Luxury and sustainability haven’t always gone hand in hand. Once upon a time, the idea of eco-consciousness might have evoked a dyed-in-the-wool hippie, stocking up on tempeh in a spartan home in the woods. And particularly when it comes to travel, high-end hotels haven’t typically been known for their sustainability bona fides. Between daily linen changes, 24/7 electricity and continental breakfasts that practically guarantee food waste, luxury hotels and resorts have been slow to adapt to the sustainability efforts that have transformed other industries.
But the times they are a-changing. And now, a raft of new luxury hotels around the world are aiming to offer their guests the opportunity for five-star experiences that respect Mother Earth’s finite resources, too. From the hills of Bhutan to the streets of Los Angeles, here are some of our favorites.
Cara Hotel, Los Angeles: Tucked away in an exquisite Spanish colonial in Los Feliz, the Cara Hotel is an architectural gem with a serious commitment to sustainability. The hotel’s courtyard plays host to its elegant Cara Restaurant, which is surrounded by 100-year-old olive trees and features exquisite seasonal food grown by local organic farmers. The property is largely free of single-use plastics, with an electric system run primarily on timers and keycards to minimize usage. The decor is at once lush, soothing and historic, with beautiful herringbone floors in the rooms leading to balconies overlooking the courtyard — all the better to enjoy a fair trade coffee with before heading out to explore the city.
The Lodge at Blue Sky, Park City: All the stone used to build The Lodge at Blue Sky comes from a stone quarry several miles down the road from the property. This hyper-local and environmental focus extends to the property’s forgoing of single-use plastics, along with its wastewater treatment facility. The hotel also has its own organic farm, Gracie’s Farm, which is a female-led “no till” farm that supplies the restaurant and beyond with vegetables, herbs, wildflower and honey. The 46 rooms and suites are built into the natural landscape, leading to a feeling of total immersion with nature, but feature high-end comforts and amenities such as fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows, soaking tubs and rain showers.
Lunch at the Osprey Restaurant at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Bamford Spa at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
The lobby at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge.
Six Senses, Bhutan: Bhutan is the world’s only carbon-negative country, and everything the luxurious Six Senses resort does is to protect that. The hotel’s 82 rooms and suites are nestled high up in the Himalayan mountain range, and the property actively manages every bit of its energy, water, waste and chemical usage. Guests can take guided hikes through the pristine national forests surrounding the property, along with yoga classes and guided meditations, and the country’s deep Buddhist roots and tradition are woven throughout the activities and offerings at the hotel, including the opportunity to meet with monks in a nearby 15th-century temple. Deep respect for the land and its people is at the heart of Six Senses Bhutan, which visitors report leaving feeling as cleansed and pristine as the country around them. Editor’s Note: Bhutan is currently closed for tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please check current restrictions before booking travel.
Olas, Tulum: Tulum is no stranger to the eco-chic way of life. But if the coastal enclave along Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula has a standout hotel marrying luxury and sustainability, Casa de las Olas would unquestionably be that place. The eight-room boutique villa has made commitments to both the land it sits on and the local people of Tulum. Everything is powered by solar energy, and cisterns on the roof purify water from nearby cenotes before gravity-feeding them into each suite. Everything in the on-site restaurant comes from local farms and farmers, including seafood from fishermen whose families have been fishing the local waters for generations. The suites themselves are beautiful, airy and peaceful, and many have balconies with views facing the ocean.
Svart, Norway: Perched along Norway’s Helgeland coastline, the Svart Hotel will be the world’s first net positive energy hotel when it opens in the near future. The ambitious sustainability initiatives the hotel has undertaken include powering the entire property through solar energy. Svart’s location above the Arctic Circle means that it will store solar energy from the long, sunny summer days for the winter season, when there may be only a few hours of daylight. And the hotel’s wood, natural stone and glass construction doesn’t only look minimalistic and chic — it also consumes less energy than materials like concrete. Glacial scenery abounds beyond the hotel’s walls, and lucky travelers may even have a chance to see the famed Northern Lights.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, New York: The 1 Hotels are famously sustainability-oriented, and the Brooklyn Bridge outpost is no exception. From the biophilic design principles that have the lobby covered with plants to the organic food served at the on-site restaurant to Carole Bamford’s beloved Bamford Wellness Spa — with its Ayurvedic-forward treatments and exceptional massages — every inch of the LEED-certified hotel has been designed with health and sustainability in mind. And although the hotel is perched along the waterfront in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dumbo and many rooms have panoramic views of the city, there’s one room in particular we like to request. Our favorite is the one that plays host to what the New York Times called the best bathtub in New York: there’s no better place we know to soak the cares of the world away in.
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