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Offering everything from innovative energy solutions to community-based conservation initiatives, these planet-positive destinations are blazing a new trail for eco-conscious travellers
Post-pandemic, meaningful travel experiences have never been more in demand and our newfound appreciation of The Great Getaway coincides with a spike in positive-impact exploration. Indeed, a recent survey conducted by Expedia shows that up to two-thirds of all globe trotters now seek sustainable holidays that deliver eco-focussed accommodation, green transportation solutions, and an authentic commitment to sustainable practices that go beyond lip-service initiatives.
Thankfully, the winners in our Travel & Leisure category have been ahead of the curve in driving positive change and disrupting the industry’s status quo for years. Leading the charge for considered travel, these trailblazers not only help to protect the planet, but also champion local communities and cultures to ensure travellers can enjoy mindful experiences that really don’t cost the earth. Presenting the Marie Claire UK Sustainability Awards 2022 Travel and Leisure winners…
Marie Claire UK Sustainability Awards 2022: Travel and Leisure winners
Best sustainable hotel (independent)
Winner: room2 Chiswick
Located in the heart of London’s leafy Chiswick, room2 is the world’s first whole-life net-zero ‘hometel’, meaning that all carbon emissions associated with its creation – from conception to construction and beyond – have been reduced and rebalanced to deliver a zero-carbon footprint.
Launched in December 2021, room2 Chiswick is 89% more efficient than typical UK-based hotels and has set a new global industry standard for environmental responsibility. Cue advanced technology to deliver solar and ground-source heat pumps, which convert 100% of the energy needed for heating and cooling; ultra-low-flow pressure showers and a ‘blue roof’, which discharges up to 50,000 litres of rainwater into the drainage system; plus a green roof made up of 200 tonnes of soil to promote biodiversity and provide extra insulation. There are also two on-site lab rooms, so that the hotel can constantly refine and improve its systems and a bespoke in-room recycling programme to ensure 100% of waste is reprocessed or converted into energy off-site.
“This space really impressed me – it was clearly built with the intention of sustainability in mind,” says Ashlee Piper, a sustainability expert and Marie Claire UK Sustainability Awards judge. “The commitment to the lab; utilities that only work when someone is in the room; composting and recycling in the hotel; a zero-waste commitment; locally crafted furniture; net-zero emissions – and all this in a large-capacity hotel in the middle of a city like London? It’s pretty groundbreaking and I hope more hotels go down this route.”
Highly commended: Raithwaite Sandsend
Best sustainable hotel (national group)
Winner: Phāea Resorts
Taking a nature-positive, human-centric approach to hospitality, Crete-based Phāea Resorts – comprising Cretan Malia Park, Blue Palace, Village Heights Resort and Koutouloufari Village Holiday Club – is committed to delivering a thoroughly authentic, eco-friendly stay for guests. From serving fresh, organic produce from local growers who champion regenerative farming practices and running each site on 100% renewable energy sources, to partnering with local schools to deliver lessons on the natural world for a future generation of environmentalists, Phāea utilises tourism to support both planet and people.
What’s more, it boasts a plethora of green accreditations, including FSC-certified wood for furnishings, Rainforest Alliance coffee, EU Ecolabel-endorsed cleaning products, and the Green Key seal of approval for its eco ethics and community-focused ethos.
“Well done to the team at Phāea Resorts for building a business model that’s in line with all 17 of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and for putting sustainable development at the forefront of its operations since day one,” says Ally Head, Marie Claire’s health, sustainability and relationships editor and Sustainability Awards judge. “More hotels should be using monitoring systems for greenhouse-gas emissions and solar panels to heat their water.”
Highly commended: Creta Maris Beach Resort
Best sustainable hotel (global group)
In March 2021, Accor – which manages prestigious brands, including Fairmont, Raffles, and Banyan Tree – became the first major international hotel group to set long-term, science-based targets to reduce its carbon emissions in line with the 1.5°C ambition of the Paris Agreement. By November 2021, COP26 saw Accor pledge to ban single-use plastic for guests by the end of 2022 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 – again, becoming the first international hotel group to do so.
