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Top 8 eco-friendly resorts in Thailand for 2020

Take your pick of accommodation on the beach or in the forest for a sustainable holiday.

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With a firm mission in place to reduce its carbon footprint, an eco-friendly property promotes eco-tourism and takes social and environmental responsibility seriously. You can limit your impact on the environment while on holiday by choosing accommodation that has a "green policy" or is striving to be as sustainable as possible.

Even though there is still some way to go for widespread sustainability goals, there are many eco-resorts in Thailand that have a long list of initiatives covering energy and water consumption, waste management, plastic use, food sourcing and conservation.

1. The Tongsai Bay, Koh Samui

This family-run resort has all you need for a relaxing holiday. Set on a private bay, all rooms have a view of the sea. This property has won numerous awards for its green policy, including for being the first 5-star green hotel on Koh Samui.

  • As part of the resort's nature conservation, permission needs to be granted before cutting down trees.
  • Biodegradable food scraps are turned into fertiliser and pig food.
  • Non-biodegradable items are recycled, reused or repaired.
  • Energy-saving initiatives are in place throughout the resort, including switching to LED lightbulbs and creating hot water from condensed air.
  • No chemicals are used in the garden and biodegradable cleaners are used indoors.
  • The Tongsai Bay is against the captivity and exploitation of animals and is actively involved with conservation organisations in Thailand.
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2. Zeavola Resort, Phi Phi Islands

Experience sustainable barefoot luxury in a remote location surrounded by tropical forests and a tranquil white sand beach.

  • Zeavola Resort has previously won the World's Best Sustainable Boutique Hotel Award at the World Boutique Hotel Awards, which emphasised its focus on a self-sufficient lifestyle.
  • 260kg of plastic is saved every year by removing plastic packaging on deliveries from the mainland.
  • Single-use plastic bottles are reduced by having water stations throughout the resort.
  • Energy-efficient devices are used throughout the resort.
  • The custodian of the resort has authored a book called Zeavola's Little Green Book, which discusses the challenges of creating a sustainable property. All proceeds go to other sustainability projects.
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eco resorts

3. Bangkok Tree House

With a long list of sustainability initiatives, Bangkok Tree House is a place to celebrate nature in your own nest in the treetops.

  • Air-cleaning plants are grown in each of the guest rooms to help purify the air.
  • Organic vegetables are grown on site and all food served is fresh.
  • All outdoor and restaurant lights are run by solar and wind energy and all lightbulbs are LED and CFL.
  • Bangkok Tree House has a goal to become zero waste and makes a conscious effort to reuse, recycle and upcycle wherever possible.
  • To take advantage of the natural breeze and save on energy, air conditioners won't be found in public spaces.
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eco resorts

4. Golden Buddha Beach Resort, Phang Nga

This island eco-resort in Thailand is situated on a 12km beach with cabins and treehouses dotted on the edge of the forest.

  • This resort has a strong emphasis on coexisting with the island residents and wildlife.
  • Energy consumption is reduced by using solar energy for hot water and natural ventilation instead of air conditioning.
  • Meals are organic and all waste is composted or recycled.
  • The resort has built its own water tower and purification station, so water no longer needs to be brought from the mainland.
  • Rather than purchasing new speedboats and increasing carbon emissions, the resort utilises local boatmen for transportation services.
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eco resorts

5. Aleenta Hua Hin – Pranburi Resort and Spa

This boutique luxury resort and spa is part of the Akaryn Hotel Group, which prides itself on sustainable hospitality throughout its Thailand properties.

  • Single-use plastics are banned throughout the resort.
  • Regular beach cleans are done with local schools and neighbouring properties to remove items that can harm local wildlife.
  • Carbon-free cooking is preferred to reduce carbon emissions.
  • 90% of meals originate from the property's organic farm, with the remainder transported by bike from local farms.
  • Food is cooked in smokehouses and stone ovens.
  • To preserve the local indigenous species, the resort replants and maintains plants in the surrounding gardens.
  • You can join a visit to the local wildlife rescue centre to learn more about animal conservation.
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eco resorts

6. Six Senses Yao Noi, Phang Nga Bay

With a private infinity pool in your spacious villa, luxury amenities and sustainability projects to get involved with, this resort is a dream come true.

  • This resort has an ethos of "Rethink, Responsible, Respect, Refuse, Reuse and Recycle".
  • Many products are made on-site and systems are in place to reduce plastic packaging and the carbon footprint for deliveries from suppliers.
  • Sustainability programs include supplying clean drinking water to local communities and building a habitat for hornbill birds.
  • A farm-to-table initiative removes the need to purchase many supplies. The resort has a mushroom hut, an organic garden and goat, chicken and duck farms.
  • Guests are encouraged to get involved in sustainability projects or volunteer their time at the local school to teach English.
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eco resorts

7. Pimalai Resort and Spa, Koh Lanta

Wake up every morning to views of the ocean and enjoy the "being green" initiatives in place to preserve Koh Lanta's beauty.

