Cape Town’s Most Sustainable Hotels

Grootbos is a luxury eco-reserve about a two-hour drive from Cape Town
Grootbos is a luxury eco-reserve about a two-hour drive from Cape Town | © Grootbos Nature Reserve
Josephine Platt

Commissioning Editor

In view of the climate crisis, we are all 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 an enviable selection of hotels with sustainability at their hearts is Cape Town, South Africa.

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Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel

At the foot of Table Mountain is Cape Town’s iconic Belmond, easily recognisable by its dreamy pink exterior. The hotel’s Think Global, Act Local policy means ingredients used in the restaurants are locally sourced as much as possible. Additionally, they follow environmentally conscious practices to reduce their impact. For instance, paper straws instead of plastic are used in the bar. Guests can pick vegetables from the Moya we Khaya community food garden and have them prepared into a custom salad on the Township Farm Tour. In the kitchen, the hotel’s waste initiative means that all parts of ingredients are used, to avoid needless waste.

Opened in September 2017 in the vibrant V&A Waterfront complex, this contemporary green hotel in Cape Town has won accolades for its sustainability efforts. At the hotel’s OUIBar + KTCHN restaurant, they avoid buffets, which reduces food waste by 30 percent. The innovative central cooling system utilises seawater, the concrete and brick exterior is low maintenance and lots of natural lighting and efficient electrical design help to minimise energy waste.

Grootbos Nature Reserve

Grootbos is a luxury eco-reserve between mountains, forest and sea, and about a two-hour drive from Cape Town. It’s a leading example of sustainable tourism, set within hectares upon hectares of indigenous fynbos and ancient milkwood forests.

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 2,500ha (6,178ac) of flora and fauna, including three milkwood forests that are over a thousand years old, 800 species of plants, 118 of birds, 29 of mammals and 21 of amphibians.

Conservation aside, the hotel has made small changes and encourages 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 are used to 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 uplift 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 ensuite rooms, cosy fireplaces and private decks with breathtaking views.

Hotel Verde

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.

The hotel also has a water-recycling system, collects rainwater using stainless-steel tanks and has subsoil drainage systems in place. 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 all waste is sorted; the restaurant prides itself on its 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 from 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.

The Vineyard

As it’s built on 3ha (8ac) 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 adherence to 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 recycles 98 percent of its waste and uses several water-saving initiatives. The hotel prides itself on sustainable and ethically produced cuisine, and the garden lounge and patio at the Vineyard are perfect places in which to dine out on a delicious afternoon tea, served daily.

The rooms all come in various shapes and sizes, but they’re unified by a green ethos that sees all rooms installed with water- and energy-saving devices, such as timers on showers. Art on the walls is created using recycled paper, and guests are actively encouraged to reuse their towels and linen for their entire stay. The hotel has been recognised by the international Skål Sustainable Tourism Awards.

You may not have found your dream place to stay yet, but we’ve got more Cape Town tips heading your way. Bag yourself a seaside retreat in the best hotels on Cape Town’s Atlantic Coast. Or inject a little style with our guide to the best boutique hotels in the city. Alternatively, get a central-yet-super-stylish stay in our rundown of the top hotels in the City Bowl district of Cape Town.

Christy Taylor contributed additional reporting to this article.

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