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Boutique Hotels Offering Sustainability Without Sacrificing Luxury

Boutique Hotels Offering Sustainability Without Sacrificing Luxury

Truly sustainable, luxurious travel can be oxymoronic. Any grand world tour racks up a laundry list of planes, trains, and automobiles, meaning that any hope for low-footprint wanderlust starts off on the wrong foot. Yesterday’s hotels, for that matter, stressed the sort of temporary luxuries destined for landfills (single-use shampoos, fresh daily sheets, and plush throwaway slippers), but a newer definition of high-end travel indulges the whims of tonight just as much as the ne of tomorrow.

Today’s first-rate hotels make a lasting impression—with less impact. Cutting-edge features like on-site bottling plants eliminate rubbish, while architects repurpose existing buildings (from old banks and shuttered newspaper headquarters) in an effort to reduce rubble. Taking it up a notch, rooftop fisheries bring farm-to-table cuisine over-the-top, while down at street-level, hotels embrace local communities with ambitious social programming. Luxury takes sacrifice, but the latest sustainably minded hotels are making moves to ensure it doesn’t go to waste.

Meliá Serengeti Lodge, Tanzania

Photo: Courtesy of Meliá Serengeti Lodge

There is no air conditioning at Meliá Serengeti Lodge, the brand’s first sustainability-focused property, but don’t sweat: Rooms were designed to stay cool merely with back-up fans and a specialized ventilation system. What else? The lodge is solar powered—not an issue in this sun-drenched savannah—and skips fossil fuels for biogas. Rainwater isn’t just for rainbows, either, as it’s recycled throughout the property, and the laundry is all sun-dried, naturally.

Taj Exotica Resort Spa, Andamans

Photo: Chris Caldicott

At Taj Exotica Resort Spa, Andamans, the first luxury resort to set foot in this stretch of the Bay of Bengal island chain, steps were made so that the resort doesn’t make a lasting impression—on the landscape, that is. In order to put a cap on excessive plastic, the resort has its own bottling plant, and you’ll forgive the resort for skipping throwaway straws for biodegradable alternatives made from bamboo. Speaking of trees, look around: No trees were removed during construction but rather were incorporated straight into the design.

The Retreat by Heaven, Kigali, Rwanda

Photo: Marble Rye Photography

Sure, the construction of The Retreat, designed by Zeno Riondato of Active Social Architecture in the urban neighborhood of Kigali, considers sustainability—its scale is intimate, with just 11 guest rooms entirely run by solar-powered electricity and built using a sustainable teak wood sourced from Tanzania. But the real resource for which it’s designed to sustain is less physical than personal: the purpose of The Retreat is to foster local talent, meaning that anything from the hotel’s walls to the lettuce from an on-site organic garden is hand-built or hand-picked by local Rwandans. Here, sustainability is a social endeavor.

QO Amsterdam, Netherlands

Photo: TodaysBrew

It’s what’s on the inside that counts, but QO Amsterdam makes a case for the outside, too. Rising 21 floors, the building is coated with thermal panels. The façade reacts to the weather, increasing insulation on hot, bright days while allowing more sunlight inside when it’s cold. Beyond the surface, warm water, saved and stored deep underground in the summer, gets pumped back into the hotel when its cold. Better yet? A rooftop aquaponic greenhouse takes it over-the-top, peppering the restaurants with site-grown flavor—sustainable fish, bite-size fruits, and edible flowers are up for grabs.

The Waldhotel at Bürgenstock Resort Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Photo: Courtesy of Bürgenstock Resort Lake Lucerne

Designed by architect Matteo Thun, The Waldhotel Health Medical Excellence, a wellness retreat located within the Bürgenstock Resort Lake Lucerne, asserts that wellness isn’t skin-deep. While the entire resort is nearly CO2-neutral (the cold water of Lake Lucerne enables the air conditioning system and even the ice found in your glass), their newly opened wellness center happens to be the largest gabion façade in the world; using metallic mesh containers filled with crushed limestone directly from the construction site, it makes for a naturally, and locally sourced material. Framed with a larch wooden lattice, plants grow across the surface, which means even the walls breathe easy at this wellness retreat.