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Over many years of independant travelling and working for travel brands, I’d like to think I’m pretty pro at zeroing in on the best flight deals, the easiest way to book boutiquey hotels and have a pretty good eye for a unique experience.
But when it comes to finding the best eco-friendly, sustainable accommodation even I have to admit it’s not easy!
In a perfect world, my personal slow travel philosophy is to travel, stay and experience activities with positive impact on the local culture, economy and environment.
Which means doing a little bit of extra research before heading out on the cheapest package holiday on sale!
Recently, when plotting a quick getaway from Vienna, I spent literal hours of my life pouring over my regular search engines – AirBnB, Booking.com, Skyscanner, Rome2Rio – to try and find the ‘perfect’ last minute holiday.
I was a modern millenial Goldilocks searching for the perfect ‘not too far, not too expensive, not too cold, and definitely sustainable’ travel option.
Seeking the perfect holiday retreat option in an ocean of booking websites…
It was ROUGH you guys. And despite a lot of media hype, surprisingly difficult to dig out those options on major platforms.
Minutes and hours of my life dripped by staring at the laptop as I endeavoured to read the fine print about each hotels ownership, the providence of the food in the restaurant, the economic impact of the boutique brand hotel on the small coastal villages of Mallorca.
The problem is that while there are a lot of gorgeous hotels and options out there, not all websites and search engines are transparent about the sustainability of the accommodation options.
So to save you the loss of mindless hours, frustration and barely-repressed rage I suffered, here is a collection of the best alternative search platforms I found if you’re seeking sustainable or eco-friendly accommodation.
I’m starting with this website, https://www.greenpearls.com/ because the listed hotels, resorts and vacation rental options here are just to die for.
They specifically speak to my slightly bougie-luxe-but-eco-friendly cravings.
How it Works: You can very easily get lost (the good kind of lost!) on this site, which was founded in Germany, searching from one green retreat hotel to another.
The site itself does not take bookings, but links out directly to the hotels websites themselves so you can find more information and book directly.
You can search based on location, specific hotels or categories like wellness, city hotels, diving hotels, family hotels, wedding or vegan hotels.
I found the range available surprisingly broad, though the majority of their properties are European based, with a decent selection in Thailand, India and Sri Lanka available too.
Their Philosophy: ‘We believe in sustainable tourism – that is what Green Pearls® stands for. Why should the traveler leave his concerns on the environment at home? The conscious traveler seeks a place where sustainability and comfort are combined.
Requirements for Green Hotels: The requirements needed to be listed on Green Pearls is quite extensive you can check the full list here. Among them include a management plan, a water & energy consumption policy, fair labor rights, involving local people in decisions impacting their community, social projects and cultural commitment.
Overall, Green Pearls is a beautifully curated listing of very high quality, sustainably run and managed unique hotels.
The only drawback to this site may be the budget required to book some of these places. You have to dig around a bit to get an idea of pricing, and sometimes those perfectly curated, beautiful beachside lush eco-retreat hotels are well…freaking expensive.
So, if you are on a budget, browse with some caution – although there are affordable options in there!
Top Hotel Pick: La Vimea Sud Tirol: https://www.greenpearls.com/hotels/la-vimea/ Green Pearls surfaced this stunning vegan wellness hotel in Sud Tirol amongst my searches, and it’s going on my personal wishlist as a wellness recovery bolthole for future trips!
With yoga retreats, healthy eating and a stunning spa & wellness area I am hanging to experience it for myself.
The name might sound familiar, as EcoBnB seeks to replace larger search platforms with a greener alternative. The website, https://ecobnb.com/, founded in Italy, operates in much the same way that your ‘regular’ hotel search platforms look and work.
How it Works: Plug in your dates, destination and number of travellers and you’ll be given a selection of hotels that adhere to the eco bnb requirements in your selected locations.
You can filter by your sepecific requirements, allowing you to narrow down on the type of accommodation you are looking for, your specific budget, and more interestingly, specific eco-requirements.
For example, you can filter your search results to show only hotels with 100% renewable energy, or by those supporting the local economy – or both!
What I love about this site is the range of options for different budgets, the very specific search criterias, and the fact that the pricing is listed on the site itself.
You can even check availability for your chosen hotel directly on the website, which makes finding your ideal option much easier. Once you complete your details you are then connected to make the booking on site.
Their Philosophy: ‘Ecobnb is a journey undertaken to change the way we travel. To nurture a network that will thrive on the kind of tourism that respects nature, the economy and the local communities.’
Requirements for Green Hotels: To be listed on the EcoBnB website, hotel suppliers and partners must meet a minimum of 5 out of the 10 environmental requirements. Each of those requirements has an associated internationally recognised certification or ecolabel.
