The Best Eco-Initiatives in Hospitality This Year

Courtesy Fairmont

The 2020 Legend Awards are meant to serve as inspiration for future travel—when it is safe to do so. Learn more about this year's awards on our methodology page.

A question that comes up frequently in the luxury travel industry, and for good reason, is: what does it mean to be an environmentally conscious traveler? And beyond that, how can we actively reduce our carbon footprints while still traveling and (conscientiously) spending our tourism dollars around the world? 

There is, of course, no one right answer to these questions. However, as travelers, our overall environmental awareness is on the rise. And luxury hotels and resorts are keen to do their part to inspire conservation initiatives in their local communities.

Global hotel brands have made a big push to offset their carbon emissions, utilize local resources, and preserve the natural wonders their guests come to see. Simultaneously, travelers are working to do their part as well, whether that means traveling with metal straws and cutlery to avoid using plastic at the airport, or seeking out low-impact lodging or excursions.

Ultimately, no attempt to reuse and conserve our natural resources is too small. But there are many hotels that, in the last year, have gone above and beyond to protect their local environment. These Legend Awards honorees are working tirelessly to preserve their region’s natural beauty, by finding innovative ways to reduce waste, and reuse and conserve resources. They are not only implementing new eco-initiatives, but educating their staff, travelers, and members of the community on best preservation practices. 

JOALI Maldives


Courtesy JOALI

At JOALI Maldives, on-site Marine Biologist Samantha Reynolds is leading the hotel’s Reef Restoration Project. For this project, Reynolds grows coral at JOALI Maldives’ underwater nursery for nine to 12 months, then transplants the coral to an underwater snorkel trail accessible to JOALI guests. Guests are encouraged to take part in the growing and transplanting process, and snorkelers benefit from the underwater beauty this restoration initiative is producing.

Palmaïa - The House of AïA, Mexico


Courtesy Palmaïa - House of AïA

New Riviera Maya wellness-focused resort Palmaïa - The House of AïA opened its doors on January 8, 2020 and sought to implement vegan practices right from the jump. Founder Alex Ferri, a vegan himself, made sure that each of the property’s four restaurants offer plant-based menus that mirror the non-vegan offerings. Even the suites are vegan, in that they use absolutely no animal products—no leather furnishings, no down feathers, no animal products in the bathroom amenities, and so on. The resort has solar panels on property and sponsors solar panels throughout Mexico, and the buildings utilize found, local, and recycled materials whenever possible. 

Six Senses


Courtesy Six Senses

On each Six Senses property, guests can visit the on-site Earth Lab, a space showcasing that hotel’s specific sustainability efforts. Right now at the Six Senses Laamu Earth Lab, for example, guests can learn about the property’s work preventing the removal of seagrass, a campaign that’s now spread to 30 Maldivian resorts. 

Shamwari Private Game Reserve, South Africa


Iky's Photographic/Courtesy Shamwari Game Reserve

Set in Paterson, South Africa, Shamwari Private Game Reserve has been hyper-focused on animal conservation since they began reacclimating animals to the area in 1992. As they welcome more guests to the reserve—they opened their seventh luxury lodge, Sindile, in December 2019—their awareness only increases. As of early 2020, black rhinos were critically endangered, with approximately 3,750 left in South Africa. The Shamwari veterinary team runs a tagging program that enables the on-site conservation workers to find the animals everyday (from a distance) as a crucial anti-poaching technique. 

The Frames Retreats, South Australia


Duydash/Courtesy The Frames

The Frames Retreats are not only one of the most coveted luxury retreats in Australia, they are also one of the most eco-conscious. The property is entirely self-contained, the pools are heated by natural gas, and they use recycled rainwater on the gardens and hotel grounds. Each guest is offered an electric bike to get around The Frames’ clifftop sanctuary overlooking Murray River.

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts


Courtesy Fairmont

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts runs Bee Sustainable, a sustainability program that's come a long way since its inception in 2008. Fairmont has more than 20 bee apiaries and 20 wild pollinator bee hotels at their 75 properties worldwide. Last June, they introduced a “bee hotel” at parent company Accor’s Paris headquarters complete with hives, habitats, and bee-friendly flowers. Fairmont even sells mini bee hotels through the Fairmont Store, so brand loyalists can encourage solitary bees to make nests, and ultimately combat the extinction of native bees. 

Oceanview Eco Villas, South Australia


Courtesy Oceanview Eco Villas

The Oceanview Eco Villas sits on 500 acres of Australia's third largest island: Kangaroo Island. The luxury eco-resort is on the east side of Kangaroo Island on the Redbanks coastline, which looks out over Nepean Bay. Kangaroo Island is considered to be part of Australia’s Galapagos and is known for both their native wildlife species and their island-grown produce. Each oceanview eco villa is built using solar power, natural timber and stone accents, natural gas, rainwater, and carpets made of recycled materials, among other ecological feats. 

Soneva Namoona


Courtesy Soneva

Soneva's Maldives properties—Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani—truly represent the intersection of wellness and sustainability. The brand launched Soneva Namoona in February 2020 as a major attempt to institute daily sustainability practices like composting into Maldivian life. This initiative was inspired by the Eco-Centro waste recycling program that has long since been in effect at Soneva Fushi. The eco-initiative began on the Maldivian island of Maalhos, and Soneva plans to expand the Namoona program the islands of Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo.

Euroventure Travel, United Kingdom


Courtesy Euroventure Travel 

Based out of Leeds, Euroventure Travel became the world’s first carbon negative travel company as of February 6, 2020. Euroventure Travel creates custom rail package itineraries, and sought to not just offset the emissions caused by each holiday they plan (and their daily business operations), but further reduce carbon emissions. This year, they’re doing so by planting in Australia to help encourage reforestation in woodland areas hit hardest by the wildfires.