We Get Greener Kit Cassingham & her Bigger Half

Green Hotels Are the Place For Me....

That title is of course sung to the Green Acres theme song. But you knew that, right?

Because of the desire to look hospitable hotels can be incredibly wasteful. By that I mean they want to "leave the lights on for you", have plenty of hot water, and the climate you want in your room, and the feel of luxury with special toiletries just for you. But the waste can go beyond that by not sharing that backstage stuff that makes hotels magical -- recycling, waste management, laundry, food scraps, etc. But there are lots of hotels that try hard to do better, to not waste, and to give their guests the opportunity to continue their green habits on the road.

As a bed and breakfast innkeeper I recognized the amount of waste we produced. The staff and I came up with ways of conserving, but it was more challenging then than it is now because technology is better now than then. For example, compact fluorescent lights (CFL) were just coming onto the market, at the very high price of about $20 a piece. Ouch. But we did what we could, given our limitations. And we didn't cut hospitality one bit.

When I started seminars for and consulting to the B&B industry, one aspect I incorporated was running a green inn. It was fun brainstorming with people the things they could do that would limit their waste, reduce costs, and improve their operational efficiency.

That's when I started paying more attention to my impact when I traveled. Green hotels weren't that big in the 80s, though some hotels and B&Bs practiced green methods. But I could create my own green program with the choices I made. I turned out my lights and turned the TV off when I left my room, for example.

Today I can choose green hotels when I travel, or I can create an even more extensive green program of my own if the hotel I'm staying in isn't green. My favorite hotels are those that go beyond green and are sustainable. Sustainable practices incorporate green operations, but they go further; they rely on three pillars -- people, planet, profit -- of care and attention to make a difference in the world. I like seeing the multi-focus of that because it includes important aspects of success.

For starters, I don't change my sheets and towels daily, so why would I need to have it done at a hotel? And I don't leave all my lights -- CFLs I might add --on at home, so why would I want the hotel to have my room lights on when I arrive? Especially if they aren't CFLs! And I don't throw my bar of soap away after a few uses, which means I don't throw away as many empty boxes.

I don't like scented laundry or rooms. Hotels seem to think that perfumed products smell clean. But the chemicals that make most perfumes aggravate people's allergies, are irritants, and rely on petroleum for their manufacture. They are spending money on unnecessary products, increasing their waste, and impinging on my air quality and comfort.

Hotels purchase more in one week than 100 families do in one year. That's a lot of purchasing, and waste. That's what I am trying to "fix". I'm trying to fix that by choosing green hotels or by making my own green program when at a non-green hotel.

My travels start with Environmentally Friendly Hotels to find a green hotel at my destination. While I can look for hotels that cater to my specific pet peeves, I prefer just finding and using the hotels that have the most complete and thorough green program.

When I'm at a hotel that either doesn't honor its promise of green-ness, I talk to the general manager about my findings. Some managers seem appropriately dismayed and say they'll get right on retraining their staff. Others seem clueless, almost treating me as if I'm the one who's out of line. That amuses and amazes me. In that latter case I put the Do Not Disturb sign up for the duration of my visit, and have a green stay despite their efforts.

If I didn't have the choice of an environmentally friendly hotel, I create my own green program by putting a Do Not Disturb sign on my door for my entire visit. That lets me use my sheets and towels without being rewashed. I find recycling bins in or near the hotel and drop any recyclables there. I haven't started traveling with my own CFL, but that's an option I may adopt, when going to hotels that aren't even trying to be green.

Part of the joy I experience in staying at green hotels is that I find many of the staff have similar attitudes I do about life, so there are more interesting conversations. We also share new ideas of how to live greener lives. That's cool!

There's gratification to me for being able to travel with as small a footprint as I live -- or at least almost as small as I leave at home. My attitude about being greener doesn't mean we all need to go back into our caves and struggle. I enjoy seeing the world, experiencing other cultures, and trying new foods. And I feel better about that when I stay at a green hotel.

If we all take the time to talk to hotel managers we can teach them to think about hospitality and business in a different way. We can teach them to conserve resources and not harm their environment. Maybe together we can make a difference so that hotels aren't a waste.

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