An eco resort, by loose definition, would be a lodging facility that takes steps to reduce its carbon footprint while giving back to its local community. I’m sure this definition would be far too lenient for some folks. But there are many shades of green, and no “green police,” so for our conversation here, that is what I’m using.
Exploring the Eco-Resort Definition a Bit Further
I know what you’re probably thinking; how eco-friendly can a resort be if I have to fly/boat/drive there?! There are ways of balancing out the transportation. For example, the Soneva Fushi in the Maldives has made huge commitments to being zero carbon. How can this be on a tiny island? By offsetting their travel-cost footprint with other emission-reducing activities such as building wind turbines in India.
There is also the issue of overuse or excessive human traffic that could throw off an ecosystem. It is possible that too many people trampling through a rain forest or poking around coral reefs will harm the very environment these people are trying to save. Green resorts go to great lengths to teach their guests about how to coexist in partnership with nature; think leave-no-trace.
Many eco-resorts in small, tropical locations realize the marine environment is their bread and butter. They take great steps to educate their guests about sea life and the necessary steps to protect the fragile underwater ecosystem. You know, don’t ever poke, touch, break-off a piece of coral from a reef, that kind of thing. Some even make use of voluntourism by giving large discounts to guests willing to work for a specified period of time during their visit. Yes, read ‘free nights’!
What Should You Expect Once You Get to an Eco-resort?
There are quite a few of them, but you don’t have to fly half way around the world to enjoy eco-resorts. There are numerous lodging facilities in the United States that are eco-friendly. Though many of them are a lighter shade of green, some go to extreme measures to be sustainable. One inn in the Berkshires emails guests about their policies with their confirmation. And what are those policies?
- No smoking.
- No chemical fragrances or bug repellants.
- You must leave your shoes at the door or cover them in special neoprene booties so you won’t track in pollutants.
- And you must leave all of your own personal grooming products at home. You are only allowed to use the organic products the inn provides.
Yikes! I mean, I can deal with the first three, but no grooming products?! I don’t know if I’m so green that I’m jumping right in with powdered teeth-cleaning substances. Yes, powdered. Like I said, varying shades of green, and this one is about as extreme as I’ve seen.
There are a couple of eco-resorts in my hometown of Duluth, MN. They take steps to reduce fragrances and use organic and locally grown or made items. One worm-composts their fruits and vegetables and uses that to fertilize their berry gardens; now that’s recycling! Another gives guests who have two or more rooms a discount if they carpool. Nice!
Because many people travel to see/do things in a natural environment, tourism and sustainability go hand in hand. If the reasons for traveling to a certain area are removed, the lodging facilities will close. If the resorts want to maintain their customer base, they’ll work to help the local environment through their policies. So even if you have to emit a little carbon to fly, boat, or drive there, it’s what you do while you’re there that matters.
How Do You Know if a Resort Really is an Eco-resort?
You could ask! Either directly to the staff of the establishment or query opinions of past guests through social media. Most places that have a sustainability focus are proud of their efforts and go out of their way to promote them. Some have a featured green page on their website. Others seek out third-party certification; that is one way to know for sure – these tend to be regional or country-specific.
Still Not Sure the Eco-resort is for You?
Only you can answer that. If you are on the fence, I would suggest starting in the middle-of-the-road range; don’t jump right into powdered toothpaste and borrowed toiletries. Do your homework and really read up on the policies and principles of the places you’re considering before you pick one. But if you are an adventurous person and want to preserve things for generations to come, well, think free nights in the Maldives!