How Denmark Inspires

The World’s Best Eco-Luxe Hotels? Leave it to the Danes to Award Them


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By Helen Russell

Danes do ‘green living’ like no other nation—from their homes to their favorite eco-friendly hotels.

The first country in the world to establish an environment ministry in the 1970s and today, Danes today gets 20% of their electricity from wind. They’re fanatical recyclers. They cycle, versus drive, everywhere. And, they’re aiming for a ‘Denmark without waste’ by 2050, when everything will be recycled or re-used. Furthermore, Denmark has been voted the most climate-friendly nation on earth by the UN. It’s no surprise, then, that Denmark has also nailed a sustainable approach to hotel stays.

More than 20 years ago, a group of eco-friendly Danes set up Green Key – an award to promote environmentally-sound tourism that’s now been exported to 45 countries worldwide with the support of the United Nations Environmental Program.

“We wanted to reward people for doing good work within the environment rather than just punishing those doing bad,” explains Mikal Holt Jensen, Program Manager at Green Key. “This was something that was a natural fit for Denmark - we’re a small country but sustainability is very important to us. Danes have a realistic way of looking at environmental issues: if you’re too fanatical, a business cannot run. We have a more flexible way of looking at how to make things work - and we want to make it easier for everyone to help the environment. Our goal is to raise the eco-bar for hotels worldwide.” This includes reducing water and energy consumption as well as the use harsh chemicals; preserving the natural environment; and raising guest awareness of green-living.

As the largest global eco-label for accommodation, Green Key has a base in each participating country. “There are challenges in different places,” admits Jensen, “– for instance, in hotels in Jordan it’s all about trying to get the heat out, whereas in Denmark, it’s about keeping the heat in most of the time because it gets so cold here! But we make it work. It’s important for people to know that you can have a good hotel experience and still help the environment.”

Green Key hotels that prove luxury can still be eco-friendly

It really is possible to combine luxury and an eco friendly stay,” says Jensen: “Green Key criteria makes it easier for hotels to care for the environment without diminishing guest comfort.” Here are some of the best:

The Palms Hotel & Spa, Miami Beach, USA
(pictured) A serene oceanfront resort in the heart of Miami Beach complete with an Aveda spa and gourmet restaurants. 

Westin Palace, Milan, Italy
Historic luxury hotel in Italy’s fashion capital overlooking the Duomo.

Princess Heights Luxury Boutique Condo Hotel, Sint Maarten
Private holiday apartments in the magical Sint Maarten, a constituent country of the Netherlands in the Caribbean.

Marina Plaza, Aqaba, Jordan
Luxury hotel on the shores of the Red Sea with views of the nearby marina and a backdrop of Egypt’s mountain region across the Gulf of Aqaba.