Tips for Staying Eco-Friendly in Hotels
Yes, that title is correct. I did not mean to say “Tips for Staying in Eco-Friendly Hotels.” That is because, though there is a movement in the hotel industry to “go green,” it’s hard to say what exactly that means or how to judge whether your choice for lodging really is as environmentally friendly as it can be.
I admit to staying at an eco-resort or two that left a bit to be desired, but there have also been a few hotels that exceeded expectations. One thing I have learned, though, is that, if you can’t pick a green hotel or eco-friendly place to stay when you travel, you can at least make personal choices that limit wastefulness. A friend of mine, who travels frequently for business, contacted me about this issue, and I agree with her wholeheartedly that responsible traveling begins with the traveler. I’d like to share her ideas, as well as some of mine, on how you can stay eco-friendly at a hotel, whether your lodgings are or not.
Use your Do Not Disturb sign to keep housekeeping out. I’ve never stayed in a single hotel room for longer than a week, and for one week, I choose not to have my towels or sheets changed. Despite my attempts to leave notes asking housekeeping to avoid washing my linens, they are frequently changed anyway. This is my own fault as I write my notes in English, not the local language. Now, to avoid frustration, I simply ask hotel staff to stay out of my room so that towels and sheets are not stripped and washed.
Minimize towel usage. Use one large towel and one floor mat. Don’t use the hand towel, and wipe your hands on your bath towel instead. Use the same washcloth in the shower and at the sink. The bad news is that hotels will be washing all of these after your stay anyway, so stack all the unused towels together and leave a note for housekeeping when you leave that states that those towels weren’t used. Maybe, just maybe, they won’t be washed needlessly.
Turn the air conditioning up. In tropical destinations, I’ve noticed that many hotel room thermostats are set somewhere between Arctic Chill and Unbelievably Frigid. Consider turning your air conditioning to about 80F/26C (or turn it off altogether!), and turn the fan to low or off. Instead, sleep with fewer covers in order to remain comfortable throughout the night.
Open only the toiletries you plan to use. Although some hotels are starting to use refillable containers for shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion, the vast majority still provide small plastic bottles that are complimentary for guests. If you want to use these amenities, feel free to use them during your stay, but take the bottles with you when you leave so that you can finish the product. If you use a discernible amount of liquid and you leave the bottle behind, it will be thrown away and the bottle will probably not be recycled. Don’t open anything you don’t plan to use.
Turn off the lights. Hotel rooms are awash in lights. Bathroom lights, hallway lights, bedside lights, reading lamps, etc., etc. Only turn on what you need when you are in the room, and turn them all off when you leave.
Avoid overindulgence at the buffet. If you are staying at an all-inclusive resort or have access to a breakfast buffet, avoid the temptation to grab items “just for a taste.” Unfortunately, the food on many buffet lines is just dumped in the garbage at the end of the meal, but you can help curb overproduction by only taking what you plan on eating.
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