|by Doug Kennedy, March 2008
Having been personally committed to helping save our environment for
as long as I can remember, it is exciting to read lately about the numerous
hotels and hotel brands that are minimizing their environmental impact,
reducing waste, and even introducing “Green Rooms” as an accommodation
type. While this is all very exciting, there’s still the vast majority
of hotels that have yet to make any effort to reduce waste or to help guests
Not to worry, today’s business and leisure travelers face numerous opportunities
every day to immediately reduce their negative impact on the environment.
All we have to do is empower ourselves and to each take personal responsibility
for the personal carbon footprints we create during our travels.
If you are one of the many guests who are increasingly interested in
preserving our environment for our children and future generations, here
are some tips that I hope you will live by and also that you will share
with others in your personal and professional network.
When preparing and packing for your trip:
Upon arrival at the front desk:
Pack your own personal amenities. If you carry on, purchase and re-use
3 oz. containers and refill at home with shampoo, conditioner, lotion,
etc… versus buying these products retail in small, wasteful packaging.
When printing airline or rental car confirmations, or other online travel
documents, print the first page or two only, and save both ink and paper
by reprinting the “terms and conditions” you won’t read anyway.
Print itineraries and confirmations in “draft” mode; also if you have a
color printer set it to black and white or “grayscale” mode to save colored
Reserve a car with good fuel economy vs. one that is larger than what you
need for the trip.
In your guest room:
Tell the front desk to save the key packet and just give you the key.
Ask for only one key if you are traveling alone, and be sure to turn it
in at the desk for re—use vs. leaving in your guestroom where it might
Likewise, if you can find your room on your own ask them to keep their
guest room map, along with any unnecessary extra paperwork they are handing
If possible, take the stairs or escalator to get to your room versus burning
energy to make the elevator run up or down.
Decline welcome amenities you don’t want, such as fruit baskets, cookies,
or welcome snacks.
During your stay:
For short trips, contact housekeeping right away to decline housekeeping
service and turn-down service during your stay. This will save lots
of energy by not having the vacuum running every day as well as cleaning
products that would have been used tidying a room that is still immaculate.
Upon entering your room, gather up any room amenities you don’t plan on
using and set them out of the way, such as soap, shampoo, coffee packets,
robes, etc… This will keep them from getting wet on the bathroom
counter or otherwise damaged and allow the housekeeper to reuse them for
the next guest.
Similarly, take the towels, washcloths, etc… that you will use during your
stay and set them aside. Leave all other towels untouched (and set
aside) so that Housekeeping will know they were not used.
Use the same amount of towels and linen you would at home. When you
are done with a towel hang it up to dry for re-use during short stays.
If you are alone in a room with two double beds, don’t mess up the bedspread
and sheets on the second bed so that it won’t have to be remade.
If you do end up having to use the hotel bathroom amenities, take the remaining
portions with you to use again elsewhere.
Drink only tap water during your stay. Or if you don’t like the taste
of tap water, purchase a water bottle with a built-in filter that can be
used anywhere. (Such as a Brita Bottle.) Or if you do end up purchasing
water, at least refill your used water bottles at the next water fountain
you find. This will save not only on packaging of water bottles but
also the fuel used to transportation it for delivery.
For men, fill the sink bowl when shaving versus running the water.
For women, turn the shower off when shaving and rinse off later.
For either gender, turn the water off when brushing teeth!
At any restaurant or bar:
Turn the lights and television off when leaving your guest room, especially
when you check-out, as the room might not be cleaned right away.
Similarly, turn the air conditional or heat up or down, according to the
season, when leaving the guest room so that it doesn’t run unnecessary.
During summer months, close the drapes to keep the sun’s heat out; during
winter month’s, open your drapes to help heat the room during the day.
When you go swimming, re-use your pool or beach towels where possible by
taking them back to your room and hanging them up at the end of the day.
Tell hotel managers to adjust the air conditioning (summer) or heat (winter)
in the public areas, such as the lobby and banquet rooms, according to
comfort levels. Experience shows that most hotel public spaces are
way too cold in the summer and way too warm in the winter, wasting huge
amounts of energy either way.
When ordering room service, tell them not to send any extra food items
or condiments you don’t need. If you don’t use butter, which is particularly
wasteful to produce, tell them to hold it. Likewise if you drink
your coffee black tell them to hold the cream. If you don’t want
your side orders of toast, rolls, etc… tell them not to send it.
If you are not very hungry, ask for half-order partitions; if the restaurant
is not set-up to bill for half-orders agree to pay anyway. (Either
way you are wasting, and better to waste the money you have to pay anyway
then to also waste the extra food.)
Ask your room service waiter if the condiments that are sent are going
to be reused; if so, send them back. If not, save left over jelly
packets and mini Ketchup bottles to take home with you.
By paying more attention to our own individual actions while we are traveling,
us Road Warriors can collectively have a major impact when we all take
individual responsibility for the waste we create on the road. Best
of all, when we reprogram ourselves to be less wasteful when we travel,
these actions will no doubt carry over when we are back home. Oh,
and if you have other tips and suggestions please send
them to me, as I am compiling a more extensive list that will be posted
on my personal blog.
Order off the buffet or order the specials of the day, as these represent
foods purchased and prepared in bulk.
Ask if Salmon is farm raised. Even if you order farm raised salmon for
health purposes, ask the waitperson to mention to the Chef the negative
environmental impact of farm-raised Salmon and to consider the wild version
Drink draft beer and carbonated soda from the fountain, versus bottles,
which saves a ton of energy and fuel to manufacture and transport all that
extra packaging. If you do order a bottled soda, beer, or water,
drink it from the bottle vs. wasting a cup.
Drink tap water at restaurants versus bottled water, or if you don’t want
water tell them not to bring you any, especially in areas experiencing
When you do have to buy bottled water, buy the local brand (that consequently
didn’t have to be transported as far.)
Don’t take extra napkins; if they are given to you anyway save them for
Decline stir sticks when ordering a drink at the bar or even a coffee.
Likewise, don’t take a lid or straw on your beverage when ordering unless
you need to.
If you happen upon a hotel making Green effort, reward them with comment
cards and feedback. If you are at a hotel that shows no effort, take
a moment to fill out the comment card and let them know this cause is important
enough for you to change your future travel buying habits.
Where possible, consume foods that are produced locally and thus require
less wasteful transportation to reach you, the consumer.
If your hotel is one of the few that have already implemented a guest recycling
program, be sure to not only use it but to thank management for their efforts
in person and/or on their comment cards. If recycling is not available
in your guest room, mention the lack thereof to the hotel management in
person or on your comment card.
Avoid the use of Styrofoam cups and containers whenever possible.
Carry and use a re-usable coffee mug, especially if your preferred hotel
chain only offers Styrofoam in their rooms. If you have to use Styrofoam,
ask the server to refill your cup versus wasting another.