Thursday, February 28, 2008

How to make any hotel environmentally-friendly

Would you pay more to stay in a hotel that was environmentally-friendly? According to a survey conducted by the Canadian Hotels Association, "62 per cent of business travellers and 50 per cent of leisure travellers would pay $20 more to stay at an environmentally friendly hotel" (if everything else about the room was the same). In other words, travellers will pay more for rooms with low-flow toilets and shower heads, recycling bins and energy efficient lighting.

Interesting, but the survey seems at odd with one I saw while researching an article on green travel for road trips. The results -- travellers actually use MORE energy and water while they are on vacation because these resources are viewed as being "free".

I'm left wondering: Who is responsible for saving energy and water - the hotel or the guest? As a former inn housekeeper (two summers during university), I can't help but weigh in on the issue.

What can hotels do?
  • Encourage guests to re-use clean towels and let staff know if they do not require new sheets or other amenities everyday.
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs.
  • Use energy-efficient appliances.
  • Improve insulation to keep rooms cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
  • Install low-flow toilets and faucets.
  • Provide recycling bins.
  • Provide dishes (mugs, glasses and silverware) in rooms.
  • Use environmentally-friendly building materials.
  • Use environmentally-friendly cleaning products.
Many hotels, such as the inn where I worked, were implementing these measures to save costs long before "green travel" because the latest trend.

But that's only half the battle...

What can guests do?
  • Skip long showers and don't make the jacuzzi bath a daily event. Even low-flow shower heads won't make a difference if people take longer showers than normal.
  • Turn everything off when you leave. I can't tell you how many rooms I've entered where lights are left on and the air conditioning is blasting hours after a guest has gone out for the day or checked out.
  • Let hotel staff know if you don't require new sheets or towels everyday.
  • Use up the amenities. If you don't bring along your own toiletries, open new bars of soap and new bottles only when the previous ones are empty. Take open bottles and soap home with you (they're great for camping and short trips).
  • Use the recycling bins provided.
  • Eat out rather than ordering take-out.
  • Don't litter.
In the meantime, energy costs are rising and along with it the costs of transportation and accommodation. It puzzles me that travellers have to pay more because of increasing energy costs but they are willing to pay more for energy efficient accommodations.

It seems to me that if hotels make an effort to reduce energy and resources, and travellers do their part to consume less, then costs shouldn't go up and everybody wins.

Perhaps in an ideal world, but not in this one.

In the meantime, check out Green travel tips for the road (the article I wrote last year). I also recommend the Go Green Travel Green blog for more tips and trends. Blog co-editors Kimberly Lang and Elizabeth Sanberg's recent article on Vagabondish, 20 Cheap and Simple Ways to Travel Greener, provides great advice on how we can all be a little greener, regardless of our budget.

As usual, comments are welcome (and invited!).

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