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Finding Ethical Accommodations

Because not every hotel respects workers, locals, and the environment


As Americans are traveling more and more (and farther and farther away from home) tourism is increasing in a number of the world’s most beloved places, and many of its hidden gems.

Along with this tourism can come an increase in economic activity, a respectful cultural exchange, and a mutually beneficial relationship for everyone involved. But, it can also come at a cost.

By now, we’ve all heard the horror stories- disrespectful tourists are overrunning and destroying the sites they’ve come to see, big businesses are using AirBnB to price people out of their neighborhoods, and the environment is being harmed by the whole process.

If we want to continue traveling and leave something for our children to enjoy, we have to be more intentional.

That’s why it’s so important to find ethical accommodations for every trip you take.

Why Your Hotel Matters

Location and guest experience aren’t the only factors you should consider when choosing your accommodations on your next trip. Since the place you’ll be staying is often one of the larger expenses in any vacation budget, you’ll want to make sure that your money is being put to good use.

The hotel industry is a huge player in the global economy, and as such it has a lot of power. When it commits to do things the right way, the impact is huge, and when it doesn’t, it’s even huger.

Just some of the myriad issues that can spring from a mismanaged hotel include worker exploitation, poor labor conditions, land rights, water usage, green cleaning, and much more. 

If you feel strongly about any of these issues, I’m sure you’ll want to know that the accommodations you choose aren’t part of the problem so that you can fully enjoy your vacation!

What You Can Do About It

You don’t have to wonder whether your hotel treats its staff fairly or uses sustainable business practices as you’re lying in the hotel bed, trying to get some sleep.

When you look into those things as you’re booking your trip, you’ll already know before you go. That’s a recipe for a good night’s sleep!

Here are some options you might consider during your next trip planning process:

Consider Camping

Camping is definitely a simple option. If the thought of combing through hotel listing trying to find a place that’s in a good location, within your budget, with the amenities you prefer, that’s also fair to its workers, good for the locals, and uses eco-friendly housekeeping techniques has your head spinning already, you may want to opt for a campground instead.

When you’re camping, the majority of your environmental and social impact is up to you. By following responsible camping practices like Leave No Trace, and limiting the amount of fuel you use, you can stay in a great location with very little negative impact on both the environment and your wallet.


Or Glamping

If you like the idea of camping but aren’t so keen on the idea of “roughing it,” then glamping may be the thing for you. 

Glamping also gives you access to a lot of unique accommodations in great locations, like yurts, treehouses, campers, cabins, eco-pods and domes, tipis, and more! 

Each glamping site is different, but they typically have minimal utilities (wifi is the first to go) but comfortable furnishings, like a real bed to sleep on. 

You may have access to shared or private kitchen and bathroom facilities as well, depending on the specific setup.

Glamping accommodations are a good ethical choice because they typically forgo things like daily housekeeping and chemical-intensive cleaning processes. The sites are also often owned by locals who can give you the inside scoop on your vacation destination!


Try a Home Exchange

If you want to be absolutely sure that your tourism benefits local residents, a home exchange could be the perfect thing for you. It works especially well if your own home is located in a desirable destination!

How it works is pretty simple, you basically trade places with someone from your desired vacation destination, with them staying in your house while you’re gone and them staying in yours. If you want to get a local-like experience wherever you’re traveling, you really can’t get any more authentic than a home exchange!

Through a home swap, you avoid the issue of worker treatment entirely, since there’s no one on staff. You’re also in control of your own environmental impact for the most part, just like you would be at home. 


Don’t Forget House Sitting

If you like the idea of a home exchange but want to take it a step further, don’t live in a desirable location, or just don’t want strangers in your home, house sitting may be the answer.

In exchange for looking after someone’s property, plants, and pets while they’re away, you get a free place to stay in locations all over the world- sometimes you even get paid to stay! 

A lot of the listings include specific perks, like use of a vehicle, pool, hot tub, or free pet snuggles. But these arrangements do tend to work best for single people or couples with flexible schedules. Some house sitting jobs last for days or weeks, while others could last months!

If you do score a house sitting job, keep in mind that it’s not all fun and games. The homeowner needs you there to accomplish specific tasks, whether that’s just keeping an eye on the house or making sure that their pets are well taken care of. Make sure you do a good job!


You Could Even Rent an RV

If you’re planning the ultimate road trip around the country (or the continent) renting an RV could be the perfect way to combine your transportation with your accommodation.

Something like a class B campervan provides plenty of space and amenities for two people, and their size makes them easy to drive and park while remaining quite efficient on gas.

When you consider the number of families who own RVs that only leave their parking spaces a few days a year, it’s no surprise that peer to peer RV rental tools are popping up everywhere. 

It shouldn’t take you too long to find a great RV to rent near you!


Green Hotels & Eco-Friendly Hotels

More and more hotels and resorts are marketing themselves as green or eco-friendly. While some of this may be greenwashing, a lot of it is actually the real deal. 

The amenities available in these green hotels vary wildly, on a spectrum ranging from glamping all the way up to all-inclusive resorts. They are often located in remote locations outside of cities and off the beaten path. 

These locations are often filled with natural beauty, so they offer a great place to retreat and enjoy the earth’s natural beauty without adding to its troubles.


Ethical Accommodations Are Good for Everyone

There are plenty of environmentally and socially responsible options for accommodation wherever you go, if you know what to look for! With such a large variety, there really is something for everyone.

Whether you choose to camp with your family or house sit on your own, you can experience amazing destinations without harming the local community or environment. And, with the money you save on a lot of these options, you may even get to stay a few extra days!


Kayla Robbins
DoneGood Contributor

A freelance writer working with bighearted businesses who want to better our world.



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