Save money and save the world! OK, that’s probably a bit OTT but if you’re travelling on a budget hostels are a great cheap option and just as travellers are becoming more aware of their impact on the planet so too are hostel proprietors, which means more and more environmentally-friendly hostels are springing up world-wide.
Hostels are great places to meet new friends, bump into those you’ve met on your travels and usually guarantee a giggle. Prices are generally lower than hotels for single travellers and sometimes for couples seeking a double room, and they nearly always have heaps more atmosphere than stuffy chain hotels that start to look the same after a few.
Why choose an eco-friendly hostel?
Staying in an eco hostel means you will leave less of an impact on the environment when you travel, which after all is what ecotourism is all about. Many of the eco hostels around are built using renewable resources, function sustainably and try really hard to reduce their emissions and waste. Visitors to these type of hostels are often surprised at the effort put into ensuring they are environmentally-friendly and generally leave with a new attitude to hostelling.
But it’s also foolish to think that every traveller will even consider eco-credentials when booking hostels. They want the cheapest room in the best location so will go on what the guidebook recommends or on what they’ve found on their limited time in the internet cafÃ©, regardless of warnings of bed bugs and crazy thugs. If it’s cheap, it’s good. And this is where people need to change their idea of hostelling; just because a hostel is eco-friendly or built sustainably it doesn’t mean it’s going to cost a fortune.
Are they really just as cheap as non-eco hostels?
Absolutely. In fact, sometimes they’re cheaper. Because eco hostels use renewable energy sources like passive solar panels for heating and hot water or water diverted and filtered from rain water tanks their bills are much lower than hostels on mains electricity or water and so they can afford to charge less.
Of course, this is not always the case; eco hostels can be expensive to build and like any accommodation will have to recoup the costs in their charges.
How can I tell if they are truly eco-friendly?
Many countries have specific eco accreditation so you should check for this when you’re booking. If they don’t have an obvious sign or certification, ask them to email or show you their green credentials.
Look out for these signs:
- In Europe — the EU Eco Flower label.
- In America — STEP, the Sustainable Tourism Eco-Certification Program.
- In Australia — the Eco Certification Program which has three levels depending on the accommodation. There is talk of this program becoming an international symbol as it’s working so well down under and internationally.
- Also, keep an eye out for Green Globe, a benchmarking system, and the International Ecotourism Standard which have both been based on the Aussie Eco Certification Program.
Where can I find eco hostels?
On the web is best as ecotourism hasn’t quite hit the big time yet so there a very few travel agents on the streets who would be able to help you out easily.
Many of the usual hostel websites don’t separate out eco hostels from the masses available so you might have to do some researching but there are a few fantastic websites dedicated entirely to eco accommodation so they’d be your best bet.
- EcoBookers.com came onto the market late in 2007 and offer some wonderful eco hostels as well as other types of accommodation world-wide .
- YHA (Youth Hostel Association) Australia (pictured) and YHA UK have created a number of architecturally-designed, sustainable eco hostels, so good that even one night will ruin all other hostelling experiences.
- Hostel World features a number of eco hostels on their books.
- BootsnAll’s own hostel website provides reviews and ratings of various hostels but because BootsnAll cater to a wider audience they don’t concentrate specifically on eco hostels. If you’d like to get first-hand information from other hostel users, head over to the BootsnAll forums where you can glean tips and advice from other travellers.