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Boutique hotel expert Juliet Kinsman reckons being a considerate traveller is as good for your mood as having a holiday romance. Here, the founder of Bouteco highlights the heroes and shows you how to make the world a better place through your travels.
All hail the new generation of non-toxic hotels where your hosts are sidestepping chemicals when it comes to their gardens, their groceries or their great-looking interiors.
I have this weird habit of imagining myself wearing a magic pair of spectacles that let me see all the chemicals and toxins in the air, on surfaces and all around us. Living in a busy, polluted city such as London that means I often conjure a technicoloured heat map of vibrant swirls… A blizzard of brightness denoting all the manmade nasties trumping how Mother Nature intended our environments to be.
So imagine a world where if you wore these wondrous mythical goggles it treated you to a soothing palette of pleasing all-natural pastels. Starting with the paints hotels use. Environmentally friendly paints are an interior-design consideration that many neglect to think about (or which cost too much more) which is crazy when benzene and formaldehyde can be among the toxic chemicals found in traditional emulsions.
Opting for low-VOC supplies is a simple way for a hotel to boost its sustainability since these colours are low in — or even better, free of – volatile organic compounds. Props to Bankside, which has just opened in London‘s SE1 for recognising this.
Ask Wikipedia what the term “organic” connotes and it says: “Food that is not genetically engineered and grown without the assistance of toxic chemicals, including many synthetic pesticides, with the term “organic farming” coined by Lord Northbourne in 1940, although the beginnings of the organic movement can be traced back to the start of the 1800s.” To me, it merely means letting nature do its thing without our meddling with industrially created substances.
Over in the green hills of Ibiza, La Granja is an agriturismo which promises back-to-nature farmhouse forays. I haven’t stayed, but the 200-year-old reimagined finca has been converted into a carbon-neutral hideout appeals to me thanks to horticulturist Andy Szymanowicz getting busy there with his biodynamic farming ways, educating all in why probiotics and permaculture is king.
Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm in Albuquerque New Mexico below the Sandia Mountains is another winking its eye at me for blending style with sustainability. Let’s raise a glass of Mètode Gravetat wine from Can Axartell to that when next at Son Brull in Mallorca. (Of course, if you’re a stickler for certification when it comes to trying to verify accreditations, you can expect to be opening a – most likely inorganic – can of worms as far as markets and their soil standards go, but it’s a start).
Recently, I met two sustainability smartie-pants – Mark Garrett and Piet van Zyl – at the Datai in Malaysia, who are working wonders by implementing permaculture and zero-waste principles and making this a compelling aspect of luxury-hotel experiences. Mark explained, simply, permaculture is based upon working with nature, not against it, and having plant-based systems which honour how nature has always done things.
Over in Mauritius, brand-new hotel SALT of Palmar is turning up the volume on the pesticide problem. By acknowledging that produce on this African island in particular uses an eye-watering amount of pesticides (with crops recording higher residue levels way above the threshold recommended by health specialists) any produce that they don’t grow themselves, they source from carefully selected farms.
Also celebrating sustainability and nature in all its glory is Fivelements in Bali. This thatched, bamboo riverside retreat sees that their all-natural therapies include fruit, vegetables and spices you’d be more likely to cook with than soak and scrub. A further-flung spa adventure a hop eastwards is Nihi on the undeveloped Indonesian island, Sumba. Spa days start with a hike through savannahs, farmland, untouched villages and end with back-to-back homemade wraps and rubs in a shack overlooking only the ocean.
Synthetic artificial experiences are being trumped by a deeper connection with nature – especially when it comes to wellbeing. Bambu Indah, also in Bali, is another which lets the landscape do the showing off. So in tune with nature are they, their natural swimming pool uses lava stones and vegetation to organically cleanse, filter and oxygenate its water. Non-chlorinated pools are exceptionally appealing with this in mind, both for your skin and the environment.
The small but perfectly formed Aman Spa at the Connaught Hotel has a UV system ionise the water in its beautifully lit pool and the 16-metre indoor one at Herb House spa at Lime Wood in Hampshire is ozone-treated – which means ozone molecules are used to clean the water and zap pathogens and micro-contaminants. Over in Cornwall, the Scarlet‘s rocky freshwater outdoor pool is naturally filtered by reeds while the one indoors is treated using low-dosage bromine.
As New York photographer Khang Kijarro Nguyen quipped: “When God created the Garden of Eden, She didn’t use synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and GMO apples.”
Cleaner conscience, cleaner planet.
*Garuda is now flying directly to Bali three times a week from the UK — not that flying is very organic; although at least Air France’s new airline, Joon, serves organic coffee and a few eco-friendlier snacks. For a fuller eco-minded guide to Bali, read this.
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