Worried about the carbon footprint you leave behind when you travel? More and more vacation destinations are making it easy to ease your eco-consious mind. In fact, being eco-friendly is downright luxurious at these five sustainably minded resorts.
The name Cousteau is synonymous with marine conservation and the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji is a paragon of sustainable tourism in a fragile coastal ecosystem, proving that ecological tourism can be profitable and impactful. By educating guests through memorable programming like snorkeling, diving, and medicine walks with a resident marine biologist, the resort hopes to inspire guests to become lifelong environmentalists when they return home. You can even help plant mangrove trees to minimize coastal erosion.
There’s no air-conditioning in 24 of the resort’s 25 bures, but you won’t miss it. These Fijian bungalows are constructed with high temple ceilings, sustainable wood and thatching, ceiling fans, and cross ventilation from the gentle island breeze. Fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen are composted to nourish the organic vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens, which provide more than 30 percent of the produce served on property. No reef fish are served on property, only pelagic fish like yellowfin tuna, deep sea snapper, and walu. Perhaps most impressive, the resort features Fiji’s first water reclamation plant and uses recycled water for all landscaping.
The children’s programming here is the most extensive and thoughtful I’ve ever seen. Kids are divided into three age ranges — 0-5 years old, 6-12 years old, and teens — with different clubs and excursions (cooking classes, visiting a local school, Fijian language lessons, crab trap making) dedicated to each age group.
Each villa at Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An has a copy of “Love Letter to the Earth,” written by Vietnam’s most renowned peace activist and scholar, Thich Nhat Hanh. The short but poignant read encourages guests to cherish and love Mother Earth, an ethos the resort truly lives by. Energy-saving initiatives include using electric motors for all golf carts and replacing all halogen lights with LED bulbs.
Spa villas at The Heart of the Earth Spa overlook a tranquil pond and every treatment includes a crystal sound vibration to connect the heart with the earth. The signature Nam Hai Earth Song and Vietnamese body treatment use ginger and mint from the resort’s organic herb and vegetable farm, which employs 10 full-time gardeners and grows 35 seasonal varieties of produce. In addition to the spa, the harvest supports The Nam Hai Cooking Academy and resort restaurants and bars.
Perhaps the most touching of the complimentary activities around the resort (classes include calligraphy, silk flower making, and conical hat embroidery) is the nightly ceremony where guests bid goodnight to the earth at a spa reception with crystal singing bowls. Write your own love letter to the earth, fold it up, and float it away on the lotus pond with a flickering candle.
Sonora Resort, Discovery Islands, British Columbia
Fly by helicopter or sea plane from Vancouver to this remote resort in the Discovery Islands of British Columbia. The land, water, and air here are remarkably pristine and Sonora Resort takes its responsibility as a steward of nature seriously. As an island resort, water sources are of paramount importance. All water is sand-filtered and UV-radiated well water and each guest receives a stainless steel water bottle to fill up throughout their stay. Eco-friendly detergents and cleaning products are a no-brainer and reduced-flow shower heads still maintain good water pressure.
They’re currently working on permits for a Sanitherm reverse-osmosis sewage treatment plant, the first of its kind at a coastal resort. Once permission has been obtained, treated water will be used for irrigating landscaping around the resort.
Eco-adventures here include grizzly bear safaris, kayaking, and hikes in the vast wilderness. But it’s Chinook salmon fishing that Sonora is most famous for. Sonora Resort works closely with the Gillard Pass Fish Hatchery to replenish the stock of Chinook salmon and guests are encouraged to participate in a voluntary catch-and-release program, providing fish catch and retention data to biologists. Feel free to keep a couple though — you can have them flash frozen and shipped back home, or Chef Lukas Gurtner will prepare your fresh catch for dinner.
Aria, Las Vegas
The Las Vegas Strip and “environmentally friendly” hardly seem like a match made in heaven, but the Aria Resort and Casino is a dark horse conservation champion, and has been since it opened in 2009, achieving LEED Gold certification and becoming an icon of sustainable urban development. These sustainability efforts are mostly behind the scenes, never compromising the luxurious guest experience. For starters, 85 percent of the previous building was reused and recycled into what now stands as Aria.
Chances are, a weekend in Vegas includes a lot of indulgences, including famous all-you-can-eat buffets. Don’t stress if you aren’t in the clean plate club though. Leftovers from all 16 of Aria’s restaurants are reused by local farms to feed livestock. Plus, all the cooking oil is converted into biofuel to produce heat and electricity for the hotel. And when you’re lounging by the perfectly heated pool, know that a state-of-the-art central power plant is recycling excess heat to keep Aria’s pools 82 degrees year round. Even the fancy car service is green — the fleet of clean-burning compressed gas limos and Lincoln Navigators reduces CO2 emissions by 30 percent.
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Amber Gibson spends 340 nights a year in hotels searching for the latest and greatest in the travel industry. Her writing and photographs have appeared in print, online, and on the radio for outlets including Four Seasons Magazine, NPR, Saveur, Departures, Rhapsody, Hemispheres, American Way, Private Air, Wine Folly, Plate, Chicago Magazine, Tasting Table, and Serious Eats. She graduated as valedictorian from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and received a fellowship to attend the 2017 Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley. Champagne, dark chocolate, and gelato are her biggest weaknesses. She also admires and supports CAASE in Chicago. Follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter.