I don’t stay in hotels very often but when I do, I turn on my green radar. Just because you are paying for a room is not, IMO, a good reason to be wasteful. In fact, practicing green hotel tips can be an educational experience not only for you, but for your kids as well, not to mention the benefits for the environment.
We just returned from a week-long trip to Houston and Galveston, and I was appalled at the lack of recycling everywhere we went. (We stayed in five different hotels, including two different Marriotts, a resort Holiday Inn, and two different Hiltons.) My experiences in other cities and states when staying in hotels have varied considerably from great environmental awareness on the part of the establishment to complete ignorance.
With that in mind, here are some cool green hotel tips you and your family can practice the next time you travel.
Don’t change linens. Do you change your linens and towels every day or even every 2 to 3 days at home? Then why insist on it when you travel? Hotel rooms typically have cards or placards in the rooms that explain their policies regarding bed linens and towels. Generally, for example, if you leave towels on the floor they will replace them; hung up towels are not removed. Why not practice good etiquette and hang up ALL your towels? At the same time, you may want to do what I do: I put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door so no one disturbs me and my linens.
Return key cards. Unless your room key card has your name and account number on it (which may be in the case in casino hotels), be sure to return your key cards when you leave. They can be rekeyed and reused until they become damaged. Too many people take the key cards with them and then throw them out.
Rethink toiletry item use. If you bring your own toiletries from home, great. However, if you use those provided by the hotels, here are a few tips: (1) Use up the shampoo, lotion, etc. before opening a new one. If you are moving on to other hotels and you haven’t used up these items, bring them along with you and finish them in the next hotel.
(2) If you have partially used toiletries, ask if the hotel participates in the Clean the World program. This nonprofit effort collects partially used shampoo, soap, and lotions from participating hotels and B&Bs, processes them, and then distributes the items to people in need in developing countries. (You also can check on the Clean the World website to see which hotels participate.) If the hotel is part of Clean the World, then you know the items will be recycled if you leave them in the room.
(3) If the hotel does not participate, you can either bring the partially used items with you and finish them at home, or (like I do), donate them to a hotel in your area that does participate in the program. Also, introduce management to the Clean the World program by giving them the website URL.
Look for green hotels and motels. A growing number of hospitality establishments in the United States and the world are participating in environmentally friendly activities, from recycling in the rooms to water conservation, restaurant food composting, and changing light bulbs. You can support such establishments by booking a room in these facilities and letting management know you appreciate their efforts. The Green Hotels Association has a list of participating establishments.
Speak up. Let hotel management know that (1) you appreciate the fact that they do recycle in their hotel; or (2) that you are immensely disappointed that they do not recycle. Ask if they have any plans to do so in the near future. Also write reviews about the hotels you stay at and voice your opinions concerning whether they do or don’t recycle. Reviews can be placed on a hotel’s Facebook page as well as Yelp, Trip Advisor, and lots of other travel websites.
At one of the Hiltons in Houston, I asked at the front desk whether the hotel participated in any recycling programs. The clerk was obviously taken aback by the question, so she asked the assistant manager. I was informed that recycling was not followed anywhere in the hotel, not even in the offices. Guess which hotel got a review!
Don’t use the trash cans. Hotel rooms typically have at least two trash cans. While some hotels are now using hard plastic liners instead of plastic bags to line these cans, others still employ the bags. It’s quite simple: if you don’t put anything into the cans that have plastic bags, the staff will not need to throw them out. So I suggest you either save your trash and dump it into one of the large trash cans in the hallways or, at the very least, use only one of the trash cans in the room.
Bring your own mug(s) and beverage containers. Regardless of your mode of transportation, each traveler should have his/her own mug. This eliminates the need to use the plastic or Styrofoam coffee cups often found in hotel rooms and lobbies. They are also handy on the road to enjoy beverages you may bring along.
Pack it out. If you are a hiker, you may be familiar with this concept. It means you carry out your waste materials to a place where you can dispose of them properly. When talking about green travel tips, I am suggesting that if you stay at a hotel or other establishment that does not provide recycling opportunities, you should carry the items until you find a place to recycle them properly. During my latest trip, I carried paper and cardboard until I reached a recycling container at the Houston airport.
Do you have any green hotel tips to share? Let’s all work together to keep the only home we have as clean as possible!