Alohilani Resort eco-conscious quest

Hawaii’s (Almost) First Carbon-Neutral Hotel

BY Briana Brady | April 10, 2024

This story was first published in The Hotels issue (#6) which hit stands in March 2024. ‘Alohilani Resort was one of the hotels named to our first-ever Greatest Hotels Ever list.

It’s not news but worth repeating over and over: Travel accounts for a chunk of the world’s carbon emissions. It’s around 8-11%, and 90% of travelers look for sustainable options when they’re planning trips, according to a 2022 report from Expedia Media Group. 

‘Alohilani Resort, one of the many hotels along Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach, fully opened itself to those environmentally concerned bookings when it began rolling out its carbon neutral plan in 2022. The hotel is now in the final stages of a certification that will officially recognize them as one of Hawaii’s first carbon-neutral resorts. 

“Carbon neutral” is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but at its heart, it’s about balance. A carbon neutral entity is investing in capturing as much carbon as it releases into the atmosphere. After a process that calculates the amount of energy used during operations — that includes literal energy use but also carbon emitted via supply chain processes — comes the plan to balance emissions. 

‘Alohilani’s answer, in part, is trees. You probably remember this from biology class: trees absorb carbon dioxide. ‘Alohilani has partnered with Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative (HLRI) and plans to plant 100,000 trees. So far, they’ve made it up to 18,757 trees and have restored 46 acres of habitat. And if you visit, you too, can visit the HLRI forest and get in on the trees — the opposite of illegally taking some sand from a Hawaiian beach.

“Each tree planted through HLRI is tagged with an individual radio-frequency identification chip,”  says Marianne Balfe, the VP of sustainability at The Highgate Group, which owns ‘Alohilani, “Guests can track their tree throughout its lifetime.”

The other big way that ‘Alohilani is accounting for its carbon emissions is through carbon credits and renewable energy certificates (RECs). We could talk for a long time about the way that carbon markets work, but we’ll sum it up to say that buying a carbon credit or a REC is a bit like donating to a non-profit and then taking that off your taxes. The money you spend is getting invested in carbon capture and renewable energy projects at a rate that balances out a certain amount of your own carbon emissions. In ‘Alohilani’s case, they’ve balanced it all — more than, even. According to Balfe, the resort has enough carbon credits to be considered not just neutral, but carbon negative. 

The resort has also eliminated single-use plastic, and they offer refilling stations for your water bottle. Their chefs are also trying to source as much local produce as they can.