How to Choose a Sustainable Resort

Tips to avoid greenwashing and pick the right sustainable resort

Samasati Retreat and Rainforest Sanctuary in Costa Rica. http://www.samasati.com/

More and more travelers are looking to stay at resorts that reflect their values and their commitment to sustainability. They look to stay at places that are making an effort to reduce their impact on the environment, and instead maybe even have a positive effect on it and its surrounding communities.

When it comes to the hotel industry, green is the new black.

But as with anything, there’s marketing and then there’s reality.

How can you tell if a resort is truly green? What are the things to look for when you want to make sure you’re spending your money and supporting businesses that are truly environmentally conscious? The first thing to realize is that, while most consumers think mostly of environmental sustainability, there are actually two other factors which ideally should be taken into consideration when choosing an eco-resort.

Environmental Sustainability

Hotels concerned with this factor are looking out for the impact they might have on the environment and try to minimize it as much as possible. They employ practices like giving the option to guests to reuse towels instead of replacing them daily, not washing sheets every day, using energy-saving devices and low-energy lightbulbs, purchasing recycled products, and sourcing food and raw materials locally, etc.

Consumers can look for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified hotels to make sure they follow green practices. Some resorts also offer the possibility of offsetting their guest's carbon footprint by purchasing carbon offset credits along with their reservation.

Social Sustainability

Some hotels have sadly had a negative impact on the communities in which they have been built by bringing foreign employees instead of employing the locals or indirectly raising the cost of living in the area in which they are located.

The social sustainability factor speaks to the commitment the resort has towards supporting the local community by implementing practices that include employing locals, paying livable wages, offering training to develop skills, or providing access to other services with the goal of improving the local standard of living.

Economic Sustainability

In order to cater to visitor’s tastes, sometimes hotels make the choice to bring in food and materials from abroad. Resorts with a focus on economic sustainability take care to use local products so that they can have a positive impact on the local economy. This can include partnerships with local businesses, artisans and craftspeople, farms, and other local services such as local tour guides.

Environmental, social and economic sustainability are about inclusion and treating the local community with respect towards their people and their places, which they are gracefully sharing with visitors.

So how do you know if a resort is truly sustainable or not?

Legitimate Eco-Certification

The easiest most straightforward way to find out if a resort is truly sustainable is to look for legitimate eco-certification.

However, while there are many eco-certifying bodies, not all are created equal: some certifications are very thorough, costly, and can take years while others are easily available for purchase.

For this reason, a cadre of renowned sustainability experts founded the Global Sustainable Tourism Council: a third-party international initiative that has put together a set of minimum sustainability criteria which must be met by certification programs in order to obtain GSTC certification. This is to say that GSTC is a certifier which certifies the credibility of the various eco-certifications.

To make sure the resort you’re considering staying at is truly sustainable, look for a GSTC-approved sustainability certification.

Due Diligence

That being said, not all hotels can afford to go through the eco-certification process. Some are too small or new, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t comply with sustainable practices.

In this case, the best thing to do is… Ask questions!

Call or email the hotel, and ask about their commitment to sustainability and what they’re doing to uphold it. And when you do find that wonderful eco-resort that truly takes sustainability seriously, don’t keep it to yourself!

Share your beautiful photos, write an online review, and tell your family and friends so that everyone can benefit: the hotel, your loved ones, the local community, and future travelers.