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Glamping Sustainably: A Luxe Way to Experience Nature

By Camille LeFevre Home Features Editor
Mar 4, 2020

Glamping, a linguistic blend of the words "glamorous" and "camping," is a new way to experience travel, or as Glamping Hub describes the term, "the activity of camping with some of the comforts and luxuries of home: Imagine glamping in a carpeted tent with a comfy queen-size bed." 

Traveling can be tricky when you're trying to stick to your lifestyle. Those "vacation chips" can quickly derail your healthy eating for example. And what about all the effort you've put into making your home more sustainable? Wouldn't it be nice if the accommodations you had while away from home were built to the same values?

Glamping Hub

Some companies, like Glamping Hub, are promoting glamping accommodations touting sustainability, from eco-pods on a sustainable farm in Hawaii, an off-grid cabin in Mexico, and "eco-crafted cabins" in Colorado. Chances are, too, that your "home" in which you're having your glamping adventure was once someone's sustainable home. Those homeowners are most likely your glamping hosts, as well.

We spoke with Glamping Hub about their commitment to sustainability and what their guests are looking for. Jessica Armstrong, Partnerships Manager, Glamping Hub, says that they "continually strive to provide our guests with the exact types of accommodations they're looking for." She added, "right now, our hosts are amazing at putting sustainability at the forefront, so we're thrilled to be providing guests with eco-friendly sustainable tourism."

Here is a closer look at some of some really cool earth (and spirit) friendly glamping options we've found.

Spicewood Treehouse Exterior
Spicewood Treehouse Exterior. Photo Credit: Glamping Hub

At Home in the Trees

In 1998, Will Beilharz and his family moved to 88 acres undeveloped ranch land in the Texas hill country. The family lived in a Mongolian yurt, growing their own food and harvesting their own electricity. For Will, sustainability is a way of life, which is why he founded Artistree, a company that builds custom treetop architecture.

Spicewood Treehouse Onsen Tub
Spicewood Treehouse Onsen Tub. Photo Credit: Glamping Hub

Alex Temblador, a freelance travel and culture writer, recently glamped in two different treehouses near Austin located in Spicewood, above a cypress-lined creek on the property. "The Juniper treehouse was charming, a small cozy unit with a great porch," she recalls. The other treehouse "was a super-luxury stay. I loved soaking in the onsen tub while it rained outside. I'd open the windows and enjoy the cool air and the views of the trees."

The single-room tree houses are sited above the cypress-lined creek on the property. Beilharz and his crew designed and built the treehouses with sustainably harvested and local materials. Their building methods are low-impact, and ArtisTree considers environmental, social, and economic impact over the entire lifecycle (from initial extraction to final disposal) when selecting materials.

"I enjoy camping on occasion, but I don't really like the process of setting up the tent and taking it down. With glamping, I can arrive, and there is my unit; set up, ready to go, and well-positioned in nature for me to have a nature-focused experience with a little more comfort."

She adds that "I always try to be sustainable when I travel. With the luxury unit, I was glad there was a refrigerator and a cooking surface so I could cook on-site without having to leave the property and take my truck into town." One of the treehouses had a water tank from which she drew water to fill up her portable water bottle. Solar energy heated the water for the tub and the showers. The luxury treehouse, she adds, "also used sustainable materials like Thermory Drift cladding."

1919 Caboose
1919 Caboose, Springfield, MA. Photo Credit: Glamping Hub

Camping in a Caboose 

Theresa Lauria is also a travel writer, whose "approach is wanting to experience new things." She loves trains and history, so Lauria recently stayed in a repurposed, 1919 wooden caboose outside of Springfield, Massachusetts. The caboose included wooden bunks with leather cushions. The site was replete with railroad history and artifacts, with stone arch bridges and a historic quarry nearby. 

Lauria also stayed in a home filled with recycled materials and repurposed furnishings at another location nearby. "The owner had acquired things from garage sales, antique stores, and things people had given him," she says. "Everything in the home was repurposed, including old double-hung windows from buildings nearby. We loved the idea behind this glamping site." 

Flophouze Exterior Night Sky
Flophouze Exterior Night Sky. Photo Credit: Flophouze

Shipping-Container Wellness Retreat 

Bri Wesley-Majsiak is a co-founder of The Breasties, "a nonprofit organization that empowers young women affected by breast and reproductive cancers through community and friendship," according to the website. "It's important to us to be as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible," says Wesley-Majsiak. So, for the organization's first wellness retreat in 2019, the team chose the Flophouze in Round Top, Texas, as a sustainable getaway.

