• Stephanie Drax

Style & Sustainability in Travel - Juliet Kinsman

Juliet Kinsman is a luxury travel expert who wants to encourage hospitality to have a positive effect on our world. She’s written Louis Vuitton City Guides, articles for top magazines and newspapers and was the founding editor of Mr & Mrs Smith. At the end of 2016, she set up Bouteco, an independent social enterprise and website that showcases stylish and sustainable hotels.

It’s a privilege to be someone who reviews boutique luxury hotels for a living, but I reached a point when I realised some hotels have a bigger heart and a better conscience than others. Why wouldn’t I steer people to those hotels in particular? I set up Bouteco to highlight the ‘good guys’ – the hero hotels that are genuinely making a positive change to their communities and the wider world.

Our slogan at Bouteco is ‘Stop, Think, Discuss’ — and we’ve even published a report dedicated to encouraging all to riff on this. A hotel having solar panels and saving water isn’t enough anymore. Obviously these things are important, but it’s about projecting a responsible ethos, inspiring companies and employers to put people at the heart of a business and to encourage others to make small and simple changes for the better. For example, I think it’s particularly interesting if a hotel is involved in a circular economy and is not being wasteful. CleanConscience is a company that recovers soap and toiletries from hotels and repurposes them for the benefit of the disadvantaged – a brilliant idea.

If I had a hotel, I’d ask guests to give an hour of their time to the local community. They might go to a high rise and have tea with an elderly person, or take some stationery to a school in India. What part of their holiday do you think they’d talk about when they got home?

Luxury and eco-tourism, style and sustainability can go hand-in-hand, but as customers we need to take responsibility for our purchasing decisions. We all want to indulge on holiday, but there are simple things we can do to be more environmentally conscious when we travel…

- Don’t take any goods with you that have plastic packaging. That way it doesn’t end up in a hotel waste bin in a country that might not even have recycling.

- Use sunscreen that doesn’t have oxybenzone It’s a UV-filtering chemical common in sunscreens and it kills coral. That’s also a reason we should wear rash vests.

- Use a refillable bottle for travel. Many airports have drinking water stations. First, you won’t mind if they empty it out at security. Second, on a long-haul flight you’ll probably save using several bottles and cups. I love my Dalston-designed refillable Stay Sixty (£29.95).

- Reduce your consumption in general. My travel wardrobe consists of a few washable silk pieces by Katrina Phillips that are very versatile. My capsule wardrobe is especially relevant in #wearyourclothes week which is all about "Buy less, wear more and think about the people behind your clothes”. She has a beautiful interiors shop at 99 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London W11. Truthfully I could shove any item from my capsule wardrobe of her washable-stretch-silk numbers into a crammed case and they’d still emerge uncreased. Cut on the bias, I have loose-fitting black trousers, camisoles, layered tops and big floaty dresses so that I can look perfectly smart one second, and totally informal the next. Also, it's made by a tailor not mass-produced by a multinational, so you can polish your sustainability halo there, too.

- Being mindful of the supply chain. For example, instead of buying souvenirs, pay for local experiences, and choose companies that ensure the money goes to the local economy.

- Don’t hire a car. Walk, take bikes and use public transport. It may feel clunkier and less easy, but you’ll be engaging in local society.

- Don’t be afraid to ask hotel questions. Such as ‘What’s your policy on grey water?’, ‘Do you hire locally?’ ‘How energy and water efficient is your hotel?’ ‘Do you support local charities?’ If enough people ask, they might take action.

- Kick up a fuss about plastic. If a hotel gives me a plastic straw or imported water – like a bottle of San Pellegrino in a hotel in Bali – I will turn it down.

JULIET’S TOP THREE LUXURY ECO-HOTELS — see Bouteco.co for more info.

Cempedak Private Island, Riau Archipelago, Indonesia

Through the Island Foundation, Cempedak is working to help improve the income, health and education in its local communities. The hotel addresses environmental concerns and implements sustainable community-based projects centred on social justice, community organisation, micro-finance and entrepreneurialism. Poverty alleviation is the long-term goal.

Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland, Canada On Canada’s rugged, rocky easternmost coast this 29-room hotel and its angular art studios at the edge of the Atlantic has, in its short life, graced many a style magazine thanks to Todd Saunders’ arresting architecture. It’s the MO of its founder, Zita Cobb – creator of the Shorefast Foundation – that will have you thinking differently about luxury travel.

Treehotel, Sweden

A collection of six treehouses hidden among the trees in the remote north of Sweden, this is about getting up close and personal with nature. It’s no surprise then that this hotel takes sustainability seriously and they make every effort to reduce their impact on the environment that cossets their guests.

For inspiring stories of sustainability in luxury travel follow Bouteco on Instagram