What You Need To Know
With misinformation and greenwashing rife in tourism, we take our time to gather information and ask questions across the 9 key criteria you see below. This includes getting to know the founders, their mission and values before EVER recommending it as a great choice in conscious travel. We know knowledge is empowering, so that’s why we encourage you to do your own checks on the leaf-rating tab present on every destination.
How It Works
Having a solar panel, cutting out plastic straws and recycling aren’t good enough. To reach the 1-leaf rating, the hotel, lodge or travel business is already taking BIG, bold, beautiful steps across the 9 criteria below.
Once every single one of the 9 criteria is met (from community to biodiversity, waste, water etc.) and the impacts are clear with annual impact reports, a 2-leaf rating is awarded.
The leading sustainable travel experiences never stop striving to be better. To do better. To reach a 3-leaf rating, more transparency and accountability are key, whether it’s through data capture with tools such as Weeva OR with an external assessment like B-Corp.
Gold is awarded to the places we’ve been lucky enough to visit, vet, and film behind the scenes. Gaining more insight, sharing truths, and areas for improvement with you, ‘Spot the Difference’ is a series which is designed to help people and businesses to #votewithyourwallet
Disclaimer: Kiwano receives zero payment from the hotels, lodges, or destinations to produce these films, so we can keep them unbiased.
Gold leaf status
ArchitecturePick places that have used low-impact construction techniques that are sensitive to the environment, community, culture and surroundings. Or even better, look for places that have been renovated or converted from existing buildings. Building the greenest, most energy conscious hotel will still create carbon emissions, noise, and cause disturbance. Questions worth asking: What renewable, local and sustainable materials were used in the construction of the building? What plans were made prior to the build to avoid damage to the local environment? Look out for re-used furniture, natural materials like bamboo and land-clearing done by hand.
WaterDemand for freshwater is expected to exceed supply by 40% by 2030. Sustainable places are always mindful of water scarcity, putting the environmental and local needs first. Whether it be reusing wastewater for the gardens or raising awareness of shorter showers, everyone can do their bit. Some water stressed countries include Qatar, Bali, Botswana, India, west coast of the U.S. If you're staying at a hotel there and there's no water-saving measures, perhaps ask what other environmental issues they are ignoring. Questions worth asking: Is rainwater stored and used for irrigation? How is the waste water treated? Do taps have aerators to reduce flow?
EnergyMany of our hotels and lodges here are using 100% renewable energy. Whether they make it or source it. If you're not staying in an off-grid retreat, look for the places powered by wind or sun. Look out for energy reduction measurements and targets on their website. It's also worth considering the efforts made to better retain heat and clever architectural design to keep the property cool. So, the hotel can proudly say they don't use air conditioning. Questions worth asking: Do they source 100% renewable energy (i.e wind power)? Which energy providers do they use? What is their plan to move towards 100% renewable energy?
CommunityA UN report shared that for every $100 spent on a holiday by a tourist, only around $5 actually stays in a destination's economy. It's called 'tourism leakage' and we think it's plain criminal. Staying at locally owned, independent businesses is a great starting point. Community outreach doesn't stop at employing local people. There are incredible places that are supporting disadvantaged young people or fund educational programmes about reefs. Questions worth asking: What are the policies in place for human rights? How does the hotel combat tourism leakage? What % of employees are from the local area?
BiodiversityFrom the tower block in the city centre to the eco-lodge in the rainforest, protecting and restoring nature is a must with the biodiversity collapse we are facing. Whether it be actively protecting hectares of rainforest or creating green roof tops for local birds and insects, a truly sustainable hotel will be able to provide you with information on what they are doing. Question worth asking: Is the hotel engaged in rewilding? What efforts are being made to promote biodiversity there? Do they partner with local NGOs or initiatives? Do they get involved in wildlife counts?
WasteWith an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the ocean and up to 100,000 marine animals killed by plastic every year, the places you stay at must step up across the entire supply chain. Plastic is not the only thing to consider. Most food waste ends up in landfill, which releases methane. Stay away from all-you-can-eat buffets, out-of-season offerings. Questions worth asking: Are they composting food waste? How much do they recycle? Does the kitchen change the menu using ingredients that would otherwise go to waste?
Food & DrinkFrom fine wines to bananas or avocados, food and drink is a significant part of your carbon footprint. The best places limit food miles, promote vegan, vegetarian menus or have a strict organic or farm-to-table policy. Look out for organic, or foods grown regeneratively. When it comes to drinks, go local as much as possible. Homemade syrups or local small-scale brewing is best. Questions worth asking: Do they grow their own organic ingredients? Is the menu seasonal? How do they reduce food miles? Why not ask about their chef and whether they are passionate about sustainable sourcing.
Engage GuestsRather than preaching or big signs, sustainable places are much more likely to share their mission through a welcome note, a relaxed tour, or even a friendly conversation. Keep an eye out for clever incentives for guests to choose a greener option such as using public transport, or a free garden tour. Complimentary bikes, water filling stations, or tree planting; there are incredible ways hotels and lodges all over the world are engaging their guests. Questions worth asking: Does the hotel reward guests for making greener choices? Are there educational programmes run for guests to engage in?
HousekeepingThose tiny, wasteful plastic toiletries that have traditionally been associated with the hotel experience, should be a thing of the past. For most it is, but it's always worth checking. Keep an eye out for systems to reduce unnecessary washing, whether soap left behind gets recycled and if there are biodegradable mattresses being sourced. Questions worth asking: What brand of products do housekeeping use to clean? This is important not only for the environment but for the employees' health. Why not ask whether the cleaning products are chemical-free, organic and biodegradable?