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Sustainable travel on a budget: The world's best eco-friendly hostels

Nov. 03, 2019
7 min read
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Having to watch how much you spend when you travel doesn’t mean that you have to stay in hotels that are causing destruction to the planet through unsustainable practices. In fact, some of the greenest forms of travel accommodation can be enjoyed on a budget, including camping and staying in eco-friendly hostels.

It used to be that you would be lucky to even get a warm shower if you stayed in a hostel. But they have drastically improved in recent years and can now be found in breathtaking locations across the world and are often involved in many eco-friendly schemes including solar heating, organic gardens, recycling programs, discounts for arriving on foot/bike and much more.

There are numerous green hostels across the world to choose from, so here are a select few that really stand out.

YHA Eden Project, England

(Photo courtesy of the Eden Project)

The Eden Project has a worldwide reputation as the world’s largest rainforest in captivity and is a living example of regeneration and sustainable living. This hostel is the official on-site accommodation for the Eden Project, allowing you to stay somewhere that is quite literally involved in some of the world’s most revolutionary research into sustainability. The hostel’s dorms are made from recycled shipping containers. Alternatively, you can choose to have a glamping experience in bell tents or land pods, both of which are equipped with eco-friendly lighting facilities and have access to solar-powered showers.

Sleep Green Hostel, Barcelona

The was the first youth hostel in Spain to be awarded with the E.U. Ecolabel in recognition of its commitment to sustainable tourism practices. It is situated in the neighborhood of Eixample -- a great location to discover the city by foot. Dormitories consist of either four or six beds and each dorm has its own balcony. Sleep Green ultilizes a range of environmental practices, including the use of 100% renewable energy, recycling facilities, biodegradable cleaning products, recycled toilet paper and education about how to support environmental goals. It is also committed to improving its practices on a yearly basis to enhance its environmental performance to the highest possible standard.

Ecomama, Amsterdam

(Photo courtesy of Ecomama)

If you’re visiting Amsterdam, try Ecomama. Located in the heart of the city, Ecomama offers seven room types that range in size, privacy and budget and encourages its visitors to connect with one another in the communal living areas, indoor swinging chairs or the teepee tent. It uses many sustainable practices, including a natural stone heating system, mattresses made from sustainable materials, organic wash products in the bathrooms and a reception desk made from upcycled clothes. Additionally, Ecomama also donates 1 euro for every night a guest stays to Ninos de Guatemala, an NGO that provides quality education for disadvantaged children.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, California

(Photo courtesy of Pigeon Point Lighthouse)

This green-certified hostel consists of four different houses set alongside a historic lighthouse perched on a cliff on the central California coast, 50 miles south of San Francisco. Green facilities include solar-powered LED lighting, water-conserving shower heads, sink taps with automatic shut-off, full composting programs, natural biodegradable cleaning products and much more. This is also a very popular spot for whale watching and is close to other great places for wildlife, such as the Ano Nuevo State Reserve, a breeding site for northern elephant seals.

Rivertime Resort and Ecolodge, Laos

(Photo courtesy of Rivertime Resort and Ecolodge)

This hostel has been described as “the premier green hostel destination in South-East Asia”. The lodge is built entirely from local materials, using traditional methods. Its electricity is produced from falling water via the Nam Ngum hydro-electric power plant. Other sustainable practices include low-watt lightbulbs, washing clothes by hand, an advanced recycling program, locally grown food and a commitment to being anti-deforestation (with not a single tree being cut down for the construction and extension of the lodge).

Serenity Eco Guesthouse, Bali

(Photo courtesy of Serenity Eco Lodge)

Serenity is located in Canggu, on the way to the famous Tanah Lott temple. It offers a range of accommodation options, from a backpacker’s house with shared facilities to private guesthouses. Known for being one of Bali’s most eco-friendly locations, it uses many sustainable practices, including a grey water waste system, permaculture garden and even a solar-powered shuttle buggy. It has a focus not only on caring for the planet, but also caring for yourself -- so it's a smoking- and alcohol-free property. It also runs yoga classes and workshops and the onsite restaurant has the mantra of “may our food be your medicine”, offering raw vegan cuisine.

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Apollo Bay Eco YHA, Australia

(Photo courtesy of Apollo Bay Eco YHA)

This ECO Certified Nature Tourism accredited hostel is in the perfect location for a road trip along the Great Ocean Road, a famous rugged coastline with lush green rainforest, waterfalls and the famous limestone stacks the 12 Apostles (only a 90-minute drive from the hostel). It also uses a range of energy (including passive solar design) and water-saving techniques to reduce its environmental impact without impacting the functionality or comfort of the hostel. Both shared and private rooms are available.

Eco Hostel Planeta de Luz, Bolivia

(Photo courtesy of Eco Hostel Planeta de Luz)

Located in an alternative eco-community in 20 acres of nature in the reserve of Planeta de Luz, this hostel is perfect for those looking to escape from the digital world and reconnect with nature. The hostel buildings are made from locally sourced, natural materials designed to “capture the artistic, ethnic spirit of the community". The hostel adopts practices to help the planet such as the use of renewable energy, environmental cleaning products, seasonal food and working with the local community. It also encourages guests to reconnect with nature by engaging in activities such as soaking in the nearby thermal springs of Liriuni or enjoying one of the various therapies on offer, like anti-stress massage reflexology.

Cuckoo Hostel, India

(Photo courtesy of Cuckoo Hostel)

Cuckoo Hostel is one of the few places in India that is focused on sustainable travel and is one of the highest-rating properties for guest satisfaction in the whole of Bangalore. Beautiful murals painted by local artists cover the walls, providing an aesthetically pleasing environment for visitors and paid work for locals. In terms of sustainability, it uses energy-efficient appliances, composting, and furniture made from recycled materials.

Eco Pampa Palermo, Argentina

(Photo courtesy of Eco Pampa Palermo Hostel)

This hostel was the first eco-friendly property in Buenos Aires, “working with the environment to optimize the use of natural resources, with a genuine commitment to the environment and ecology". Its furniture is made from recycled materials, it is actively involved in recycling and composting and the computers are said to be eco-computers.

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