Travel & Leisure

Eco-Friendly Travel: How Green Mapping Can Make a Difference

From route planning to transportation and where-to-stay dilemmas, new hotel collections, travel companies, and tech giants are making it easier to choose eco-friendly travel options

As more people consider the impact they have on the planet, some companies are making it easier to travel eco-consciously. ‘Invest in Our Planet’ is the theme of this year’s Earth Day, taking place on April 22, which looks at ways businesses can act, innovate, and implement initiatives that address the climate crisis. Green mapping is the term coined for travel planning, with the help of tech innovations and environmentally minded companies, for an eco-friendly journey.

Late last year, Google captured travellers’ attention by launching several new environmentally conscious options, including a tool enabling you to plan the most eco-friendly, fuel-efficient route in Google Maps, which claims to have the potential to prevent more than one million tons of carbon emissions per year. The tool is coming to Europe in 2022 following its recent United States launch.

Close up of a mobile phone using Google Maps to plan a fuel-efficient journey
Google Maps is helping travelers make eco-friendly choices by displaying not only the fastest journey but also the one that’s most fuel-efficient, saving you time, money, and making your travel greener. Source: Getty Images

In addition to this Google Maps development, Google has added sustainability practices and eco certifications to its hotel listings, enabling eco-conscious hotels to highlight their efforts in energy efficiency, water conservation, water reduction, and sustainable sourcing, along with any eco certifications they’ve been awarded.

Overhead shot of Ashford Castle in Ireland
The Tollman family bought Ashford Castle in 2013, undertaking restoration work with the help of local traditional craftspeople. The castle won the Green Tourism & Entertainment Award in 2021's Green Awards.

This demand for transparency on hotels’ sustainability and the search for genuinely sustainable properties has also led to the recent creation of new hotel collections and travel companies providing this exact service, enabling travelers to make environmentally friendly decisions while still travelling in style.

At the end of 2020, Preferred Hotel Group launched its new sustainable hotel brand, Beyond Green, signifying the company’s strategic vision to help transform travel as a positive force for people and the planet by encouraging a more purposeful way to explore the world. The brand debuted with 24 founding member hotels, resorts, and lodges that were selected for exemplifying sustainable tourism leadership.

Mountain range with accommodation in the foreground
andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge promises “sand, stone, stars, sustainability, and silence”. The private reserve is home to star dunes and wildlife, and it borders an international Dark Sky Reserve, part of the fight against light pollution.

Each property in the Beyond Green collection must prove its commitment to delivering on three sustainable tourism pillars: environmental practices going beyond the basics, protection of both natural and cultural heritage, and contribution to the social and economic well-being of local communities.

The hotels must also show progress in meeting more than 50 sustainability indicators aligning with global sustainable tourism standards and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including the restoration of natural habitats.

September 2021 saw the launch of the sustainability-focused luxury travel company Wild Nectar, promising to take the guesswork out of traveling sustainably by offering eco scores for each trip, and providing carbon-offsetting recommendations for the journey.

These eco scores take 10 categories into account, from conservation, carbon emissions, and energy efficiency to betterment of the local community. By working only with operators and properties proving the highest standards in sustainability, the travel company affords the knowledge that you’re traveling in the most planet-positive way possible.

Cabins set in the hillside
Set in the rainforest of Kamala in Thailand, Keemala Resort celebrates the culture of four fictional tribes: the Pa-ta-Pea (earth), the Khon-Jorn (wanderers), the We Ha (sky), and the Rung-Nok (nest), and infuses them into the guest experience.

Hot on the heels of this launch was the October 2021 announcement of Small Luxury Hotels of the World’s new Considerate Collection of actively sustainable luxury hotels. Criteria for the boutique hotels included in the Considerate Collection align with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council pillars of being community minded, cultural custodians and environmentally conscious. These pillars build on a sustainability management system, with each property included in the collection requiring accredited environmental certification.

Incredible Hotels to Consider 

Stand-out hotels included in the 26 properties that the Considerate Collection launched with range from the biodiversity-promoting Keemala hotel in Thailand to the culture-preserving Gangtey Lodge in carbon-negative Bhutan.

Massage beds with stunning view across the hills
At Gangtey Lodge in rural Bhutan, sustainability is a way of life, from the wood they burn to the water they drink. Staff are hired locally, and ancient traditions are shared with guests to preserve them for future generations.

Arctic Bath, Sweden, earns a place in the collection with its exceptionally eco-friendly structure and operations as well as cultural representation and community spirit. GAÏA Riverlodge in the Cayo District of Belize features on the eco-hotel list for its sustainable build that blends into the environment, use of a natural creek for energy generation, and collaborations with local fishermen, farmers, and guides.

Highlights of the Beyond Green hotel collection include andBeyond and Wilderness Safaris lodges across Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, along with island resorts such as Islas Secas in Panama and The Brando in French Polynesia, and remote retreats such as Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia.

External image of Arctic Bath featuring wood and set in the snow
Situated under the northern lights in winter and the midnight sun in summer, Arctic Bath is a unique hotel and spa experience that welcomes guests to immerse themselves in the elements, while leaving a minimal environmental footprint behind.

In the US, the collection’s founding properties include Post Ranch Inn in California and Bentwood Inn in Wyoming, while European inclusions range from Ashford Castle in Ireland to Aristi Mountain Resort in Greece, and Borgo Pignano in Tuscany, Italy. Each one’s sustainability credentials are detailed on Beyond Green’s online platform.

From researching the initial journey to finding the right accommodation and even planning the entire trip, the growing number of companies facilitating more sustainable travel makes green mapping an increasingly realistic option for environmentally minded travelers who want to pair a luxury experience with positive impact.

Banner image: Cliff House, Post Ranch Inn, California