The Most Exemplary Eco-Initiatives of the Last Year

Courtesy Whitepod Hotel

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While international travel largely halted in 2020, pioneers of the hospitality industry continued their work to make tourism more sustainable. Tour operators shifted toward carbon neutrality, hotels sought to reduce their environmental impact, and destinations worked tirelessly to preserve their natural beauty. Within the last year, these 2021 Legend Award honorees led the charge on creating a more sustainable travel industry.

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, Canada

The bees at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Courtesy Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

As the first historic hotel in Canada to reach carbon neutrality, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, is contributing to the fight against climate change in many ways. As part of its commitment to offset its greenhouse gas emissions, the hotel recently created a scholarship fund of $10,000 for training and research in forest practices at Laval University’s Montmorency Forest. Plus, the hotel continues to plant a tree for every guest who declines daily housekeeping services, resulting in more than 5,000 new trees in the Montmorency Forest since 2016. The hotel’s four rooftop beehives are also home to 70,000 bees, helping to pollinate the local area and produce over 600 pounds of honey yearly.

Heckfield Place, U.K.

The walled garden at Heckfield Place
Helen Cathcart/Courtesy Heckfield Place

English manor Heckfield Place, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property with a 100 percent biodynamic certification, focuses on many thoughtful details in its mission to reduce waste and work in harmony with the land. From minimal packaging and plastic-free rooms, with touches like ground coffee served in local ceramic pots and natural furnishings like British-made headboards, this grand family home turned boutique escape even makes heating more sustainable with a biomass system, using organic materials to produce energy. Outdoors, the hotel puts its 400 acres to work, raising livestock, capturing rainwater, composting waste for the gardens, and even opening its own small dairy, producing cream, butter, cheese, and yogurt on-site. Staff harvest grains and organic produce by hand, all part of the conscious farming efforts to reduce transport emissions and set the farm-to-plate dining standard in the U.K. They approach farming through a holistic lens at Heckfield Place—not just in their refusal to use any chemicals, but even to the extent of using the sun and moon cycles to determine the best times for planting and other farm work.

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Intrepid Travel

Small group adventurers with a big commitment to responsible travel, Intrepid Travel has been a leader in climate commitments for years. A carbon-neutral business since 2010, the travel company offered more than 2,700 carbon-offset trips in 2019. They recently outlined a seven-point plan to address even more climate issues related to travel, including commitments that the organization would offset 125 percent of its emissions, and transition to 100 percent renewable energy in its offices worldwide. Premium-level travelers will find sustainable high-end accommodations as well when traveling with Intrepid; whenever possible, they choose properties that use renewable energy sources or contribute to the local community. Intrepid is also set to become the first travel company in Australia to invest in green deposits, which supports projects for a low-carbon economy. By investing in local communities, conservation projects, and human rights, Intrepid is a model for sustainable tourism.

Necker Island, British Virgin Islands

Aerial view of Necker Island
Owen Buggy/Visual Eye/Courtesy Necker Island 

After devastating destruction from Hurricane Irma in 2017, Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island has been rebuilt and refreshed with a significant emphasis on sustainability. The team at this British Virgin Islands hot spot focused on removing diesel generators and powering the resort using renewable energy, both solar and wind. The renewal of the island included the installation of three wind turbines and a solar farm, and new staff uniforms made from recycled plastic pulled from the ocean. Now, the island runs on about 90 percent renewable energy daily.

Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve, New Mexico

Vermejo Headquarters at Vermejo, A Ted Turner Reserve
Courtesy Vermejo, A Ted Turner Reserve

At Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve in New Mexico, travelers can immerse themselves in the sprawling landscapes and wildlife of the West. After purchasing the land from an oil corporation in 1996, Turner focused on rehabbing the area for conservation, including managing local elk populations, ensuring the Rio Grande cutthroat trout did not go extinct, and growing one of the last remaining wild bison herds in the U.S. to a population of more than 1,200. The sustainable vision offers guests the chance to see conversation in action, with guided tours by natural resource specialists to showcase the efforts on the property.

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Juma Amazon Lodge, Brazil

The Juma Amazon Lodge is an intimate hotel integrated into the forest, striving to maintain the ecological balance of the area. The 19 bungalows were constructed with native Amazon River regional materials. Recently recognized by Brazil’s ecotourism trade association for its sustainability efforts, Juma also uses solar technology to power their electricity, as well as a solar-based water heating system. To Juma, sustainability means not just implementing eco-friendly policies, but also investing back into the community, with 90 percent of the lodge’s workforce coming from the local area. Guests are also invited to plant a tree while at the lodge, as a means of contributing to the Amazon’s ecosystem.

Whitepod Hotel Suite-Chalets, Switzerland

Interior of the Swiss Eco Chalets at Whitepod Hotel
Riechsteiner/Courtesy Whitepod Hotel

The brand new, self-sufficient Suite-Chalets of the Whitepod Hotel are tucked into the Swiss Alps near Monthey, Switzerland. These eco-friendly units are all constructed from Swiss larch wood and other local materials, and built by area craftsmen. Water from the Alps is collected and used to power electric turbines, which supply enough electricity for the property and 200 households in the surrounding area. This makes the chalets impressingly energy self-sufficient, providing for their own power demands. One of the best eco-friendly perks on property is that you can enjoy a warm breakfast—delivered by a custom, electric Land Rover, known as the E-Food Truck—straight to each chalet door.