Last week’s #LuxTravelChat on Twitter co-hosted by @BoutecoHotelsTM, highlighted a need to change the way we talk about sustainability. We love fun times when we travel, we appreciate style and design—but somehow that can get lost in conversations around sustainability.

Eco enthusiasts aplenty sing the praises of hotels that save energy. Lots of beautifully crafted hotels create inspiring experiences for local communities and guests, but few of us are connecting the dots between sustainability and authentic, life-enhancing luxury experiences. 

Let’s face it, it is not a terribly evocative word. Say it: 'suss-tain-a-bility'—if you're feeling generous, at best it's conjuring images of an organic farm, with pretty flowers and happy bees, right?

For most folks, 'sustainable hotel' threatens compost toilets or little more than a sign in the bathroom asking guests to hang up their towels and save water. (Ahem. An initiative thought up in the Nineties and rolled out with zero innovation since, right?) Others think of cold showers or earnest eco-types debating their favourite herbal teas. Or maybe you're picturing a corporate hotel with a LED glare and obsession with the bottom line—PWC is one of the world’s most environmentally responsible companies, but that doesn’t make me want to shack up in their offices for the night.  

Things have moved on. In terms of hotels being more subtle about sustainability, and in our mindsets. Luxury is no longer about excessive and spontaneous splurges at other people’s expenses. We’re more sophisticated than that. You don't lust after a hotel room filled with mass-produced furniture, do you? Nor do you want to travel across the world to eat and drink exactly what you can have at that restaurant around the corner from your home?

We’re thirsy for luxury experiences that fascinate and transport us somewhere new. Quality is measured by provenance and storytelling. 

At MOSAIC Private Sanctuary – Lagoon Lodge near Hermanus in Stanford, South Africa, four-poster beds, fireplaces and bar tops have been locally hand crafted from the mottled wood of an ancient Ghanan tree that has washed up on the shores of Cape Town. Hop over the Indian Ocean to the Maldives and when they couldn't source enough wood locally, Soneva Fushi shipped over and recycled redundant telegraph poles from India for their vast beachfront villas. At Katamama in Bali over 1.5 million hand-pressed Balinese temple bricks make up the facade of the hotel, revitalising and educating guests about an ancient Indonesian craft.

In New York and Miami, 1 Hotels does everything they can to make food as local an experience as possible, even though you’re in the middle of a city, by working with suppliers such as the community-run Little River Cooperative. And at Singita in South Africa, the chefs not only serve guests exquisite feasts but also teach pupils in the local village enough culinary skills to gain a cooking qualification. 

Behind the scenes can be the most telling. Bouteco Heroes are collecting rainwater, switching to LEDs, erecting solar panels and using ecological cleaning products—but, as the guest, you don’t need to know all that detail to have the time of your life. The best hotels take care of all that leaving you to enjoy adventures and soak up the stories. Marvel at the hand-decorated interiors, drool over fresh (line-caught) sashimi and revel in a momentary connection with a kindred spirit. Appreciate sustainability, sure—but more than anything, have the time of your lives doing so.