In view of the climate crisis, everyone should be thinking more about sustainable travel, which means booking hotels that not only focus on renewable energy but also pride themselves on giving back to local communities. One city that boasts a handful of hotels trying to be sustainable is Cape Town, South Africa.
Making positive strides towards sustainability has never been more important for the country’s mother city. Cape Town’s water crisis in September 2018 brought months of drought. Residents were restricted to using 60 litres (16 gallons) of water per person, which is the equivalent to a 90-second shower. The country is also facing an energy crisis – known as load-shedding – and South Africans often face daily power cuts, crippling businesses. So if you plan to visit any time soon, consider staying at one of these three eco-first hotels, all bookable on Culture Trip.
Nestled between mountains, forest and sea, Grootbos is a luxury eco-reserve around a two-hour drive from Cape Town and a leading example of sustainable tourism set within hectares upon hectares of indigenous fynbos and ancient milkwood forests. Michael Lutzeyer first spotted an opportunity back in the early ’90s when he bought a small farm on a plot of land near Walker Bay Nature Reserve in the Western Cape. The reserve started as a small bed and breakfast, but Lutzeyer quickly realised there was an opportunity to create something bigger.
Over the past few decades, this eco-reserve has positioned itself as a leader in progressive luxury tourism through its commitment to supporting community and living in harmony with nature. Part of its approach includes preserving 2,500 hectares (6,178 acres) of plant life and wildlife, including three milkwood forests that are over 1,000 years old, 800 plant species, 118 bird species, 29 mammals and 21 amphibians.
Conservation aside, the hotel has made small changes and encourages their guests to do the same. For example, single-use plastics are banned, and there is a huge emphasis on using collected rainwater. Staff also make use of eco-friendly cleaning materials instead of harsh detergents, and solar panels generate power.
Much of the food served at Grootbos is grown organically on the reserve, while the owners are involved in many nature conservation and community upliftment projects. The reserve’s efforts have been rewarded with several accolades, including World Travel Market’s Responsible Tourism Award. The accommodation isn’t half bad either – with spacious en-suite rooms, cosy fireplaces and private decks with breathtaking views.
Hotel Verde is rated the greenest hotel in Africa by the US Green Building Council. Apart from providing luxurious accommodation, the hotel uses energy-efficient and water-saving devices and employs a ‘zero waste to landfill’ policy by reusing, recycling and composting, among other eco-friendly practices. It’s the first hotel in Africa to offer guests a fully carbon-neutral stay, which is offset by benefiting local communities living in and around Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe. It does this by creating new jobs, strengthening social infrastructure and protecting the local wildlife through supporting and helping those to rebuild forest cover. Each guest receives a certificate proving this on checkout.
The hotel also has a water-recycling system that saves an average of 6,000 litres (1,585 gallons) of water a day. It even collects rainwater using 40,000-litre (10,567-gallon) stainless-steel tanks and has subsoil drainage systems in place, and all the water from that is used to wash cars and external building sites owned by the hotel. Meanwhile, three wind turbines and 220 solar panels generate energy. Guests can also do their bit and create power by walking up the stairs and taking the lift down, or heading to the gym to use the hotel’s energy-generating equipment.
All the hotel’s lights are energy-saving LEDs, and it goes even further by sorting through all of its waste. It aims to send nothing to landfill. Food waste is either composted or fed to worms so that it goes back into the ecosystem, while the restaurant also prides itself on locally produced and responsibly sourced meals. And if you drive an electric car, you can benefit from priority parking.
All the hotel’s efforts have seen it win numerous awards, including the ‘Most Responsible’ badge by World Travel Market Africa in 2017. Hotel Verde’s proximity to the Cape Town International Airport as well as the city’s main attractions adds to its allure.
As it’s built on three hectares (eight acres) of land, one of the biggest challenges for The Vineyard has been maintaining the estate (the original house dates back to the 1800s) and its biodiversity, including 9,000 plant species, of which 70 percent are unique to the Western Cape. The hotel, on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, goes about this with regular clear-ups and natural principles, which extend to the surrounding river and beach.
The hotel’s commitment to sustainability continues with renewable energy, and it has 80 solar panels, which have been supplied by the nearby Darling Wind Farm. It also has a 98% waste-recycling system and several water-saving initiatives. In terms of food, the hotel prides itself on sustainable and ethically produced cuisine; the garden lounge and patio at The Vineyard are perfect places in which to dine out on a delicious afternoon tea, which is served daily between 3.30pm and 5.30pm and offers a mix of sweet and savoury items.
The rooms all come in various shapes and sizes, but they’re unified through a ‘living green’ ethos, which sees all rooms installed with water- and energy-saving devices, such as timers on showers to monitor use. Art on the walls are created using recycled paper, and guests are actively encouraged to reuse their towels and linen for an entire stay. It too has been recognised by the international Skål Sustainable Tourism Awards.