What does all this mean in practice? Well, guests can expect everything from energy-saving lamps and waste-water treatments to carbon-absorbing paint and extensive recycling programmes (Fairmont even supports honey-bee health through its Bee Sustainable programme, which features live hive monitoring and in-depth honey analysis). And, given the scale of the company, Accor is set to make a positive impact on the industry’s footprint, fast.
Highly focused on reducing waste across its portfolio, Accor impressed founder of UK for Good and Marie Claire Sustainability Awards judge Donna Okell, who says: “Accor is leading by example. Its commitment to the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism demonstrates a clear understanding of the most challenging social and environmental issues facing the tourism industry today – and it’s redefining what ‘good’ looks like to the sector both globally and locally.”
Highly commended: 1 Hotels
Best sustainable spa (international group)
An experience-led, sustainable hospitality brand, Habitas boasts five destination hotels across the globe, with Habitas Bacalar being its latest ‘home’ to launch last year. Overlooking Mexico’s striking Lake Bacalar, wellness has been woven into the fabric of this green-focused, Mayan village-inspired build, with therapies carefully designed using local ingredients, and guests encouraged to immerse themselves in the practices of Mayan culture and botanical medicines.
With its own onsite apiary, the hotel also cultivates its own honey from melipona bees and works with local cacao farmers to source ingredients for customised wellness and spa treatments. Meanwhile, Habitas RISE – the brand’s philanthropic arm – focuses on lagoon and stromatolite conservation, sustainability, and empowering local communities in the Bacalar region through educational events and the creation of micro-economies, including sourcing from local farmers.
“Habitas is paving the way for sustainable tourism and environmental consciousness is woven into every element of their philosophy, including their intimate spa – from a design to cause minimal impact on the earth to the commitment to eliminating single-use plastic,” says Lisa Oxenham, Marie Claire’s beauty and style director and Sustainability Awards judge.
Best sustainable spa (independent)
Winner: The Spa at South Lodge
Part of an independently owned, family-run set of charming country-house hotels, The Spa at South Lodge is Exclusive Collection’s most eco-focused spa offering. Set in the stunning South Downs, it became B Corp-certified in 2021 as a result of its Sustainability and Environmental Policy pledges to purchase environmentally responsible products and use renewable energy and planet-friendly suppliers. And it doesn’t stop there: from electric tuk-tuks to transport guests around the property and electric car-charging points for arriving staycationers, to the wildflower spa roof and swimming pool with natural filtration, The Spa at South Lodge has implemented an impressive combination of tech and natural tools to tackle waste and minimise its environmental impact – including two biomass boilers which run on wood pellets to heat the hotel’s water and swimming pools.
The team also donates leftover food to those that need it most in the area via Olio, and uses Vegware products (fully compostable foodservice packaging) and HuskeeCups (recyclable cups made from waste coffee husks) throughout the property.
“The sole purpose of heading to a spa is relaxation. The Spa at South Lodge has given its customers the chance to further relax knowing that it does everything in its power to make their stay as sustainable and environmentally conscious as possible, which I think makes the whole thing even more relaxing,” says Katie Thomas, Marie Claire’s senior beauty editor and Sustainability Awards judge.
Highly commended: Titanic Spa
Best for eco-travel
Offering hyper-personal, slow-travel holidays, Byway is the world’s first flight-free travel platform helping green-minded globe trotters to explore Europe sustainably – and hassle-free. Powered by dynamic technology, the site creates personalised multi-stop trips that have been optimised for enjoyment instead of speed. Unsurprisingly, this approach is making a big impact on carbon emissions, with Byway bookers saving more than 48,200 kg of CO2 (the equivalent of 289 trees) in the past year alone compared to their normal carbon footprint. In a genius move, the brand is also introducing carbon labelling to help customers make carbon-favourable swaps while they explore.
