5 hotels that are redefining sustainable travel through an energy-friendly approach

In the end, the energy you take is equal to the energy you make. Here are some hotels that will enable you to make more responsible choices the next time you travel.

Who doesn’t enjoy travelling? Yet, a congenial stay at a luxurious hotel often adds to the atrocities faced by the environment. Travellers find themselves standing guiltily at the intersection of the crossroads titled ‘sustainability’ and ‘hospitality’. However, a few hotels around the world are adopting new techniques to ensure that their green thumb isn’t reduced in front of a burgeoning carbon footprint, all without compromising on the promised pampering. From a net-zero energy approach to an energy-positive philosophy, these hotels are doing their bit to ensure that greenhouse gases are replaced with a greener future.

Svart, Norway

Located at the foothill of Norway’s second-largest glacier, Svartisen, Hotel Svart stands tall on stilts inspired by local Nordic designs like fiskehjell (an A-shaped wooden structure for drying fish) and the rorbu (a fisherman’s seasonal abode). While the midnight sun lights up the sky during summer, the northern lights glow in the darkness of winter.

Svart 5
Svart lit up in the glow of the Aurora Borealis. Image: Courtesy Svart.

Svart offers its guests a 360-degree panoramic view of Nordic topography in its space just above the Arctic circle, nestled upon the tranquil waters of the Holandsfjorden fjord.

Energy ft 1
The hotel’s unique design and glorious location. Image: Courtesy Svart.

“As an energy-positive hotel, we are producing more energy than we are consuming,” says Ivaylo Lefterov, managing and development director at Svart. “We use mainly solar energy. Our roof structure is designed in such a way that 90 per cent of it provides us with optimal angles to capture sunlight. In Norway, we also have six-eight months of continuous sunlight, which enables us to collect extra energy, which we keep as battery storage,” he adds. Svart also uses electrical boat shuttles to escort guests in and out of the hotel.

Svart 6
Svart’s architecture is inspired by local Nordic designs. Image: Courtesy Svart.

The hotel has a newly introduced ‘Svart-touch Journey’, including the wellness spa, and typical Nordic activities like deep-sea fishing, glacier climbing, and fjord excursions. “But at Svart, we aim to reinforce sustainability throughout for our guests, rather than through one specific activity. We want it to become a part of their daily lives,” Lefterov explains.

Epicurean needs are met through Svart’s Green Farm, which grows most of their vegetables, and nearby fish farms. The conventional reception is replaced with a ‘health concierge’, who helps monitor physical and mental health, post which a detailed wellness experience is customised and designed for each guest. “We can arrange specific dietary requirements and skin-care routines,” Lefterov shares. The staff also assists visitors in acclimatising to Norway’s extreme weather conditions and to cope with outdoor recreational activities like glacier climbing.

Svart 2
Glacier climbing in Norway. Image: Courtesy Svart.

Before checking out of Svart, guests are presented with their individual carbon footprint during their stay, which is nearly always negligible. Lefterov emphasises the dire need to seek solutions, instead of focusing only on gathering data. He says, “I always give the example of wearing a sports bracelet. It measures something but doesn’t tell you what to do. Data is incredibly important, but what you do with that data, is perhaps, even more important.”

Boutiquehotel Stadthalle, Vienna, Austria

It’s easy to forget you’re in the midst of urban Vienna whilst at Boutiquehotel Stadthalle, where guests find themselves surrounded by greenery and a green approach to hospitality. Stadthalle adopts a net-zero energy outlook for pampering their guests, dependent on an extensive solar panel for energy.

Stadthalle 2
The hotel’s green oasis in the midst of Vienna. Image: Courtesy Boutiquehotel Stadthalle.

Each room is individually designed and caters to a different sustainable development goal, complete with upcycled furniture, organic apples, and an intricate ventilation system that circulates fresh air to each room. Stadthalle also has a passive house, a first for the country’s hotel industry. 

Guests can enjoy the view of the scenic Lavender Roof all year, as lavender is winterproof. The roof houses an automatic water-irrigation system and five beehives, all administered by Viennese beekeepers. “Last year our bees produced 90 kilos of honey, which we also offer on our breakfast spread,” Sarah Berger, Sales, and Marketing Manager at Hotel Stadthalle informs me. “There’s a wide variety of bread and local Austrian cheeses, complete with vegan options,” she adds. Stadthalle strictly purchases only organic and seasonal produce, with minimal waste.

Stadthalle 1
Lavender flowers, busy bees, and solar panels atop the roof at the hotel. Image: Courtesy Boutiquehotel Stadthalle.

“To encourage sustainability amongst guests, there’s a 10 per cent discount if you arrive via public transport. You can also use our refurbished bicycles to explore Vienna,” Berger suggests. Offering homely comfort without added carbon costs is the aim at Stadthalle. She smiles, “The message we want to convey to our guests is, welcome to your second home!”

