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Choose a "Green Hotel" Whenever You Travel

by Deborah Mitchell
The Challenge

When you stay at a green hotel, you help reduce the tremendous negative impact that hotel use has on the environment.

"Green hotels" include any hotels, motels, and inns that use energy and other resources in environmentally responsible ways. These green hotels utilize renewable resources when possible, make efficient use of nonrenewable resources, and ensure that many byproducts are reused or recycled.

More than 4.9 million hotel rooms are available in the United States daily, with an average occupancy rate of 61.4 percent. As a result, a staggering number of hotel guests need linens washed, meals prepared, fresh water for showers and toilets, and energy for lights, heating, and cooling. Thus, there is an enormous need for green hotel practices.

As a guest of a green hotel, you will receive quality service while knowing you are helping the environment. Hotels also realize cost savings when they adopt green hotel practices, which they can then use to enhance their guest services.

Some green hotels are already making a big difference. For example:

  • By switching to more energy-efficient lighting, the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City has saved 1.2 million kilowatt hours per year.
  • One hotel reduced water use by 2 million gallons per year when it fired a chef who was improperly defrosting food by running water over it.
  • The Fairmont Acapulco Princess and Fairmont Pierre Marques filter and treat wastewater and reuse it to irrigate their golf courses, and the separated sludge is used as fertilizer.
  • The Sheraton Rancho Cordova in California noted that simply hanging cards asking patrons to consider using towels more than once and not having sheets changed everyday has resulted in a 5 percent decline in utility costs alone.

These and other green hotels are taking responsible steps, but many others have not yet accepted the green hotel challenge. You can help by supporting green hotel practices every time you travel.

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Before you book your next hotel room, look for a green hotel at your destination by checking the list offered by The Green Hotels Association.

If a green hotel is not nearby, you can still help the environment by using hotel supplies conscientiously.

How To Be a Green Hotel Guest

  • When packing for a trip, bring (1) a handful of safety pins and different colored small beads, or different colored safety pins; (2) one or two plug-in night lights; (3) a reusable mug; and (4) a permanent marker. You'll see why below.
  • Ask the staff not to change your sheets and towels every day. To keep track of which towel belongs to which family member, attach a safety pin and bead to each towel and assign a different color for each family member. Remove the pins before you check out.
  • Whenever you leave your room, turn off the lights, radio, TV, and heating/cooling. Close the drapes.
  • Plug in a night light instead of leaving a room light on all night.
  • Participate in any recycling efforts the hotel promotes.
  • Keep the soap wrappers and bring home used bars of soap.
  • If the hotel provides complimentary newspapers, once you are done with them pass them along to someone else or ask management whether they can be recycled.
  • Leave unopened amenities in the room and take home opened ones. However, ask if the hotel participates in the Clean the World campaign, which means the establishment donates partially used soaps and bottled amenities, which are then sanitized, processed and distributed to needy children and families around the world. You can see which hotels participate in this program or ask at the front desk.
  • Use a permanent marker to write each person's name on the cups in the hotel bathroom.
  • Don't let the water run while brushing your teeth; take short showers.
  • Turn off exercise machines, saunas, and other equipment when you are done.
  • Take only the brochures and tourist information you need and return the rest to the display racks.
  • If the hotel has a free breakfast or happy hour, take only the food you will eat. If you have seconds, use the same utensils. If the hotel uses disposable cups, bring your own reusable cup.
  • If you don't drink water with your meal, ask that the wait staff not pour you a glass.
  • If the hotel already embraces green-hotel practices, thank the managers and employees and tell them you appreciate it.

Encourage Hotels to Become "Green"

If you stay at a non-green hotel, you can:

  • Ask hotel managers if the hotel has considered adopting green practices and tell them such steps are important to you as a guest.
  • Present the manager(s) with a list of environmental tips for green hotels, or attach the list to the comment card and leave it at the front desk. (Do not leave it in the room; your comment card has a better chance of being read if you bring it to the front desk.)
  • Ask for the name and contact information of the hotel's president and/or CEO and send a letter asking them to adopt green hotel practices. Refer them to organizations that promote green hotel practices (see below).

Learn more about green hotels and how to be a green guest by visiting Green Hotels Association, Zero Waste Alliance, and EcoGreen Hotel. Go green on your next hotel stay and make a difference for the environment.

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