Even if you're not sleeping in your own bed and eating out of your own fridge, you can still be an eco chic guest when you're home away from home — and that doesn't necessarily translate to skipping showers or toilet paper. I've outlined a few ways that you can be environmentally friendly when you're on vacation or a business trip:
- Stay in a green hotel. Environmentally friendly hotels initiate programs that save water and energy and reduce waste, while saving money, and engage in many of the same activities you do in your casa verde. You can find them through the Green Hotels Association, Environmentally Friendly Hotels, AllStays, Green Hotel Review, and Eco Hotels of the World.
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- If you find yourself at a hotel that doesn't have its eco-routine down pat, there are a few things you can do on your own part to green your stay. To begin, stop by the front desk and drop off this list of sustainable and money saving tips for greening your hotel. Tell them you like to support green hotels and you'd appreciate it if they looked it over.
- As fun as it is to get free things, don't be tempted by the mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner in your hotel bathroom. The amount of plastic needed to maintain hotel bathrooms, if every guest were to take the travel size bottles, is . . . scary! B.Y.O. toiletries.
- You've probably stayed a hotel with towel hanger cards, gently reminding guests to reuse their towels. This practice saves water, energy use by the dryers, and money spent on utilities. And, unless your hotel is using eco laundry detergent, it prevents toxic chemicals from winding up near your skin! This also applies to sheets as well. If your hotel does not have a sheet changing card out reminding you already, you can call down to the front desk and tell them you'd prefer not to have your sheets washed during your stay. You don't wash your sheets at home once a day, so it shouldn't be necessary while you're away from home. Of course, if you have a longer stay at a hotel, you can request that they wash your linens only once a week.
- Unplug! Make sure to unplug any appliances in your hotel room while they're not in use. Many electrical appliances use as much electricity when they’re off as when they're on, so pull the plug! This applies to that mini-fridge filled with $9 water bottles that you'll never drink. Kindly ask the front desk if they'll remove any perishables from the mini-fridge, so you can leave it unplugged.
- Do you really need the air conditioning on? Hotels tend to leave the a/c running to ensure guests are comfortable. But it's often unnecessary. Turn it off and open the windows!
- Travel light on your footprint. Avoid hopping in the cabs standing outside your hotel. Instead, take five or ten minutes to acclimate yourself with the bus system or bike rental shops of the city or town you're visiting.
- Watch your wallet in the gift shop. In cities with a major tourist presence, the gift shops are a huge industry, and in many cases the products you can buy there are not even made there. What's sentimental about that? Be careful what you buy there. Many products like shells, coral, leather bracelets, snakeskin, or wooden accents don't come from well-managed or sustainable source; look for Forest Stewardship Council or Marine Aquarium Council labels to be sure you're buying from a reputable source.