Travelling is no longer at odds with maintaining a sustainable lifestyle, but it is not always easy to find eco-friendly accommodation options. Gone are the days when a hotel could boast of having green credentials through simple gestures such as not changing bed linen every day to avoid wasting water. Of course, these are initiatives that do help, but many travellers are no longer satisfied with that. They want sustainability with greater impact, measures that truly reflect a way of life in harmony with nature and a philosophy that puts the main focus on the health of our planet – all values that are promoted by accreditations such as Green Tourism, a national hallmark of quality. Here are a few ideas to get you inspired.
This mansion, with its 250-year history, has made sustainability its main hallmark. And they take this very seriously, by implementing measures such as making heating more sustainable by using a biomass boiler that is also used to recycle hotel waste, not using plastic in their rooms, decorating with natural fabrics and installing LED lighting. The hotel also has two restaurants, Marle and Hearth, which is sufficient reason to pay it a visit, as the culinary director is Skye Gyngell, a chef who has built her career around her commitment to sustainability. At Heckfield Place, she takes her culinary philosophy of seasonal cooking and product availability to the limit: the menu contains ingredients produced using regenerative growing methods on the hotel grounds, which guests can explore and which occupy a total of 160 hectares. In addition to the gardens, there are beehives, greenhouses, cows, pigs, sheep and hens, which guarantee a plentiful supply of fresh ingredients. It’s a great way to provide seasonal, ecological foods and drastically reduce the carbon footprint of each dish, as the distance it travels from the earth to the table is very short.
With views of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Top of the Woods is the perfect place to reconnect with nature and get away from it all. You can enjoy the experience of seeing a starry sky with no light pollution every night, in addition to exploring its eleven hectares of countryside and gardens, where the owners have manually planted more than two thousand trees and hundreds of wild plants, in an effort to strengthen the surrounding ecosystem. What’s more, Top of the Woods has free access to dozens of kilometres of adjacent public forestland. There are four accommodation options with tents of different sizes, including yurt tents and safari-style tents. There are also lodges, which have bathrooms, private showers and ample space for cooking and eating inside them. They also have traditional camping plots. The decoration is basic but has its charm: the beds and tables are made of local wood, all the food they provide is ecological and the blankets in each tent, made from the wool of local sheep, are the best way to protect yourself from the cold and go out and see the stars.
South-west England is a paradise of green meadows, spectacular cliffs and kilometres of beaches. The Pig is located here in this privileged site. With more than 1,400 hectares of land, the grounds contain many nooks in which to enjoy peace and quiet, and the rolling hills and feeling of spaciousness that is so typical of the region is noticeable with every step you take. The Pig’s motto is to always reuse and recycle when possible, from compost to cooking oil, and they do their best to reduce the impact of their business, as well as implementing a policy that favours the use of ingredients produced within a radius of no more than 40 kilometres from the hotel. What’s more, they grow some of the products they use to prepare their menus on their grounds (the group’s hotels collect a total of more than 17 tons of fruit and vegetables each season), keep bees and cure their own meat, thus reducing their carbon footprint. Aside from all of the above, it’s in an absolutely marvellous location near the Jurassic Coast, a protected area where you can admire the English countryside in peaceful surroundings.
This eco retreat, with its simple, easy pods, is tucked away in a corner of Loveland Farm, on the border between Devon and Cornwall. It is less than two kilometres from the coast and perfect for couples or groups of friends.
The pods are dome-like structures with a stainless-steel skeleton covered with canvas and they have clear sides to allow you to see the stars from your bed. There are different sizes (they sleep 2-8 people) and they all have showers and eco loos. At present they only offer the self-catering option, but you can always buy products from the farm including eggs, bacon and sausages, and there’s even a pizza night on Fridays. Guests will love the heated 11-metre indoor saltwater pool. It’s in the old granary and the water is heated sustainably with wood chip biomass.
Searching for sustainability does not necessarily mean heading for the country. The Zetter is an elegant London hotel that will make you dream of not only living in one of the classiest neighbourhoods in the city, but also bumping into a 20th century Oscar Wilde, if such a person exists, as they would most certainly be staying there. One of the reasons why this hotel’s sustainable credentials put it head and shoulders above its competitors is that, due to the measures taken during its construction in 2004, it is now able to generate most of the water it uses itself, as well as energy for cooling its refrigerators and rooms. The beautiful wood used in its construction is sustainable and the paintwork is eco-friendly. Other small measures that make a difference are that the rooms have sensors that reduce energy consumption to a minimum when they are not occupied and that the air conditioning goes off whenever a window is opened. In addition, they have a strategy to eliminate the use of plastic in their rooms and have even persuaded many of their suppliers to use fully recyclable packaging too. Furthermore, the breakfasts served at the Zetter are truly wonderful, and although their service is so good that you won’t want to leave the hotel, they offer their guests a bicycle rental service too. A real luxury!
The young chef Merlin Labron-Johnson lived in London (where he won his first Michelin star at the age of 24) just long enough for him to realise that he wanted to get back to his roots in the country. His concern for sustainability, which has always formed part of his culinary focus, led him to open his first restaurant, Osip, at Number One Bruton. This tiny hotel with twelve rooms is in Bruton itself, a pretty village that Steinbeck once defined as “a place that does you good and helps you see clearly”. The Georgian-style buildings, connected by a private courtyard, invite you to relax, while the project’s aim is to extol and protect the centenary culture and crafts of Somerset in a single place. The eco-friendly natural paint by Edward Bulmer, the delicate carpentry of the beds and the farm-to-table philosophy of the Osip restaurant make Number One perfect for those with a very stylish and eco-friendly mentality.
Reaching these remote isles, in the north-west part of the country, is quite an adventure in itself, but the effort is well worth it. Bays with crystal clear waters, nature in its purest state and the chance to feel you are far from city living are just some of the benefits of travelling to sites such as the Isle of Iona, where the Argyll Hotel is located. In this Fairtrade certified establishment, made of stone and built at the end of the 19th century, the rooms are small but cosy. The hotel restaurant has seasonal menus and eco-friendly suppliers from the nearby Isle of Mull, and they also bake their own bread and desserts, in addition to growing their own vegetables.