Suite dreams are made of these — Juliet Kinsman of Bouteco celebrates the hotels making sustainability sexy and proving it’s cool to be kind.

Luxe living and having eco values should be at odds — one signals indulgence, the other abstinence. But a handful of design-focused hotels are making it glamorous to be greener. Tourism can have a lot of clout when it comes to having a positive effect on the environment and economies, and so by choosing a hip hotel with a big heart, even dedicated sybarites have the power to make the world a better place. Artisan-made furniture from local upcycled materials, a zero-waste policy, ditching plastic bottles and a conscience for community wellbeing are some of the ways that these stays go the extra (carbon-free) mile when it comes to giving back. For the ocean-loving superyachting crowds, these five, positively luxurious coastal hotels will no doubt hold mighty appeal.

Soneva Jani, Maldives, Hotel

The high-end, low-impact resort brand Soneva was created by Sonu Shivdasani and his wife, Eva. Their first hotel, Soneva Fushi, was on the deserted Maldivian island of Kunfunadhoo after the founder of Six Senses Resorts and Spas had sold the group. Here in the Noonu Atoll, their third new-gen property opened in 2016 with the same intention of harmonising luxury hospitality with social and environmental stewardship under the guiding principle of ‘intelligent luxury’ — a term they coined. As well as 24 water villas and a powder-soft white beach, there’s an overwater cinema and a Bamford Haybarn Spa. But it’s the sustainable considerations that have the hotel finding its way to your green heart — drink from green refashioned glass bottles and relax in bathrobes made from untreated organic cotton. ‘At all our resorts, we will continue to work in partnership with our local communities on a whole range of environmental projects and on social issues such as improving the representation of women and opportunities for young people in the hospitality industry,' says Sonu.

Fogo Island Inn, Hotel

Jutting over the rocky coast of the Atlantic, the arresting silhouette of Todd Saunders’s contemporary architecture has earned this 29-room hotel a lot of attention. Founder Zita Cobb revived the entire economy of a struggling fishing community on Canada’s easternmost coast. Once the third-highest-paid female executive in North America, eighth-generation Fogo islander Zita made her millions in the tech industry and returned home to this tiny island to invest some of her fortune in rebuilding the economy for its population of once-fishing-dependent 2,000 people. ‘We believe that ecological sustainability follows from social sustainability — business is one of our best tools, ’ she says. As well as setting new standards in design, the change-making social enterprise has created a forward-thinking blueprint for a kinder version of hospitality by empowering locals. See that sleek, seemingly Scandi furniture in every room? Made by out-of-work local boatbuilders. Charmed by those characterful rope-chandelier light installations? Hand-made by former fishing-net makers. Even the fine-dining dishes in the restaurant showcase humble local, seasonal ingredients while the witty words on the menu reference Fogo's unique history and geography.
UXUA, Brazil, Hotel

Wilbert Das is the visionary behind the 12 casas in Trancoso’s historic square which are all seriously stylish in their own imaginative, rustic-yet-refined way — and they tell tales of incredible integrity. The Dutch former creative director of Diesel wanted to make up for his 20 years in fast fashion by creating a hotel totally in tune with its South American setting. ‘We avoided invading the natural environment, either the spectacular beachfront or rainforest around us, and instead repurposed a handful of empty, colonial fishermen’s houses at the heart of this old Bahian community, right beside homes still occupied by indigenous families,’ he explains. The restoration of properties dating back to the 16th century combined the talents of international designers living and working with local artisans who used antique methods and reclaimed materials. ‘Love, care, appreciation for beauty and tradition, were key ingredients of this successful collaboration that has brought prosperity to Trancoso’s artisanal community, allowing many to continue passing generation-old trades which might have otherwise been lost,’ he says. Which not only makes for an original, uplifting place to spend time, but you can sleep all the more soundly knowing this remarkable retreat thinks about the greater good as well as its discerning guests.

Katamana, Bali, Hotel

Andra Matin’s bold architecture used 1.5 million bricks in this 58-suite boutique hotel in Seminyak while preserving age-old design practices. Artisans in leafy Darmasaba village were deployed for two years to hand-press the slender blocks usually intended for temples – it was a commission which saved the economy of a tiny rural community. It was also heartening to learn that the hotel's plumbing doesn’t sap the precious water table or syphon off precious resources away from local farmers. You wouldn’t know Katamama has created a bore hole so as not to deplete natural water supplies — I just happened to ask. Another lesson in Katamama’s community spirit comes in the delicate, tactile hand-dyed indigo textiles — a rare treat in hospitality where wear and tear is usually the primary consideration. Their signature natural blue comes through in delicate table runners, soft throws and batik cushions, all meticulously crafted in Ubud. Guests are even invited to take field trips inland to the textile studios saving these arts from dying out.

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

Barry Sternlicht, also the founder of W Hotels, says this the best hotel he’s created, declaring ‘we haven’t just created a hotel brand, it’s a cause’. This might be overstating it a little, but the three forward-thinking 1 Hotels have raised the bar as shining examples of environmentally-friendly architecture and interiors fashioned from natural materials with artworks made with inspired repurposing. Following on from the success of the Central Park and Miami outposts, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge recently opened as the flagship powered entirely by wind energy, with a 25ft living wall of figs and ferns and taps for triple-filtered drinking water, while local transfers can be made in their Tesla. Whether you're eco-minded or not, you'll be won over by the pool on the knockout tenth-floor rooftop overlooking the East River — it's also where those-in-the-know flock to sip cocktails with Lower Manhattan’s skyline in widescreen.

Juliet Kinsman
Juliet Kinsman
Juliet is the founding editor of Mr & Mrs Smith and has recently launched her social enterprise, Bouteco, helping people find stylish, sustainable hotels.