Hostels: Eco-Friendly or Not?

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jocelyn Anne

echo-hostel-9348327If you’ve done any amount of traveling that included hostels in one shape or another, you’ve most likely realized that a “hostel” is a very broad term and can literally mean anything from a hole in the wall to what might as well be deemed a snobby upper class hotel. And, likewise: either super eco-friendly or not at all and very affordable or not at all. You never quite know what you’re paying for or what you’re walking into unless you do your homework, and even then, you have to know what you should be looking for. If you’re seeking out eco-friendly traveling, typically hostels come up as one of the best options for sleeping. But, as with anything, a label doesn’t always mean much. If your true desire is to go hostel-style and ensure that your traveling is as green as can be, make sure you check into each and every hostel beforehand. But not sure what to “check” for? Cover these basic tips first thing, and you’ll be well on your way to truly green, affordable travel!

What does Eco-Friendly Hostel Mean?

First, you’re going to need a definition so you know if your hostel matches up. In some cases, the country will have an eco-accreditation system and you can simply ask the hostel if they pass this. If you’re traveling in Europe, check out: EU Eco Flower, in Australia: Eco Tourism Australia and around the world: Eco Tour. Beyond that, it’s up to you how much you need in your hostel to be deemed sufficiently green. Here are some things to look for that many hostels do boast and you may want to consider including in your hostel requirements:

Solar panels for heating water

Rainwater harvest system
Recycled windows
Recycled building materials
Recycled furniture
Unused food and perishable items get donated and forwarded on to groups in need
Low energy lights
Water conserving plumbing
Outdoor showers
Training or workshops in local farms/gardens/etc.
100% carbon neutral
Organic produce available
Devoted to reforestation or endangered wildlife programs with proceedsAs you can see, you can really take eco-friendly hostel as far as you want, but in terms of basic, you should definitely look at what the hostel was constructed with and how it is powering itself and recycling.

Bunking Up
If you’ve found a hostel that meets your requirements, then it will be easier to make even more decisions to go greener. For example, opt for group rooms instead of singles or doubles. The idea is conserving space, so taking up an entire room to yourself in a hostel (no matter how eco-friendly the hostel is) is not nearly as conducive to green traveling as bunking up with the rest of the guests. Plus, you’ll make way more friends and have much better experiences!

When possible, find hostels that have organic gardens. This way you get to experience working in the land a “little” in a new place, in exchange for the freshest produce around! Also look for hostels that have communal dried food pantries that you can use and contribute to (flour, grains, rice, etc.). This way you can bake a fresh mango pie without buying 5 pounds of flour that goes to waste. You should also check to see if they will, in turn, pass on food to shelters or organizations where leftovers that are perishable can be taken. ie: you bought a bit too much fresh mozzarella yesterday and it won’t last the 8 hour bus ride ahead of you today. If there’s a program in place, you can give back instead of wasting.


Check to see what kinds of materials are used, how frequently linens are washed (hopefully only per your request), and even consider packing along your own lightweight linen sheet you can toss on and rinse later, reducing their need to do laundry at all.

Giving Back

Finally, when searching for an “eco-friendly” hostel, in addition to however sustainable, ethically built, etc. the hostel is, check to see if they are doing something more. You’re spending a large portion of your travel on lodging, so see if you can find somewhere that money is getting passed on to a cause, whether that’s pouring back into local farmers, planting trees somewhere or protecting the country’s animals.See what you can find, and then just go enjoy. You meet the most amazing people out in hostels, friends that can last a lifetime.

About the author: Author freelance writer Jocelyn Anne loves to travel and loves to go green. She’s currently working alongside Air & Water researching eco-friendly uses of a portable air conditioner for affordable, energy efficient cooling this summer.

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