With society becoming more environmentally aware, we are starting to see many businesses going green; especially hotels. For those of us who are trying to vacation green, this is a welcome shift. You might ask, “What is a green hotel?” or “What makes a hotel green?” Hotels that are going green are implementing ways to decrease the use of energy, waste, and water.
For a hotel, all of these resources are highly used on a daily basis; however, these facilities have come up with ways to drastically reduce the use. With the help and support from hotel guests, everyone can be contributing to keeping our planet a healthy, thriving, and safe place.
Green Hotel Practices
Conservation of water and saving energy somewhat go hand-in-hand. The following are steps that both the hotel and guests can take to do their part in going green:
- Installing low-flow shower heads and sink aerators: An average shower head will put out 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) of water; when switching to a 1.75 gpm low-flow shower head; a hotel can save up to 30% of water usage.
- Not only will it save water, but also energy that is used to heat the water. A sink aerator can be installed on the taps of sinks. This device mixes air with the water, giving an even flow; while at the same time, saving water and energy.
- Installing low-flow toilets: This type of toilet will use significantly less water than a full-flush toilet. The low-flow toilet uses, on average, 1.6 gallons per flush as opposed to a full-flush toilet that uses about 3.5 gallon.
- Linen reuse program: Many hotels are now providing their guests with a note at check-in and providing signs in the room regarding reusing linens. This encourages guests to use their towels twice, rather than throwing them on the floor, or not requesting the sheets to be changed daily if you are staying more than one night. This conserves on the use of water and energy it takes to wash the linens.
- Switching to LED lighting: LED lights not only reduce the use of electricity, they last 15-20 times longer than a regular bulb. LED lights leave the lowest carbon footprint and are safe for the environment. Many hotels are using timers/sensors on their lights to reduce the use. Hotel guest can do their part in making sure that lights in the hotel room are turned off when not in use or when leaving the room.
Green hotels are coming up with ways to reduce waste and ways to encourage hotel guests to recycle. The following are some changes that have been made:
- Hotels are placing both a recycling basket and a waste basket in guest rooms. This encourages the guests to recycle plastic, glass, and newspapers.
- Hotels are placing recycling bins in common areas, such as the lobby, pool area, and breakfast area.
- Hotels are using reusable items rather than disposable items when serving guests. This can include glasses instead of paper or Styrofoam cups, cloth napkins instead of paper, and ceramic dishes instead of disposable.
There are many more practices that hotels are using in their efforts to protect our planet, such as replacing old appliances with energy efficient ones, using solar heating systems for the pool, and using non-toxic cleaning agents. Listed here are just a few of the basics of going green.
How to Tell if a Hotel is Really Green
The majority of hotels that I’ve stayed at in the past few years, which has been many, have claimed to be “green” or “eco-friendly.” I guess I haven’t paid really close attention to whether they were practicing a list of environmentally friendly methods or whether they were just asking me to use my towel more than once.
I had a friend ask recently, “What really qualifies a hotel as being ‘green’?” I really had to stop and think about that and the only answer I could give back was, “Good question.” With that said, I decided to investigate. Here is a list of some standard things to look for in determining if the hotel you are staying at is really “green”:
- Most hotels that have truly made a commitment to environmentally safe practices should have a certification saying they’ve done so. My guess would be that if they’ve gone through the paperwork and physical aspects of getting certified, that this certification would be in a common and easily viewable area.
- A potential guest could also do their homework online to see if a hotel is certified. Some credentials to look for include being a member of the following: EarthCheck, Green Key Eco-Rating System, or the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
- For those hotels that initiate energy saving practices such as conserving water and energy by decreasing laundering, there should be notifications in the hotel room. These are usually displayed in the bathroom, asking guests to use their towels more than once and also displayed on beds, asking that if you are staying more than one night to please use the sheets for more than one day.
- Recycling bins should be provided in each guest room, as well as a regular garbage receptacle. The recycle bin should be clearly marked as such, as well as marked with exactly what materials can be put in this bin; these materials are usually aluminum, glass, and paper. Recycling bins should also be accessible in common areas like the lobby, breakfast area, or pool area.
- If green cleaning products, or non-toxic products are used in cleaning guest rooms and common areas, this should be well displayed on maid carts or possibly even a sign at the front desk saying they use environmentally friendly products. If you are curious about this and don’t see a sign displayed, ask a hotel employee what they use.
- A hotel should be using energy efficient light bulbs, timers for lights in bathrooms and hallways, low-flow showerheads, low-flow flush toilets, and non-disposable items, such as glasses, ceramic dishes, metal silverware, etc.
