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Walk Lightly: Six Getaways with Sustainability at Heart

27 May 2020

We’re all profoundly aware that, if not carefully managed, tourism can have a negative impact on the aspects of travel that tourists value the most – wildlife, natural landscapes and local culture. The damaging effects of over-tourism, plastic waste and carbon emissions from air travel are well documented, and with a growing number of travellers predicted, there is work do to be done to protect our environment.

But don’t pack away your passport just yet – it’s not all doom and gloom. Tourism can be a force for good and it is possible to travel responsibly. There are an increasing number of places to stay that have been thoughtfully designed to blend in with and leave minimal footprint on the environment; properties that are supporting and bringing benefit to the local community.

Below are a selection of Host Unusual properties keenly pursuing ethical and sustainable practices. If you stay at one, tell them their eco policies are your reason for booking – it will encourage them to continue their positive work.

Author: Gemma Wilson
Main Image: Coucoo Grands Lacs | France

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The Hideaway Under the Stars | Moray, Scotland
This quirky eco-home, nestled in the foothills of Ben Rinnes in Moray, was born from a family’s dream to create an environmentally friendly holiday-home with minimal impact on the pristine surrounds. With the assistance of local ‘natural builders’, the Hideaway Under the Stars was constructed completely from locally sourced materials that are plentiful in the region (wood, straw, clay earth), and items salvaged from pre-loved sources. Renewable energy is used throughout the property and every effort is made to reduce, reuse and recycle. It’s no wonder the Hideaway was awarded Best Green Home in the European Holiday Home Awards.   

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Kolarbyn Eco Lodge | Västmanland, Sweden
Hidden amidst a spruce forest just outside Skinnskatteberg, Kolarbyn Eco Lodge was also constructed wholly from natural materials; toilets are of the compost variety; wild bathing takes place in the lake and recycling areas are dotted throughout the property. In addition to its green credentials, Kolarbyn is working on ways to preserve and develop the local tradition of charcoaling, so the knowledge of this unique regional activity doesn’t disappear with the older generation. If that’s not enough to tempt you, Kolarbyn donates a portion of its profits to the conservation of the local environment. So, by staying at this ‘primitive hotel’ you’re directly contributing to the conservation of nature and preservation of local culture.

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Coucoo Grands Lacs | Franche-Comte, France
When the nest-like cabins of Coucoo Grands Lacs were constructed it was essential for them to enhance, not impact, the property’s beautiful natural surrounds: 175 acres of forest land and shimmering lakes in the Franche-Comté region of France. The wildlife in the area wasn’t disturbed and no flora was destroyed (even when placing the tree huts). Infact a forestry expert regularly monitors the health of the trees in which the cabins perch. To reduce its impact on the environment, the property uses no electricity or running water and makes use of biodegradable and recyclable products as much as possible to minimise their polluting waste. Besides protecting the environment, Coucoo Grands Lacs proudly promotes the Franche-Comte region, with much of the food used in the picnic and gourmet dinner baskets sourced from local producers.

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Refugio Marnes | Alicante, Spain
At the mention of Alicante, images of crowded beaches and mass tourism typically spring to mind, but travel inland to the rural countryside and you’ll discover Refugio Marnes: a range of environmentally sustainable holiday accommodation. Sustainability is THE underlying principle of this inspiring agritourism project. The (virtually) year-round Spanish sun provides the buildings with sufficient solar power; nearly all their waste is recycled; an emphasis on ‘buying local’ offers support to local producers; rainwater is collected for use and an onsite water purification plant recycles all waste water. Impressive, right? If you’re looking for a ‘green holiday’, Refugio Marnes ticks all the boxes.

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Swallowtail Hill | East Sussex, England
Spread across a picturesque corner of the Sussex countryside, Swallowtail Hill is the 25-year creation of passionate conservationists (and welcoming hosts) Sarah and Christopher. Their 40-acre ‘farm’ of wildflower meadows and coppice woodland interspersed with hedgerows, ponds and reed beds is bursting with wildlife and managed purely for conservation. It’s a biodiverse landscape that’s sadly rarely seen. A fairly new addition to the site is a collection of cosy self-catering cabins and cottages that blend in with their natural surrounds, leaving minimal footprint on the environment. In keeping with the farm’s ethos, accommodation is eco-friendly and climate neutral, so expect compost toilets, wood or gas fired showers and no electricity, however it’s a unique off-grid experience and you’re supporting an inspiring sustainable project.

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Bulworthy Eco Cabin | Devon, England
Environmental sustainability is also the underlying ethos of the award-winning Bulworthy Project in Devon. Owners Anna and Pete bought 12.5 acres of distressed woodland near Tiverton in 2006 and have carefully transformed the area into a thriving private nature reserve that’s been dubbed ‘a mosaic of habitats’. Not bad for woodland management novices. Set within these beautiful natural surroundings you’ll find a self-contained Eco Cabin that the couple hand built using naturally fallen wood and reclaimed materials. Solar panels on the cabin roof generate electricity and a wood-burning boiler heats the water. Not only is this a magical off-grid place to stay, but for every night you book, Anna and Pete will plant a native British tree, so by staying here you’ll be doing your bit for the environment.

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