By: Amy Sedeño


The hospitality industry is embracing eco-friendly practices and the importance of sustainability as a key component to a successful branding strategy. From internationally-known brands like Hyatt, Virgin, and Marriott International to independent boutique properties, these hotels are taking an active role in shaping industry standards for sustainable travel. But how does a hotel brand successfully navigate the world of sustainability in an ethical and impactful way? With a little help from their friends, that is. Hotel brands are receiving guidance from established sustainability pros by collaborating with non-profits making strides with social and environmental issues.

1Hotels, with properties in Brooklyn, Central Park, West Hollywood, and South Beach, has implemented a wide range of energy, water and environmental design strategies to keep their footprint small. The brand also organizes advocacy and educational initiatives to spread the word about the environment and how the hospitality industry can take an active role in promoting mindful travel. Their partners? The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) dedicated to the long-term health and wellbeing of all Earth’s inhabitants through innovative projects that protect vulnerable wildlife from extinction and restore balance to threatened ecosystems and communities. 1Hotels also has established a partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) which works to safeguard the earth – its people, plants and animals and ecosystems, and Oceanic Global, which raises awareness for the devastating effects of human consumption on our oceans and work with leading conservationists, scientists and industry experts to drive positive change.

Small, international boutique hotels also follow suit maintaining sustainable efforts that make an impact in their immediate communities. The 20-estates Royal Isabela in Puerto Rico reflects the owner's commitment to protecting the land and native flora from every aspect of its non-disturbance architecture, respecting the land and its unique attributes. The hotel is affiliated with the El Pastillo Conservation Trust, established in cooperation with Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA) to preserve the ecosystem found at El Pastillo Beach and its surrounding cliffs. The Trust oversees over 80 acres of land ceded by Royal Isabela to the DRNA to protect wildlife including the endangered butterfly Atlantea tulita and Puerto Rican boa. Other efforts include the conservation of native flora and fauna by managing invasive species, restoring areas that have been damaged by human activity or natural disasters, and education of the public about the importance of ecology by facilitating student involvement and participation. Cala Luna Boutique Hotel & Villas in Tamarindo, Costa Rica not only implements beach cleanups and the use of renewable energy but also encourages education about food sourcing and seasonal eating. The hotel is affiliated with La Senda, an organic, non-GMO farm that provides all produce consumed by guests. Cala Luna also works with local farmers to engage the community in their mission.

Boutique hotel El Ganzo in Los Cabos has a different undertaking, enabling social change and fostering the arts through the El Ganzo Community Center, an art project funded by the hotel that offers workshops and events to local children free of charge.

Both Cala Luna and El Ganzo are members of Kind Traveler, a curated hotel booking platform that donates $10 a night to a local cause chosen by the hotel.

Large conglomerates like Hyatt and Virgin Hotels are also reducing their carbon footprint. Hyatt, which has a 57 percent overall CSE rating, launched a 2020 environmental sustainability strategy in 2014 aimed to reduce waste and water consumption. The company also eliminated single-use plastic straws and partners with Clean the World, a non-profit that collects used soap and shampoo products from hotels, recycles them and donates them to communities in need.

In classic Virgin style, Virgin Hotels are built with locally-sourced materials to offset the emissions of transportation, 70 percent of all lighting is LED, water-conserving fixtures that reduce consumption by 20 percent are installed in all hotels, and each room comes with its own recycling bin. Virgin Hotel also offers a “Green Your Stay” option which donates $1 per night towards the guest’s effort of choice. By purchasing a carbon offset, guests neutralize the carbon emissions of a stay by supporting a carbon-reducing project somewhere else in the world.

How can your hotel adopt eco-friendly practices? Start with plastics reduction. Several hotels have announced plans to remove disposable straws altogether and plastic stirrers, in fact, now guests demand it. Brands like Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants are also proactively working to replace single-use plastic straws with compostable or metal straws. Water conservation is also a big focus. Hilton Los Cabos is one of the few hotels in the destination with a desalination plant to provide its own supply of drinking water which has less of an impact on the community’s water shortage. Linen and towel reuse programs are also now an industry standard. Energy conservation, from lighting systems to automated energy management systems, now it is easier than ever for hotels to reduce energy consumption. The more daring, like Azulik in Tulum provide a luxury experience sans air conditioning systems. Waste reduction, as simple as establishing recycling programs and educating staff about ways to reduce paper and other disposable materials. Bath Amenities can also be provided in recyclable packaging or bulk dispensers and bottled waters can be eliminated and replaced by reusable bottles.


About the author

Amy Sedeño is Director at Carolyn Izzo Integrated Public Relations (CIIC)

A pro at in the hospitality and tourism industry Amy manages the travel & tourism division at Carolyn Izzo Integrated Communications (CIIC) including the Quintana Roo Tourism Board and Barbados LATAM accounts. In addition to destinations, this selfproclaimed, “hotelista” has a large roster of properties under her belt, including Marriott International Inc. where she supported nine brands and more than 79 properties in Mexico and Latin America. She has also worked with Grand Lucayan (Bahamas), Solmar Group (Los Cabos), Mexico Grand Hotels (Los Cabos), Hotel El Ganzo (Los Cabos), Cala Luna hotel (Costa Rica), Casa del Mar (Los Cabos), Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara (Mexico and Jamaica), Caribe Hilton, Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort, Krystal Grand Hotel Group (Mexico).

Amy has also spearheaded campaigns for high-profile Real Estate clients, including the launch of Rancho San Lucas, a real estate and resort development in Los Cabos and the first to feature Greg Norman-branded oceanfront Estates. Amy is also the lead for the Vivo Resorts account, a real estate development in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca by two-time Olympian, Cary Mullen.