If the only thing you notice in a hotel is that you are asked to use your towel twice or you don’t see any form of recycling, chances are the hotel is either not living up to their commitment (if they are claiming to be eco-friendly), or they haven’t jumped on the band wagon to protect our planet.
What is Greenwashing
Be aware of hotels who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. We stayed at a lovely hotel recently but were stunned to see the breakfast staff throw away three large plastic juice containers in the regular garbage. There was a recycling can for plastics, just 10 feet away. These were the containers which fit into the juice dispenser — orange, cranberry and apple. They must go through several of these a week.
I went up to ask to speak with the manager who was unavailable. Instead, I questioned a staff member who seemed perplexed with the concept of recycling. I took the containers out of the garbage and put two in the recycle bin, and left a note on the third for the staff member to give to the hotel manager. Who knows if anything will be different but at least they know their guests are paying attention.
Watch for hotels and other companies who promote being green but aren’t following through with basics like recycling plastic containers. This is considered greenwashing.
When Green Hotels Practice What We Preach
After a 5.5 hour turbulent plane ride and waiting 25 minutes for a taxi (I got an eco-cab!) in the 101 degree F heat, I finally stumble into my hotel room. I open the door and a heat wave hits me. I don’t know the last time I was inside and it felt this hot. The thermostat in my hotel room is off. When I turn it on the it tells me it’s 86 degrees F in the room.
It takes a full hour for the room to get to a manageable temperature. I climb into bed a little later and go to turn on the bedside lamp. It doesn’t turn on. I check for a light bulb — that’s not the problem. I reach around the back and the cord isn’t plugged in. As I’m blindly groping behind the bed to find the outlet, I’m thinking, “What’s the deal with this hotel?” Then, “Don’t they know I expect things to work?” Then it occurs to me — the hotel is making an effort to save electricity.
photo credit: pingnews.com
Still, each time I discover another unplugged appliance, my first feeling is one of annoyance. Then, after a moment, I’m thankful for their efforts to be a little greener. In the morning I wake up, put some water in the coffee pot to heat up water for my tea and turn on the pot. A few minutes later I still don’t hear the drip, drip, drip. It’s not plugged in. After my shower I pull the hotel dryer off the side of the wall expecting it to turn on immediately, but it, too, is unplugged.
I suppose this is the Catch-22 hotels face. If they don’t make an effort to be more environmentally friendly, consumers say they aren’t green enough. But when they make an effort to be a little greener, customers are annoyed by the minor inconveniences they face. I’m guessing most people are disgruntled with, rather than grateful for, the hotel’s energy-saving efforts.
So today, I’m going to fill out my comment card and thank this hotel for have the thermostat off and the appliances unplugged. Hopefully my gratitude will help offset any complaints they get. Have you ever walked into a hotel to find all of the appliances unplugged? If so, what was your reaction?
Don’t Change My Towel Conserve Water Travel Green
Your hotel, like nearly every single hotel I stay at, has a little sign in the bathroom that says “in an effort to conserve water, if you hang your towel, we will not replace it. Leave it on the floor and we will exchange it for a fresh one.” So, just like the sign says, I hang my towel Conserve Water Travel Green.
Honestly, I hate hanging my towel. I’m on vacation or exhausted from traveling for business. The last thing I want to do is make the effort to hang up my towel. But, like a good little environmentalist I follow the sign. Sometimes I hang the towel on the back of the door. Sometimes I hang it wrinkled on the rack. Lately I’ve gone a step further. I don’t just hang my towel.
I carefully fold it into three parts, just like my mother taught me. It looks oh-so-neat-and-clean folded and hanging on the towel rack.
But guess what. You take my towel anyway. You take my once-used, nearly-clean towel. And your hotel wastes millions of gallons of water washing my towel and towels like mine as you replace my nearly perfectly clean towels with perfectly clean towels. Most days I try to remember to put up the “privacy please” sign on the door so you don’t ever enter my room.
But lately it’s become a test: Will you take and replace my towel even though your sign says you won’t? I’ve thought about calling the manager of the hotel. In addition, I’ve thought about hiding the towel – perhaps hanging it in the closet. I’ve thought about bringing my own quick drying msr towel thus avoiding your towels all together. But frankly, on vacation, I’m too forgetful for these things. And I know you’re just doing your job. So, I’ve come up with a solution:
The “Don’t Change My Towel Sign.” Next time I visit your hotel I will print a copy (on recycled paper with soy-based ink, of course) and hang it with my towel. Hopefully this sign will make it clearer. I really do want to save the environment – one towel at a time.
Finding a green hotel
Green travel should be a lifestyle and easy to do, so it’s not an inconvenience. If you intend to travel green, it is essential to research in advance to find a green hotel that works to minimize their own impact. Then be sure they make it easy for their guests to be eco conscious while they stay.