I’M PACK­ING FOR MY HON­EY­MOON. Sus­tain­abil­ity just got sexy

How do seek­ers of stylish es­capes find the green­est ho­tels? JULIET KINSMAN, co-founder of eco-hotel cham­pion Bouteco, has all the an­swers

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In goes an­other sweater, some wa­ter­proofs and old walk­ing shoes. You’d think some­one who was ed­i­tor-in-chief of bou­tique hotel spe­cial­ist Mr & Mrs Smith for more than 10 years might choose white-sand beaches and pri­vate ca­banas for that special es­cape, but no, not me. ‘You’re go­ing where?’ asked my Canadian fa­ther. ‘Yes, Dad, New­found­land for three nights.’

I’d had my eye on the rugged, rocky coast of Canada’s east­ern­most is­land since Todd Saun­ders’ dra­matic, stilted rec­tan­gu­lar ar­chi­tec­ture came to fruition as Fogo Is­land Inn in 2013. In­stead of dream­ing about in­fin­ity pools and mar­ble bath­rooms, I was ex­cited about hand-loomed ar­ti­sanal rugs and for­aged food in this en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious so­cial en­ter­prise. I’d read that to re­vive the strug­gling fish­ing vil­lage’s econ­omy, boat-builders had been re­de­ployed as the hotel’s fur­ni­ture mak­ers, and patch­work bed­spreads had been made by hook­ers. ‘Wow, that is novel’, I thought, be­fore dis­cov­er­ing that’s the lo­cal nick­name for quil­ters. What bet­ter ad­ven­ture for a hon­ey­moon?

A few years be­fore, I’d heard Zita Cobb’s TED Talk about Fogo Is­land Inn. A Fogo Is­lan­der her­self and the sixth of seven chil­dren born to an il­lit­er­ate, cod-fish­ing fam­ily, Cobb left Fogo Is­land at 16 to study busi­ness, re­tir­ing in her late for­ties as one of Canada’s rich­est women thanks to a smart sale of fi­bre-op­tics stock. By set­ting up the Shore­fast Foun­da­tion, Cobb re­vived Fogo’s fish­ing com­mu­nity be­fore fi­nanc­ing the inn – a stun­ning 29-suite hotel at the edge of the At­lantic.

‘Fogo Is­land Inn ex­ists to be a ser­vant of the na­ture and cul­ture of this place,’ says Cobb. ‘How it was con­ceived and the way it is op­er­ated is the lens through which we make ev­ery de­ci­sion about the pos­i­tive im­pact on the nat­u­ral and cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment.’

‘We believe that eco­log­i­cal sus­tain­abil­ity fol­lows from so­cial sus­tain­abil­ity — busi­ness is one of our best tools.’

I can at­test that the inn is also high on com­fort, charisma, style and good times. I ex­pe­ri­enced first-hand how sat­is­fy­ing it feels to stay in a place where prof­its go back into the im­me­di­ate econ­omy – from cari­bou sausages or pick­led quail eggs in the award-win­ning restau­rant to ex­cur­sions with a lo­cal fish­er­man. The pho­tos of my new hus­band and me in high-vis orange fish­er­men’s boiler suits, watch­ing a pale-blue ice­berg on its way down from the Arc­tic, are more Bear Grylls than clichéd hon­ey­moon snap, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

An­other vi­sion­ary who switched sec­tors to put pur­pose be­fore profit is Wil­bert Das, the brains be­hind Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa in Brazil. The cre­ative di­rec­tor of Diesel for more than two decades, the Dutch na­tive wanted to make up for his time in fast fash­ion by creat­ing a hotel in har­mony with its Bahian vil­lage set­ting, where in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers worked with lo­cal ar­ti­sans us­ing an­cient meth­ods and re­claimed ma­te­ri­als.

‘We avoided in­vad­ing the spec­tac­u­lar beach­front or rain­for­est and in­stead re­pur­posed a hand­ful of empty, 16th-cen­tury fish­er­men’s houses at the heart of old Tran­coso, right be­side lo­cal fam­i­lies,’ Das ex­plains. ‘Love, care and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for beauty and tra­di­tion were key in­gre­di­ents of this suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion, which has brought pros­per­ity to Tran­coso’s ar­ti­sanal com­mu­nity, al­low­ing many to con­tinue tra­di­tional skills that might oth­er­wise have been lost.’

Uxua now has a ded­i­cated fash­ion fol­low­ing so, you see, green can be glam­orous. And it is this kind of project that is help­ing to change hote­liers’ at­ti­tudes to the en­vi­ron­ment, which have come on leaps and bounds from the days of sim­ply sug­gest­ing hotel guests use their tow­els and sheets more than once. Now, it’s all about re­v­erse-os­mo­sis-fil­tered wa­ter

(salts and im­pu­ri­ties re­moved by a semi-per­me­able mem­brane) and or­ganic roof gar­dens. Where eco-friendly es­capes once threat­ened com­postable loos and scratchy eco-cot­ton sheets, now – thanks to a new breed of drop-dead-gor­geous ho­tels-witha-con­science – it means more than just adding a few so­lar pan­els. From five-star city slick­ers to thatched jun­gle shacks, there is a new crop of life-en­hanc­ing places to stay that have one thing in com­mon: con­sid­er­a­tion for their en­vi­ron­ment and their com­mu­ni­ties.

How do you work out if a place is a dif­fer­ence­mak­ing do-gooder or a phoney? It’s a good sign if a hotel has strong mes­sag­ing around how re­spon­si­ble it is, but you still need to scru­ti­nise what they’re say­ing. Amaz­ing pool shots or se­duc­tive, well-dressed bed­rooms pull us in, then it’s up to us to dig deeper about what they’re up to be­hind the scenes. Do they keep the pool clean nat­u­rally or is it toxedup with nasty chem­i­cals? Was that stylish fur­ni­ture hand-made by a neigh­bour, or was it bulk­bought from a Chi­nese fac­tory? When guests grill ho­tels, the man­age­ment takes sus­tain­abil­ity more se­ri­ously.

This year, dur­ing the United Na­tions’ In­ter­na­tional Year of

Col­lages by GUS & STELLA











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