Also commendable: Byway is a Real Living Wage Employer; match-funds employee donations to causes (most recently the DEC appeal for Ukraine); and is a member of both Tourism Declares A Climate Emergency and Travel by B Corp. During Veganuary, the brand even launched the world’s first vegan-optimised holiday builder to help travellers cut carbon across both transport and diet.
“What excites me about Byway’s approach to travel is the potential to make slow travel mainstream,” says Charlotte Horler, founder of Nula and a Marie Claire Sustainability Awards judge. “With carbon labelling on the horizon, hotspot avoidance and train travel made more accessible, I’m looking forward to seeing Byway use data to scale even further over the next few years.”
Highly commended: Intrepid
Best sustainable destination
Winner: Costa Navarino, Greece
Lauded for its sustainability credentials by the World Travel & Tourism Council, Costa Navarino is one of the Mediterranean’s most eco-friendly and unspoilt destinations thanks to its commitment to protecting Messinia’s natural beauty, local communities, and strong sense of heritage.
Featuring three water reservoirs, Europe’s largest olive-tree transplanting programme, and one of the highest biodiversity levels in the continent, Costa Navarino also runs a monitoring and protection initiative for the loggerhead sea turtle, and contributes to a pioneering programme to support the only European population of African chameleons in the Gialova lagoon. Now, together with Stockholm University and the Academy of Athens, Costa Navarino has established NEO (Navarino Environmental Observatory) – a dedicated space to research and educate travellers on the region’s unique climate and environment.
“Costa Navarino is looking at all goals and analysing the effects of the pandemic [to] move forward and reach its sustainability goals,” explains Sujata Burman, digital editor at London Design Festival and a MC Sustainability Awards judge. “I [also like that it] has a good focus on the community, with research to develop environmental education.”
Best sustainable ski destination
Winner: Laax, Switzerland
The weather in Laax may be ice-cold in winter, but the fight against irreversible climate damage is heating up nicely. The Swiss ski destination, famed for its relaxed vibes and freestyle ethos, has pledged 100% carbon neutrality by 2030, and aims to be the first snow-sports destination to reach this ambitious target.
Working alongside the Greenstyle Foundation – a non-profit organisation dedicated to preserving and protecting the environment, this beautiful region already benefits from an e-shuttle service and the ‘Last Day Pass’, a ski pass designed specifically to slow glacial melt. This clever initiative enables visitors to purchase a biodegradable, locally produced wooden pass, which then funds sustainable projects that push back the last day of the Vorab Glacier by 10 minutes – and offsets approximately 1 tonne of CO2 in the process.
“Aiming to be the first snow-sports destination to become carbon neutral, Laax is making lots of innovative moves to highlight the impact of global warming and educate guests on how to live more sustainably. Riders Hotel – one of the area’s most popular properties – even offers a free clothes-repair service,” adds Head.
Best sustainable travel experience
Winner: Trans Bhutan Trail
A game-changing, not-for-profit sustainable-tourism initiative, the Trans Bhutan Trail (TBT) is restoring a unique piece of Bhutan’s cultural heritage and reopening 250 miles of one of the world’s most historic walks to adventurers keen to experience this beautiful country’s past, present and future – while also supporting the locals who live alongside it.
Last open to travellers 60 years ago, the TBT provides a chance for smaller, more remote communities to reap the economic benefits of tourism, and champions independent enterprises, such as homestays, campsites and restaurants, to help create employment opportunities for local guides, drivers, and cooks. Rather refreshingly, Bhutan – the world’s first carbon-negative country – is also dedicated to ensuring low-impact trekking on the trail remains environmentally and ecologically friendly to ensure it preserves not only traditional cultures, but protects the delicate ecosystems it intersects, too.