Hotel Marcel, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, New Haven, USA

This newly opened hotel is anticipated to be the first net-zero hotel in the United States. It utilises onsite solar power for its 165 guest rooms and suites, restaurant BLDG, laundry service, meeting rooms, and common areas. The iconic building, originally designed by Marcel Breuer, was refurbished by lead architect, developer, and owner Bruce Redman Becker, FAIA, LEED AP of Becker + Becker. Sustainability, the overriding theme of the redeveloped building, was implemented through an innovative vision and a passion to address current environmental crises.

Marcel 1
Hotel Marcel, New Haven, has redefined sustainable architecture. Image: Courtesy Hilton.

“The opening of this revolutionary hotel is a momentous occasion for travellers, the industry, and the planet. Guests will be ensured a terrific hotel experience and can relax knowing that both they and the environment, are being cared for during their stay,” Becker shares. The hotel functions without fossil fuels and is expected to be the first Passive House-certified hotel in the USA.

Comfort is a given at the hotel, which has triple-glazed windows to keep both, the cold and city noise outside. Built-in motorised sheer and blackout window shades enable restful sleep. While guests recharge, so can their devices, via the 12 Tesla Superchargers or universal level-two chargers for electric vehicles.

Indulge in dishes made using local ingredients, along with biodynamic and organic wines. The ‘grab and go’ station at the hotel fulfils any impulsive hunger pangs, with sustainable snacks, design-focused gifts, and a water filling station for guests. “We are all responsible for confronting the climate crisis, and that sense of obligation is factored into every decision we made in creating Hotel Marcel, New Haven,” Becker points out. 

ITC Windsor, Bengaluru, India

​​The first hotel in the world to be LEED Zero Carbon certified, ITC Windsor, Bengaluru, is paving the way for hotels all over the globe that aim to offer luxury in a sustainable style. “ITC Windsor is powered by its own wind turbine generators and uses innovative energy-efficient technologies such as an electrical boiler, induction burners, and other forms of renewable energy,” shares Abhinav Tyagi, Chief Engineer at ITC Windsor Bengaluru. “Our water bottling plant showcases our zero-mile bespoke drinking water, Sunya Aqua,” he shares. Indulge in a traditional ayurvedic treatment at their spa, Kaya Kalp, or spend the morning in their outdoor swimming pool for instant rejuvenation.

Windsor 1
The outdoor pool at the hotel. Image: Courtesy ITC Windsor, Bengaluru

The hotel’s culinary offerings include farm-to-plate organic dishes, Indian superfoods, cold-pressed juices, and Nut Jars for a daily dose of antioxidants. “Going forward, sustainability will be the bedrock of hospitality, if not a hugely pervasive driver of change,” Tyagi concludes, which summarises the futuristic and environment-conscious attitude of the luxury hotel.

Room2 Ho(me)tel Chiswick, UK

The world’s first whole life net-zero hometel is located in the heart of Chiswick and is redefining sustainable stays for the hospitality industry. The hotel’s design is an amalgam of 19th century decor inspired by the arts and craft movement, and modern tech-enabled facilities of the 21st century. 

Room 2 2
A snapshot of the suite-style room. Image: Courtesy, room2 Ho(me)tel Chiswick.

Room2 Hometel has taken several steps to enable a comfortable, yet sustainable stay for its guests. Water conservation initiatives alongside modern aerated showers for guests, ensure that the former has not dampened the luxurious experience. The rooms feature bespoke artisanal furniture, sourced from within 10 miles of the hotel, in a bid to promote local designers. The ‘market bag’ thoughtfully placed in each room, encourages guests to purchase products locally too. 

Room2 has adopted the sustainability route with great attention to detail, as is visible in its interiors. The carpets were created from 80 per cent recycled fishing nets. Guests are presented with a mattress menu to enable a restful sleep. The hotel’s underground heat pumps use the Earth’s heat to warm or cool the hometel. Their bar is fuelled by solar panels atop the roof, as is the lounge’s lighting. 

Room 2 1
The biophilic entrance. Image: Courtesy, room2 Ho(me)tel Chiswick.

The hotel is also working with a reforestation partner in Nicaragua to calculate its footprint and offset for unavoidable emissions. The project, Eco Planet, grows giant clumping bamboo to absorb carbon from the atmosphere to become a permanent carbon sink. The hotel’s Managing Director, Robert Godwin, visited Nicaragua earlier this year to get a deeper understanding of how their reforestation project absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and the local impact it has, enlightening the long-term conscious approach of the hotel.

Read more.

10 must-visit eco-resorts across India

Green fuels: Not just a flight of fancy

European tourism: EU to reward sustainable practices