For the last decade or so, I’ve associated sustainable travel with volunteer trips I took in college to San Juan, Montego Bay, and the Everglades. During these trips, I worked with local conservationists to learn about the protection and preservation of the environment. For the first time in my life, I camped in tents, used campfires to cook all of my food, composted my waste, and boiled water from nearby creeks to minimize my impact on the environment. These experiences in my teens and early twenties pushed me beyond the bounds of my comfort zone, which in turn changed me for the better and molded me into a person who is conscious of my environmental impact — even when traveling.
However, as I entered my thirties and started working in the New York City media world, the type of experiences I looked for when traveling abruptly changed. During my time away from my hectic life, I sought luxury and relaxation, which to me meant indulgent vacations at resorts, hotels and spas. Unfortunately, I discarded everything I learned about eco-friendly travel in the quest to achieve the ultimate Black girl luxury status. I struggled to reconcile my love for the planet with my desire for luxury experiences, but that changed when I visited Rancho Pescadero, a newly renovated resort in Baja, Mexico.
Nestled on the pristine beaches of Baja California Sur, Rancho Pescadero is a luxurious resort that offers much more than just a comfortable stay. At Rancho Pescadero, I experienced a different kind of luxury that nourished my whole being, including my love for the planet. The resort's sustainable practices were evident in every aspect of the experience, from the locally sourced organic cuisine to the natural cleaning products used in the rooms. The staff were knowledgeable about the environment and worked hard to minimize the resort's impact on the area. It was everything that I was looking for, a luxurious experience that didn't harm the planet.
What's more, the resort's commitment to preserving the beauty of Pescadero and Baja California Sur is truly inspiring, as Rancho Pescadero has been carefully designed to ensure the preservation of the surrounding area. The resort team transplanted thousands of plants that were moved during construction and placed them back in their original locations. Water conservation is another priority at the resort. They have installed a desalination plant that provides water for human use, and they use filtered gray water for landscaping and well water for farm irrigation. Striving to become a zero-waste property, the resort does not use single-use plastics.
At Rancho Pescadero, sustainability and luxury go hand-in-hand. Their commitment to preserving the environment while providing guests with an unforgettable experience is synthesis I didn’t know that I was looking for. At the property’s Botánica Spa, I felt an intimate connection with the earth, as their approach to physical, mental, and spiritual well-being is rooted in the wisdom of plants, nature, and purposeful movement. During my therapeutic massage, I indulged in balms and ointments created with ingredients sourced from the on-site gardens, highlighting the resort's commitment to sustainability. This experience was a true inspiration and reminded me that I can make a positive impact on the environment while still enjoying the utmost comfort and pleasure, which, in my opinion, defines the true essence of luxury.
My recent trip gave me a new perspective on luxury and sustainability in travel. It made me realize the potential to merge the two and prioritize conscious choices. In light of this, I have become more conscious of what and how I pack for my travels. One area where I have made a conscious effort to prioritize sustainability is in my skincare routine. For me, taking care of my skin is a luxurious practice that I enjoy, but I am now more mindful of how I can make this ritual more sustainable. I now opt for eco-friendly brands like Common Heir, OUI the People, Klur and Knesko — brands that produce luxurious skincare while prioritizing sustainable packaging and waste reduction. I’ve also recently discovered Reis, a refillable travel bottle that allows me to bring the products that I love with me wherever I travel while reducing my use of single-use plastic.
For me, the joy of travel comes with buying new clothes and getting new hairstyles to wear on my journeys. I used to turn to fast fashion for ease, but I've recently pivoted to renting clothes through Rent the Runway, which displaces the need for the new production of garments. I’ve also discovered Black-owned sustainable fashion brands like Riot Swim that use recycled polyester and nylon to create timeless and durable swimwear while minimizing waste in their production processes. Brother Vellies is another sustainable brand that uses eco-friendly materials such as vegetable-tanned leather and recycled rubber to create footwear while working with artisans in Africa to ensure fair wages and safe working conditions. So instead of buying fast fashion pieces for every vacation so that I can feel luxurious through excess, I’m investing in brands that prioritize sustainability and renting clothing to reduce the amount of garments that sit in my closet unused.
I’ve also begun to think about how the synthetic hair I use for braids or ponytails (the styles I wear most often while traveling) negatively impacts the environment. Synthetic hair extensions are typically made from plastic fibers which are not biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to break down in the environment. When disposed of improperly, synthetic hair can contribute to microplastic pollution in waterways and harm wildlife. I’ve switched to using brands like Ruka and Rebundle that are exploring innovative approaches to recycling and upcycling to minimize waste and reduce the environmental impact of synthetic hair extensions.
I recognize that I am not flawless in my endeavors to uphold sustainable practices, but I take pride in incorporating eco-consciousness into the lifestyle I have established for myself, even when traveling. Over time, I have come to learn that sustainability and luxury can coexist harmoniously, and it is crucial that, as travelers, we make a concerted effort to make mindful decisions that prioritize both. I believe that my younger self would commend my present actions towards contributing to a more sustainable future.