“Carbon footprint” is more than just a trendy buzz phrase these days, with more and more individuals and organisations alike making the decision to reduce their impact on the environment.

Ecologically sound and socially-conscious tourism is a growing trend in the travel industry, with ‘woke’ global travellers choosing accommodation and services that support green issues, fair trade and local community-based initiatives. Today’s eco-tourists are choosing solar power, dry toilet systems and creating local employment opportunities over free Wi-Fi, air-con, television and mini-fridges.

South Africa, with its diverse environment and cultures, is ahead of the global pack in many ways. Hotels (both luxury and budget), nature reserves and short-term urban accommodation are all putting its best, and greener, foot forward in offering quality, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly service.

Here are five of the best South African green hotels, rated by local and international tourists on websites such as TripAdvisor, CNN Travel and Facebook.

Teniqua Treetops, Garden Route, Western Cape

Teniqua Treetops is an eco-friendly, self-catering tree house resort in the Garden Route of South Africa. Each tree house provides unique accommodation in the indigenous forest. (Image: Teniqua Treetops website)

Secluded at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains, Teniqua Treetops is a self-sufficient compound of self-catering tented tree houses. The lodge is solar-powered, harvests rain water and uses a dry toilet system to ensure minimum impact on the environment. It enjoys four-plus reviews on popular travel review websites, including a 4.5 (out of five) star rating on TripAdvisor. Read the reviews.

Bulungula Lodge, Wild Coast, Eastern Cape

Situated on one of South Africa’s most beautiful, unspoilt beaches, Bulungula Lodge is described as “one of the world’s ultimate ethical travel experiences” by the influential Rough Guide travel advisory. (Image: Bulungula Lodge)

In the Eastern Cape, the Bulungula Lodge is a modest but popular backpacker’s hostel right on the ocean, owned and operated by the local Ngileni community. The lodge enjoys a current 4.5 star rating on TripAdvisor, thanks to its friendly atmosphere, solar-powered rooms and various recycling projects. Read the reviews.

The Peech, Johannesburg, Gauteng

The Peech is a top Johannesburg eco-friendly, chic boutique hotel, centrally located in Melrose, between Rosebank and Sandton. (Image: The Peech website)

While boutique hotels, with their personalised service and luxury exclusivity might not always be considered the most environmentally-friendly tourism, the Peech in Johannesburg bucks the trend. Situated in the heart of the city, in Melrose North, the hotel practices fair trade tourism, supporting community organisations, including the Little Eden Children’s Home. Guests can enjoy full water and refuse recycling services, solar-powered water heaters and green-zoned architecture. Read the reviews.

iKhayalamafu, Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal

iKhayalamafu Mountain Reserve operates fully equipped, environmentally-friendly cabins set high in the Monks Cowl Reserve of the Central Drakensberg. (Image: iKhayalamafu website)

Located in the secluded Central Drakensberg, iKhayalamafu (isiZulu for ‘House in the clouds’) is a fully off-the-grid mountain hideaway, operating on both solar and hydro power. Every aspect of the venue is environmentally inclined, from recycling and locally-sourced food supply to free-roaming wildlife and strictly enforced low noise-levels. The spot is also part of a world heritage site, the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park. Read the venue’s 4.5 star TripAdvisor reviews here.

 Oyster Box Hotel, Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal

The Oyster Box is an award-winning 5-star luxury boutique hotel and spa and member of Leading Hotels of the World in Durban, South Africa. (Image: Oyster Box website)

In the heart of one of South Africa’s most popular beachfront tourist locations, the Oyster Box prides itself on combining luxury with ecologically-sound practice, including solar power generation, rain water harvesting and, above all, an automated building management system that maximises the venue’s energy efficiency. The hotel was featured as one of the leaders in green tourism on CNN Travel. Read the Oyster Box five-star TripAdvisor reviews here.

Source: TripAdvisor, CNN Travel, SA Venues website, Travel Write website