting trend of accommodations going green, engaging in improvements that save water and energy, reduce solid waste, utilize local produce and livestock, and give back to the community.

As travelers, one of the greatest ways we can reduce our eco-footprint is by selecting hotels, resorts or vacation homes that are making positive changes in favor of Mother Nature’s health. Although these accommodations often come with a higher price tag than those that only have an eye for their bottom line, you’ll likely have a more satisfying travel experience, as you’ll know your money isn’t just “feeding the beast” but instead supporting a business involved in limiting their damage to the Earth and uplifting their community.

But how do you find such a place? There are numerous factors to look for when searching for an eco-friendly hotel. While you might not find accommodations that check all the boxes below, you can feel good staying in a place that is at least making moves to meet as much of this criteria as possible.

Tip: If a hotel or vacation home’s website is unclear about what eco-friendly amenities they offer, shoot them an email or call, and ask for specifics.

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Certified LEED

Looking out for LEED certification is one of the easiest ways to find accommodations reducing their negative influence on the environment. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, has set stringent eco-standards hotels or vacation homes (and all other variety of structures) must meet before receiving their coveted certification. These standards pertain to a building’s…

  • Location and transportation offerings

  • Sustainability of their site

  • Water efficiency

  • Energy use

  • Materials and resources utilized

  • Indoor environmental air quality

  • Innovation

Buildings applying for this certification are judged on a 100 point system. If they receive a minimum of 40-points they can call themselves “LEED Certified.” 50-59 points produces a “Silver LEED” certification, 60-79 points designates a “Gold LEED” certification, and 80 points or more provides the “Platinum LEED” certification.

As you embark on your search, know that accommodations that have received any level of LEED certification usually prominently display it on their home page. And, it might surprise you to know that Marriott and Omni have an abundance of LEED certified hotels.

Solar Panels

Large solar panels beneath a blue sky being used at an eco-friendly hotel.

Because solar panels utilize the clean, renewable power of the sun, they offer a powerful alternative to fossils fuels, like coal and natural gas. Installing solar panels allows a hotel or vacation home to minimize their production of greenhouse gases, and reduce their contribution to respiratory and cardio health issues, as the procurement of fossil fuels pumps out major air pollutants.

Low-Energy Light Bulbs

Anyone that has been in a hotel knows that a lot of light bulbs are needed to illuminate the (often) massive spaces and numerous rooms. All those light bulbs suck up mega energy and contribute to carbon emissions. For example, about 95% of a fluorescent light bulb’s energy is wasted as heat, and only about 5% of the energy actually goes to creating light.

Hotels that have made the switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, like LEDs, go through fewer light bulbs each year, reducing the amount of bulbs sitting in landfills, and use less energy, minimizing their use of fossil fuels.

Policy to Not Wash Linens and Towels Unless Guests Request It

Two beds with white linens in rustic chic room in an eco-conscious hotel.

Almost every hotel now has cards all over their rooms with instructions for how a guest can let the cleaning staff know if they want new linens or towels. This makes total sense, as few people need their sheets changed after every sleep (with the exception of night-sweaters and bed-wetters) and towels are often only used when you’re already clean. No need to be an eco-martyr and grin and bear filthy sheets and towels, but if it’s not a total necessity, don’t request freshies.

Option to Not Have Room Cleaned

Much like the linens and towels mentioned above, few guests need their room vacuumed, surfaces wiped, and toilet, bath and sink scrubbed daily. Understandably, many want to utilize this daily luxury, as the service is likely included in your nightly rate, but unless the state of your room is minimizing your enjoyment of it, forgo the cleaning until it’s really needed.

Plastic-Strawless Restaurants

Icy coconut cocktail on an antique white plate that has a paper straw in it, instead of a plastic straw, because it's being served at eco-friendly accommodations.

Hotels that love baby sea turtles, dolphins and other such adorable sea creatures are saying no to plastic straws. Those thin tubes of plastic significantly contribute to the 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals that die from ingested plastic each year, as 500,000 straws are used in the United States EVERY DAY. So when possible, give your business to a hotel that has strawless restaurants and bars, or those that use paper straws. If you’re a die-hard straw devotee, invest in a few metal straws for travel.