"Each of the 25 women on the retreat stayed in various repurposed shipping containers," she explains. "Everything inside was sustainably sourced, like kitchen cabinets from old school science laboratories." The owner, she adds, created the "houzes" as a way of showing how repurposed and salvaged items can enjoy a new life while infusing the shipping-container units with character. 

The owner, Matt White, also owns an architectural salvage company. As such, the shipping containers are clad in sustainably harvested wood from his farm in upstate New York and reclaimed lumber from a Kentucky distillery. The windows were salvaged from a school in Philadelphia slated for demolition. The countertops are repurposed bowling alley floors from Texas.

Each container has a unique personality, so it was fun to see the women interact with each one," she says. "We enjoyed learning the stories of each item that made up a container and where everything came from. It created a deep feeling of appreciation for the retreat and space that we were in." 

Beautiful Boardwalk Bridge

Lessons in Sustainability

"All of the women loved the idea of living with less and talked about wanting to go home and downsize their ecological and carbon footprints," says Wesley-Majsiak. "Sustainability was a part of our decision-making process when choosing Flophouze, because we hold retreats throughout the year and cater to hundreds of women affected by cancer. We know firsthand how important it is to be intentional about what we use, how we use it, and the type of impact it has in the short term and long term." 

Tremblador recalls that during her treetop glamping experience, she loved "listening, in the morning, to the creek flow and, at night, looking at the twinkling lights that covered the swinging bridge in front of the treehouse. The house swayed with the trees, and it was one of the most unique experiences I've ever had."

During her stay, she also learned "that sustainability could mean experiencing nature without interrupting it. For instance, Cypress Valley Canopy requires that guests stay away from the creeks that run below the treehouses. While they look fun to explore, by walking through them, I'd be interrupting the ecology. I'm a guest among nature, and I tried to live in harmony with it while staying in the tree houses."

Tremblador returned home committed to becoming more mindful about "how my actions on a daily basis affect nature and its inhabitants, even those that are far away from me." As for Wesley-Majsiak and her group of Breasties, "Yes, we're a women's cancer nonprofit, but we're very conscious of the environments in which we create spaces for our community. It was very special to have FlopHouze at the heart of this retreat and to have everybody step away appreciating the value of recycling and using less." 

What Are Other Global Sustainable Glamping Options?

If you are planning a trip outside North America, more and more companies are specializing in sustainable glamping. Here are a few great options we've found.

Natur und Wanderhotel
Natur und Wanderhotel. Photo Credit: Ecobnb


Based in Italy, Ecobnb is a proponent of traveling "light." They offer many different experiences. From organic farmhouses to treehouses, glamping on the beach, sustainable homes in ancient villages, and zero-emissions wildlife refuges. To qualify, each of their facilities must have at least 5 of 10 sustainability requirements, as seen below. They then assign a "green leaf" rating on a five-point scale to each facility, depending on the number of requirements achieved.

  • Organic or Local Food
  • Green building
  • 100% renewable energy
  • Solar thermal panels for hot water
  • Energy-saving lights
  • Ecological cleaning products
  • More than 80% waste recycling
  • Car-free accessibility
  • Water flow reducers
  • Recovery & reuse of rainwater

Ecobnb calculates the CO2 reduction of each implemented sustainability requirement using a website called How Many Trees.

Quality Unearthed Bensfield Treehouse
Bensfield Treehouse. Photo Credit: Quality Unearthed

Quality Unearthed

In the U.K., Quality Unearthed has been in business since 1961 but has only recently focused on glamping. They specialize in beautiful structures and "promote the benefits of being in and part of nature".

Qhispikay Peru Solar Thermal
Glamping with Solar Thermal Water Heating. Photo Credit: Qhispikay Peru

Qhispikay Sustainable Glamping

Qhispikay is a Sustainable Glamping option in Peru. They focus on joining the traveler with the landscape, history, and culture of the Andes while minimizing the environmental footprint.

When staying at Qhispikay, they "promote cultural exchange between travelers from cities and the Andean people, seeking to make their reality known to the world."

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2020-10-22T21:27:08+0000
Camille LeFevre

Article by:

Camille LeFevre

Camille LeFevre is an architecture and design writer based in the Twin Cities.