'Guilt-free holiday' is one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language. It is in the same league as 'you've been upgraded to first class, Ms Horton' and, 'Roxane, we'd like to offer you an all-expenses paid trip to Tahiti.' (Actually I've never heard those words come out of anyone's mouth, but #wordstoliveby, I always believe something wonderful is about to happen.)
Sustainable resort wear needs sustainable resorts. I had an email last week from travel agency, Soulful Concepts who specialise in exactly this. They provide responsible travel experiences carefully created to minimise the social, economic and environmental impact on holiday destinations. This sounds to me like eating a chocolate cake without the calories, or drinking a bottle of champagne without the hangover. Bring it on!
Through Soulful Concepts, and some of my own research, I'm very happy to share a range of resorts that offer a swag of innovative sustainability initiatives. From animals, to the environment, to local communities, what they all have in common is that they believe nothing can be beautiful if it comes at the expense of others. Here they are...ten of the best. Book a room and a flight, pack your sustainably made Alexandria Main beach coverup and have a safe trip :)
1. Shinta Mani, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Shinta Mani is dear to my heart because it was through them that I found Human and Hope Association who make all my Alexandria Main beach bags. The Shinta Mani Foundation, which is funded by $5 of every nightly room rate, gives targeted assistance to the neediest in Siem Reap: health check ups, micro loans for small businesses, bikes for transport, wells for clean water, houses and education. They are also a member of the what-a-great-idea, Pack for Purpose, which provide travellers with lists of supplies needed by community projects around the world.
2. Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle, Thailand
The Four Seasons have partnered with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation to provide a safe haven for abused and retired elephants. They also support larger conservation and education programs. And. It's the Four Seasons. So you know it will be fabo.
3. Six Senses, Con Dao, Vietnam
Six Senses have a whole raft (couldn't miss a pun opportunity) of sustainable initiatives. They provide clean drinking water for children, an ocean protection program to protect endangered dugongs and swimming lessons for Vietnamese children. Six stars for Six Senses.
4. Alila Villas, Uluwatu, Bali
Alila Villas tick boxes for both environmental and community sustainability. They were the first resort in Indonesia to receive the highest level of certification from Earth Check as a Best Practice Building and Design development, which means they have done beautiful sounding things with water conservation, such as soaks and rain gardens and have used recycled or sustainable materials in their buildings. Alila also donates funds to two local charities, one of which aims to empower women and the other that provide better lives for orphaned and abandoned Balinese children. And wowowow quick leave this page and take a look at the hotel photos then tell me one good reason why we aren't all going there for a holiday.
5. The Brando, Tahiti
Is there honestly anything hotter than innovation? Listen to this: the Brando relies entirely on renewable energy, including solar power and coconut oil (who knew?); they use a crazy amazing system of running deep water from the sea, through the resort to provide air conditioning; all their building materials are one of either certified origin, renewable or recycled. And if all that doesn't have you lusting after this place, they also source most of their produce from an organic garden on the island. And I did I mention - it's in Tahiti. Yes, that's the beautiful place that also brought us Gaugin's Noa Noa period and black pearls. And in case you were wondering - The Brando is indeed the legacy of Marlon Brando, who filmed Mutiny on the Bounty here, and whose dream of creating the world's first post-carbon resort is now realised.
Harper's Bazaar calls this place the Best Eco Luxury hotel in Sri Lanka. If it's good enough for them, then it's good enough for me.
7. Hamansai Belize Resort, Belize
This special place has no less than seven community initiatives. They partner with Pack With a Purpose (there they are again) to provide Back to School Backpacks to local children. The local health clinic is supported by the Resort and a matching donor education fund means that for every dollar a guest donates, the resort donates the same amount to support children's school expenses. My heart feels lighter at the thought of all those kind people in the world.
8. The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida, USA
I wouldn't necessarily have thought that this Grande Dame of hotels would have been a leader in sustainable business, but shame, shame on me for my preconceptions. The Breakers have the most far reaching and in depth Corporate Social Responsibility and Enviro program of any of the hotels on this list. Their 2015 CSR Report alone runs to 46 pages. Did you know they were the first hotel in the southeast to offer fully electric cars in their rental fleet? Or that they installed Telsa charging stations in 2015? They were the first hotel in the world to make Rainforest Alliance certified coffee available to customers; they provided 3055 pounds of food to local agencies in the last reporting year and they offer time off to all their staff to volunteer with a variety of charities.
I take my hat off to you The Breakers. You rock girl.
9. Jean Michel Costeau Fiji Resort, Fiji
There are so many sustainability projects at this resort that I don't actually know where to start. To list just a few, they: built a pre-school; protect the marine reserve; reforest mangroves; implemented a coral farm; keep bugs at bay by using non-toxic bug sprays and plants less attractive to bugs; established Fiji's first water reclamation plant; use non-phosphate cleaning products and line dry linens where possible. They are closed for renovations after the recent cyclones, but will be re-opening on 1st September 2016.
10. Daintree EcoLodge and Spa, Queensland, Australia
The Daintree EcoLodge promise that for every guest who stays, they will plant a tree with Rainforest Rescue. Among their list of enviro initiatives, the Lodge uses toiletries that are sustainably wild harvested locally, presented in recycled and biodegradable packaging and are cruelty free. So you'll feel happier washing yourself each day. They also have a commitment to employing local indigenous people and to sharing their culture with their guests.