  • It's the first resort on Koh Lanta to receive the Green Globe certification and it's continuing to develop its environmental solutions.
  • This property implements zero waste and has initiatives in place to reduce energy consumption, water use, waste and its carbon footprint.
  • Guests are welcome to join beach cleaning days held with local residents and businesses.
  • Work is being done with marine biologists to find ways to preserve the sea.
  • Pimalai is pioneering a waste management system for Koh Lanta with local schools and authorities.
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eco resorts

8. The Hideout, Koh Yao

If you're looking for a sustainable experience in nature to disconnect from the world, this off-the- grid gem could be just the ticket.

  • The Hideout is plastic-free to reduce waste. It has passed 80% diversion rates, which means that over 80% of waste is effectively recycled, reused or composted without needing to be burned or go to a landfill.
  • There is no electricity, but renewable energy is used to provide power where needed.
  • The saltwater infinity pool is powered by solar energy.
  • Fresh food is sourced locally, with many items such as drinks, bread and pasta made on-site.
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Why we chose these accommodation options

We chose these eco friendly resorts in Thailand because:

  • Each of them has a strong commitment to sustainability and a plan in place to reduce their impact on the environment.
  • We found that there are numerous initiatives and processes in place throughout the property that aim to reduce waste and energy consumption.
  • They all work on projects that contribute to local communities or aid with animal conservation.

What to know before you go to Thailand

  • Unethically sourced seafood: A lot of seafood that you will find in restaurants has been unethically sourced either through fishing methods that destroy underwater environments or by slave labour. Consider the demand you are creating before ordering unless you are sure of where the seafood has come from.
  • General waste: According to Siam Commercial Bank's Economic Intelligence Center, Thailand is rated sixth in the world for waste dumped into the sea. A single-use plastic bag ban has been in place since January 2020 at some major stores, but disposable utensils, plates and cups are still being used in many places. So consider taking your own set to carry with you.
  • Single-use plastic bottles: Tap water is generally not safe to drink across Thailand, so you'll see a lot of people drinking bottled water. Many hotels provide plastic water bottles for guests but some have water stations for you to fill up your own reusable bottle.
  • Toilet paper waste: Plumbing systems in a lot of areas are not up to the same standards that you are used to at home, and in some places, toilet waste is pumped directly into the ocean. Use the bin provided for toilet paper and sanitary items. Alternatively, consider using the installed "bum gun" to reduce your paper waste, which uses water rather than paper to clean yourself after visiting the bathroom.

Animal exploitation in Thailand

Many animals in Thailand are exploited and used to bring in tourism dollars, with elephant rides and tiger patting being the main drawcards. While some centres claim that the animals in their care were saved from poaching and are leading healthy lives, this is generally not the case.

If you'd like to contribute to animal welfare in Thailand, look for a rescue centre that has a reputation for protecting animals. Avoid places that offer experiences where you can get up close to animals. Both Phuket Elephant Sanctuary and Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand are known for their ethical treatment of elephants. You can also volunteer your time at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project in Phuket or Rescue Paws in Hua Hin.

Things to avoid when booking eco-friendly accommodation in Thailand

When choosing an eco-resort in Thailand, you should pay attention to the range of initiatives that have been implemented throughout the property. If a resort has a dedicated page or section on their website which openly states its sustainability goals or green policy, this is a good sign that it's committed to reducing its impact on the environment.

If you find accommodation that only promotes one of two sustainable measures, such as have a recycling system or no air conditioning, this is not at the eco-friendly level that would be considered good enough to be on our list.

When doing your research, these are some of the things to consider:

  • Does the resort support local communities and charities?
  • Are there systems in place to reduce waste, recycle and upcycle?
  • How does the resort manage waste water? Is it pumped into the sea or disposed of ethically?
  • How is energy consumption reduced? Does the resort use solar power or have energy-saving devices?
  • Is there a ban on single-use plastics?
  • Does the resort support local communities and charities?
  • Are sheets and towels changed every day, or only every few days to save water?
  • Where does the resort source its food? Does it grow organic produce on site or buy from local growers?
  • Is the resort taking measures to preserve the local environment and wildlife? Are there projects in place?

Not all eco-resorts in Thailand will tick all the boxes, as each will have different initiatives based on the type of property it is and its location. Based on what it does have, you can weigh up whether or not the resort is actually making a positive contribution to the environment.

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