“The TBT is an innovative and disruptive sustainable tourism initiative that has the potential to have wide-reaching impact in Bhutan – not merely on tourism, but in the preservation of its history and culture,” says Myriam Sidibe, chief mission officer for Brands on a Mission, and MC Sustainability Awards judge. “It is highly integrated and aligned with Bhutan’s wider tourism strategy, as well as global Sustainable Development Goals.”
Best for a sustainable holiday with kids (abroad)
Winner: Sani Resort
As the first certified carbon-neutral resort in Greece since 2020, Sani Resort is leading the charge for green, luxury stays in Europe. And no wonder, given its magical location: set in a 1,000-acre ecological reserve, the resort boasts 7km of Blue-Flag beaches, more than 20km of lush forest trails, and 270 acres of nature-rich wetlands to explore.
There’s also a ‘Sani Green’ programme on offer, which encourages guests to reconnect to the surrounding wilderness through eco-focused, expert-guided outdoor activities, including olive harvesting and beekeeping. If you or your little ones love birds, you can enjoy the resort’s complimentary birdwatching tour through the wetlands, too, where more than 225 species of our feathery friends now thrive. Sani’s wide-ranging club activities are also popular with kids (4-17) and designed to teach enquiring minds about the power of nature.
“What really makes Sani Resort stand out is its environment-focused activities for kids, which teach the next generation all about ecosystems, recycling and other ways they can protect the planet,” says Andrea Thompson, Marie Claire’s Editor-in-Chief and Sustainability Awards judge.
Highly commended: Creta Maris Beach Resort
Best for a sustainable holiday with kids (UK)
Winner: The Lakes by Yoo
Set amongst 850 acres of lakes, meadows and woodlands, The Lakes by Yoo offers nature-loving families a luxury, wild oasis without compromising on its environmental values. Indeed, sustainable living lies at the heart of the estate’s ethos, with conservation and ecology embedded in the brand’s DNA. Case in point: more than 500,000 trees have been planted; bees have been cultivated; and millions invested to create an ecologically respectful environment that includes an on-site farm – where all the animals have been rescued, including The Lakes’ resident pigs and goats. Families can even stop by the chicken coop to collect fresh, organic eggs, or the herb and vegetable garden where heritage varieties are grown from seeds, offering a true farm-to-table experience.
Afternoons are for discovering the arboretum helping to re-wild the local area, wading through the estate’s eco-ponds, or watching the skies for a glimpse of herons and nightingales – species The Lakes by Yoo has created dedicated habitats in order to support their breeding. The use of natural, local materials, such as Cotswold stone and locally woven willow, have also been used throughout the interiors to ensure its aesthetic blends seamlessly into the landscape.
“Conservation and ecology are at the core of this beautiful oasis,” agrees Penny Goldstone, Marie Claire’s fashion editor and Sustainability Awards judge.
Best for a sustainable honeymoon
Set on one of the largest Maldivian Islands and home to thriving biodiversity and marine life, Sun Island Resort & Spa is a luxury eco-resort that weaves sustainability into every aspect of its five-star offering.
Its signature restaurant Zero, for example, boasts ingredients grown in the property’s own Villa Park gardens to ensure dishes are served with zero food miles. Elsewhere, energy and water usage is constantly monitored to avoid waste; eco-cleaning products are used to limit environmental pollutants; and an environment manager and dedicated committee have been tasked to work towards achieving carbon neutrality across the resort.
“Being Green Key-certified, it’s clear that this resort takes its responsibility to the environment seriously, and has been independently verified,” says Michelle Miles, founder of the Sustainable Wedding Alliance and MC’s Sustainability Awards judge. “Plus, its zero-miles, farm-to-fork approach to food, and aim to be entirely carbon-neutral is excellent.”
Highly commended: Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa
Marie Claire UK has determined the award winners in accordance with the judging criteria and with the information provided by the entrants. All information provided by the winning brands is published in good faith.