The Eco Aesthete: Hotels Sexing Up Sustainability

The Eco Aesthete: Hotels Sexing Up Sustainability

Boutique hotel expert Juliet Kinsman reckons being a
considerate traveller is as good for your mood as having a steamy
holiday romance. Here, the founder of Bouteco highlights the heroes and shows you how to
make the world a better place through your travels.

The concept of an “eco-hotel” is nothing new – but rickety
shacks with compostable toilets and no hot water won’t cut it if
you crave joy-inducing comfort and design. Since “sustainable”
means preserving resources for future generations, pay it forward
by choosing a hotel with a big heart and which is kind and
considerate to its community. The best part – it’ll make you feel
as good as a passionate fling does.

Why? Kissing kick-starts the neurotransmitter in the brain that
is linked with pleasure to release dopamine, making you feel happy
and rewarded. The same science can be applied to doing good while
we’re away – it’s not just sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll which
elicits those happy hormones. Stay in a place with a conscience
and, bingo, you’ll have an unforgettable holiday packaged up with
feel-good therapy, as well as a sense of social and environmental

Wilbert Das, ex-Creative
Director of Diesel, is compensating for two decades in fast fashion
by ensuring his Brazilian hotel UXUA lives in harmony with its
Trancoso neighbours. The name
means “beautiful” in the dying-out tongue of the Pataxó Indians.
The designer repurposed a cluster of 16th-century fishermen’s
houses cheek by jowl with local families, and funded a Capoeira
Academy. The restoration work used age-old artisanal methods,
reclaimed materials and combines indigenous curios with
iconoclastic creativity. As a guest, holidaying amid hand-crafted
tasteful interiors and thought-provoking art is far more gratifying
than being in a could-be-anywhere chain hotel. It’s a reminder that
we may have more meaningful memories if we sidestep that
foreign-owned, all-inclusive resort and stay in an independent
guesthouse, and eat and drink at more low-key local addresses our
contribution might be more valuable. And chances are you’ll get
more authentic cuisine, seasonal ingredients and homegrown

Hyperlocal recruitment is another halo earner when it comes to
being an ethical establishment. Good Hotel, a repurposed Dutch
prison moored at Royal Victoria Docks, provides work for the
long-term unemployed of East London through hip hospitality. It’s
surprising how many establishments which serve a high-spending
clientele don’t prioritise paying decent wages. The Reading Rooms in Margate
may only be a three-room boutique B&B, but its proprietor is a
stickler for an ethical payroll and they pride themselves on being
a UK Living Wage employer. In Morocco, Kasbah du Toubkal was set up by
brothers Chris and Mike McHugo to be run entirely by local Berber

Low-flow showers have rarely boosted a hotel’s sex appeal – but
saving water is now an aphrodisiac. A tour of the biogas, sewage
and rainwater-harvesting systems at Marari Beach Resort in Kerala is
as fascinating as their nature walks. At Alila Uluwatu in Bali, ogle
award-winning architecture and staggering sea horizons, then nerd
out over a back-of-house filtration and bottling system which
allows them to be plastic free. For those going green, energy
efficiency is a turn-on – Chile’s Tierra Atacama is South
America’s first 100% solar-powered hotel.

Harmonising luxury hospitality with social and environmental
stewardship under the guiding principle of “intelligent luxury”,
eco-luxe resort brand Soneva was the creation of Sonu Shivdasani
and his wife, Eva. Their first hotel was on the deserted Maldivian
island of Kunfunadhoo: Soneva Fushi was a pioneer in a
barefoot, indulgent yet ethical approach to luxury hospitality,
with sustainability guiding the brand’s philosophy from the outset.
Since establishing Six Senses Resorts and Spas (they sold the group
of hotels in 2012), Sonu has gone on to dedicate his time to
tackling global social and environmental challenges through the
Soneva Foundation. Knowing that your room rate supports long-term
initiatives makes time away all the more life affirming. Feeling
the soft white sand of Soneva’s five-star Indian Ocean retreats
under your feet is all the more appealing when you know they’re
supporting various charities. This includes thousands of people in
Myanmar receiving clean-burning
stoves, saving the atmosphere from tons of carbon dioxide and
enabling safer cooking practices for many families.

Really, to be truly sustainable, we should skip air miles and
staycation. Why not head to the Isle of Wight for one of Vintage
Vacations’ new architect-designed, eco-friendly Tiny
? The campus has a studio which hosts a punchy programme
of talks and workshops from yoga to bread-making and clothing
up-cycling. The important thing to remember is that it can be okay
to leave a footprint – as long as it’s a positive one.