How to find out whether an eco-lodge is sustainable or not

ecolodge

You might be dreaming of a holiday in an eco-friendly manner as you have selected the best option for your stay too – an eco-friendly hotel or lodge. There is however a huge amount of greenwashing which is present in the industry, so you really have to check the eco credentials of the place you are planning to stay. Here are some ways to find out whether your eco-lodge is sustainable or not:

How to find out if your eco-lodge is sustainable or not

As the demand for eco-friendly stays are increasing, the hospitality industry is trying to meet the demand by going green. There are many authentic eco stays but there are those who make superficial changes or just claim to be eco-friendly when they actually are not.

What are the features of an ecolodge?

ecolodgeJust like ecotourism, unscrupulous providers/owners can twist the meaning of ecolodge to suit themselves. However, there are some internationally recognized ecolodge guidelines, which an ecolodge must meet such as:

  • It must be located in nature
  • The ecolodge must benefit the local people
  • It must offer some interpretative programs

In addition, the ecolodge has to practice at least two out of the following eight:

  • Contribute to the conservation of the local natural resources
  • Reduce water consumption and acquire water sustainably
  • Provide careful handling as well as dispose of the solid waste responsibly
  • Utilize renewable energy source
  • Minimally impact natural surroundings during the construction of the lodge
  • Fit seamlessly into local physical, architectural, cultural as well as landscaping contexts
  • Use the traditional building materials and technology when possible
  • Involve locals in planning stage

Do your research before booking your stay at an ecolodge, and these are the eco lodge characteristics that your lodge has to implement in order to claim that it is eco-friendly. Usually, ecolodges have up to to 60 rooms, and Eco resorts are those which meet the norms but have more rooms than 60.

Eco-certification systems

travelers worldwide were inclined to travel in an eco-friendly mannerThe GSTC or the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, published a report in 2019, revealing that up to 70% of travelers worldwide were inclined to travel in an eco-friendly manner. The hospitality industry is thus taking the hint about this latest trend of eco-friendly travel and the number of green lodges have increased.

To differentiate the authentic from the rest of the crowd, there are approx. 200 to 300 organizations which claim to certify the tourist accommodations as eco-friendly. But these organizations themselves are suspect and their certifications, though huge in quantity, around 8,000, are mostly meaningless.

There are organizations which certify a lodge as being green, on the payment of an annual fee, without checking whether the lodge has any of the eco lodge characteristics.

Eco certification has become a huge business, so you have to be careful and check that the certifications are from an authentic organization. Even national and regional ecotourism certification programs have lax or loose guidelines.

Some certification programs need its members to meet only one or two out of the six requirements, and even if they do not do that, all they have to do is donate a percentage of the profits to an environmental organization.

To be deemed as an ecolodge, it requires much more than using energy efficient lights and organic soap. An authentic ecolodge will care for the environment as well as the local people by involving them from the inception of the project. It will put systems into place for low emissions, building sustainably, and benefiting the local economy on a long-term basis.

For example, in Asia, Japan’s Ecolodge Association has devised a checklist which covers at least 110 items in food and beverage, environmental sustainability, waste reduction, energy use, green purchasing and conservation of the environment. The certifications for eco-friendly lodge should be as stringent as these, and the lodges should follow them in order to qualify.

When you’re in Japan and looking for an eco-friendly lodge, then you’re in luck. You could also check the International Ecotourism Society’s member list to find out about eco tour operators and lodges.

Certifications you can look for

ecolodge CertificationsOne of the ways to check whether a hotel or lodge follows green principles is to see whether they have the Global Sustainable Tourism Council logo on their website. The organization does not certify the lodges, it verifies the standards used by the third-party certification bodies. If you see the icon, which is a burgundy foot, you will know that the lodge or hotel has gone through a rigorous process of verification.If, for example, the building has the rare LEED Certification, go for it.

Another website, the Book Different also is a good resource to find reputable ecolodge. This website also aggregates the lodging options which are vetted by several organizations, such as the Green Seal and EU Ecolabel, (reputed but not yet GSTC) certified, and NEPCon, and EarthCheck, which are GSTC certified. When you are researching the certifications for eco-friendly lodge, you should check whether the lodge you have chosen is approved by GSTC or Book Different.

Book Different also requires that all the certifying bodies that it lists on the site perform audits in person. Then it applies its labels to the hotels/lodges according to the establishment’s fair interaction with locals and employees, long term management plans, environmental concerns and cultural sensitivity. Lodges are awarded a green certification based on whether the lodges follow any or all of the guidelines/requirements.

Check the carbon footprint

ecolodgeThis is not required to list on any website by the ecolodges. Consider it a good sign when ecolodges do so, as it reflects their accountability. Ecolodges can calculate their carbon footprint using the formula devised by the Breda University of Applied Sciences’ Centre for Sustainability, Tourism and Transport in Netherlands. The formula gives an estimate of the amount of GHG emissions or CO2 released by any of the machines owned by the hotel/lodge.

To select the best eco-lodge, do check their carbon emissions too. If an ecolodge goes to all the trouble to calculate the carbon footprint, then you can maybe rest assured that they are doing the other things right as well.

On some sites you will see a green icon, which means that the lodge emits lower than 33 pounds [email protected] per guest per night. According to a professor at Breda, there is an urgent need to reduce emissions, though he states that lodges should start with 50 pounds carbon emission a night, to be realistic. But if eco lodges use renewable energy such as solar or wind, then the amount of emissions can be down to zero, or close to it.

What is it doing for the community?

select the best eco-lodgeIf you’re trying to select the best eco-lodge, for your stay, then you should see whether it has addressed the environmental and the community concerns. The positive effect of enhancing the culture and helping the community economically is a great way to mitigate the environmental problems in the area. The people who work and live near the lodge are knowledgeable in the land use, water and other types of pollution, disruption of the ecosystem and the stress or potential stress on the society from overtourism.

Read about the environment of the place you want to visit, and if the lodge has made a difference in improving the environment, helping in conservation as well as aiding the financial development of the people around. Many conscientious ecolodges around the world provide land as well as help to the farmers to grow produce in a sustainable way and buy back from them.

Those ecostays which are interested in profits only for their establishment, will not be concerned in the lives of the people around, or will support just one or two conservation efforts where they do not have to invest much time or energy. The local people should be excited about the ecolodge, as it helps them in many ways, rather than the other way around.

An ecolodge would also be supporting local arts and crafts and follow fair trade principles.

How does the ecolodge conserve resources on a day-to-day basis?

ecolodgeThe daily practices of a lodge are crucial. There might be a lot of preparation before a lodge is up and working, but the operational practices are what matter. Cooking, housekeeping and the lighting in the common areas account for the consumption of electricity. A lodge which is mindful will do the needful to conserve resources.

The HVAC systems should be energy rated, and the hot water and lighting should be efficient, or else a large amount of electricity is wasted. Ask if energy efficient appliances are being used, and if they are serviced regularly to enhance performance.

There should also be a regular protocol in place for staff and guests to follow in order to reduce energy and water consumption. Having water filtration plants in place would prevent the use of bottled water, and thus reduce plastic waste. Check if they hand reusable cups and glasses to the guests.

The ecolodge you are planning to visit should have a recycling and composting system in place too. Locally sourced materials and produce, supporting the local economy and preserving the natural environment should be some of the priorities of a genuine ecolodge.

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