So you can’t fake your way on there!
The requirements list include organic food, 100% renewable energy, ecological cleaning products, car free accessibility, recovery and reuse of rainwater and more. For the full list of requirements you can check here.
Top Hotel Pick: There are SO MANY options on EcoBnB, it was hard to narrow down, but this baby caught my eye as I browsed the many available options. The Mas de l’Oulivie bed and breakfast in Provence looks like the perfect rustic-but-luxe French retreat in the stunning region of France.
That is, if you are looking for an indulgent weekend retreat with girlfriends!
#3 – Manana
Ok I’m going to nerd out here, because this websitehttp://mananatravel.com/ is just damn sexy.
The images, the branding and obviously the mission all come together beautifully making it an absolute pleasure to get lost in scrolling.
How it Works: These guys group their hotel listings under categories – kind of like browsing Spotify for the vibe that you are after. So their ‘collections’ are themed with Yoga, Beach, Nature, Equestrian (!), Foodie and Off the Beaten Track. It’s a very lovely, customisable way to find eco hotels to suit your travel style.
I got lost on here for a long, long time, lusting over all the lushly photographed, beautifully described hotels. The blog also shares a great selection of insider and sustainable travel tips so it’s incredibly easy to while away an afternoon dreaming of a holiday on here.
Their Philosophy: ‘We want to continue having great experiences, we want to get pampered, but at the same time we want to know that people and the environment where we go are treated with respect. We are tired of “filthy traveling” – instead we want to see communities blossom from tourism, we want our vacation to leave a footprint, but a positive one.’
The entirety of their concept can be read here, and speaks very closely to my own perspectives on travelling – no wonder I fell in love with this site!
Requirements for Green Hotels: There are 3 core concepts that hotels must adhere to in order to be listed – they should be Green, Fair & Supportive.
Green in the sense of water & waste management, energy conservation and ecological awareness. Fair to their staff, the local communities, with gender policies in place and equal opportunity for employees.
Supportive criteria are that the hotel is actively supporting local development needs and projects, complying with all local laws and taxes (*ahem, are we paying attention AirBnB?*) and co-operating with local food suppliers and businesses.
The Manana is a gorgeous search website, that also lists the prices of hotels and a lengthy description of all facilities. Again, the price range tends to veer towards to upper range, but you can find some gold nuggets for €60-€80 a night if you search.
Top Hotel Pick: Frankly I had to stop myself bingeing on the hotel listings here because they all looked so damn tempting!
But considering this years dream destination is Portugal, the Monverde Wine Experience Hotel is definitely going on the (ever-growing) wishlist.
# 4 – Alpine Pearls – Holidays in Eco Motion
This is a website specifically geared to the region around Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia. Making it absolutely ideal for anyone looking for a trip from Vienna! You can see the full website here:https://www.alpine-pearls.com/en/
It is a curated collection of 23 villages which are committed to supporting eco-tourism, climate protection, and sustainable holidays. What I particularly liked about this initiative is their focus on encouraging car-free adventures – making sure you can experience a destination with accessible public transport, e-bikes, shuttle services and more to encourage ‘green mobility’.
Knowing just how challenging it can be when we visit Tirol without a car, to get between villages, this particular idea struck me as genius and so forward thinking!
How it Works: Rather than just pure hotel listings, Alpine Pearls lists by country, then lists regions and villages that meet the requirements for their ‘green mobility’ and connected transport programme.
Then, you can filter further to find holiday experiences suited to your travel style – Watersports, Climbing, Hiking, Local Culinary Arts or Nature Adventures to name a few. Once filtered, you get a list of different hotels, experiences and activity packages available in that country or region.
What’s handy about this is you can see more of what is going on in the area than just the hotel.
From the listings you can click through to that regions tourism page, or choose to look for specific hotels that also adhere to the gentle mobility criteria. The list of hotels is here.
Their Philosophy: ‘Sustainable, climate-friendly and easy on the environment while moving about in the outdoors – that’s what we call soft mobility. It is our goal to lay the groundwork so that you can enjoy your activities without using your car and still stay fully mobile. In our Alpine Pearls, soft mobility is guaranteed: Take the bus and/or train to travel to your destination without the stress of driving. Enjoy your stay here with many different environmentally friendly mobility services and recreational offers.’
Requirements for Green Hotels: When booking through Alpine Pearls, you are guaranteed excellent mobility around town. Their full mobility guarantee can be viewed here.
Ensuring you a climate friendly holiday option. Alpine Pearly also guarantees the best quality of their associated hotels, claiming that they are all ‘mindful of their natural environment and actively support gentle mobility.’
Top Hotel Pick: I’m on a bit of a bender with finding gorgeous hotels in the Dolomites region.
This Hotel Tyrol Dolomites is a slow living hotel with wellness treatments, local cuisine & bio ingredients and an emphasis on renewable energy and sustainability. Those views though….
# 5 Biohotels
This is another little gem of a website: https://www.biohotels.info/en/ that’s focussed specifically on regions in Europe and their Bio Hotels. Covering hotels in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia, Italy and Greece, it has strict controls over what makes a bio hotels and a straightforward way to search.
How it Works: From the search boxes at the top of the page, you can select your preferred destination or ‘theme’ of your holiday and search.
I would qualify this website under a ‘traditional’ search method as they have lovely clear filters, search results pages that you can narrow down and well-structured layout, tags and pricing viewable from your first search. (Can you spot the booking website nerd in me yet?)
You can again use the filters on the left hand side of the search results page to narrow down your options further to suit your budget, travel period and preferences. With a lot of qualified options and traveller reviews, this is a nice, comprehensive searchable website to find quality bio hotels.
You can then select whether to book the hotel direct via the website, or contact the hotel directly via the details provided on the listing. Either way, very straightforward and easy to understand!
Their Philosophy: ‘Sustainable economy, buying locally and eco-friendly energy and waste cycles are obligatory for all organic hoteliers. BIO HOTELS was the first hotel group to undergo certification by eco hotels certified. Therefore the constant improvement of our carbon footprint is our declared common goal.’
Requirements for Bio Hotels: As you would expect for such a well established organisation, the Bio Hotels has quite a strict requirement level, and are the only ones I’Ve spotted so far that carry out inspections and checks on the performance of adherence to the requirements.
You can see the full Statue of Bio Hotels here, if you really want to go indepth, or the TLDR version is that the BioHotels must be;
Completely sustainable: organic standards in all areas
- 100% organic foods and organic products in the organic restaurants
- Energy standards through the eco hotels certified certification
- High food and non-food standards for greater sustainability and eco-friendliness
- Use of organic cosmetics and natural cleaning products
- Purchase of green electricity and paper from recycled or sustainably managed forests
Check their full breakdown of elements that make up a Bio Hotel here, but in essence, you can rest assured there is a concerted effort and maintenance of sustainable practises at each hotel!
The major lesson I learned from this whole experience of trying to find the ‘right’ sustainable getaway was that there is no ‘one perfect way’ to travel slowly and sustainably.
There is no ‘ideal’ way to holiday, travel, or one perfect hotel to stay in as a slow traveller. There are only choices to be made, and if you are working towards a sustainable option (that might not be 100% perfect!) then that is still progress, still ok!
My goal is to share with you guys these alternatives, in the hope we all get a little more informed and make some choices based on the best available information.
But no one – myself included – is going to nail it everytime! The fact that I really only found 5 decent search websites for eco conscious, sustainable hotel options speaks to how far we have to go around this topic.
So all I can encourage you to do, is take the trip – choose an eco hotel if you can.
If you have to fly to get there, then don’t beat yourself up, just offset the carbon costs on one of many available websites that allow you to.
If your hotel isn’t perfectly sustainable because the eco-resort was way out of budget, that’s ok, just take small steps to ensure your impact on the local culture and community is a positive when you visit. Purchase from small businesses, reach out to local communities, volunteer if you can.
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Sometimes the simplest places are the most beautiful 💕 This mountain hut ‘Hexenhutte’ midway down the peak of the Masner was a hard-earned treat to visit. It’s the furthest possible rustic hut from our village of Serfaus, midway down a red run piste, but absolutely worth the effort! The first day we visited it was a blazing sunshine bluebird ski day and the terrace was rammed with people, I hid in a shady spot to rest and avoid getting sunburnt. The next day though – we had the whole terrace to ourselves and cosied up inside with a warm soup to recover from the tough weather conditions. I fell a little more in love with it every day 😊 . . . #lovetyrol #tyrol #austria #mountainmoments #feelaustria #discoveraustria #exploreaustria #igaustria #myaustrianadventure #austrianblogger #igersviennaontour #serfausfissladis radgirlstravel #mountaingirl #tirol #igersvienna #littlelocaladventure #slowtravel #slowliving
There are no perfect solutions to sustainable, slow travel, and I’m not going to pretend I’m perfect and making the ‘best’ decisions everytime I travel. But using the websites above, we can all start to shift towards a more sustainable travelling future.
Do you know any other websites that help find sustainable hotels and experiences? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to find more!
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