Friday, September 12, 2008

Green Travel

There has been a lot of talk lately about "going green". We are all being encouraged to think about our environmental footprint, change our light bulbs, reduce waste, drive less and so forth. There is also a "green" trend in the travel and hospitality industry, and while I think anything that can be done to reduce energy consumption and waste is good, I wonder how many travelers actually choose a lodging establishment based on how "green" it is.

We have been pretty green from the very beginning but I've never advertised it because it's just what I do. To me it isn't a marketing ploy, it's how I want to live my life. And we aren't totally green, there are no solar panels on the house and the property isn't large enough for a windmill so we are forced to use oil and propane for heat, hot water and drying laundry. Only rarely do I hang anything to dry outside. Our electricity use could probably be reduced by putting in power strips for things like televisions and video decks. I haven't yet changed over to a water saving front loading washing machine, although I probably will very soon; our current washer is showing definite signs of advancing age. Still, I think I do more than the average homeowner. For anyone interested, here is a list of our green practices:

- Soap/shampoo/lotion dispensers in the bathrooms save on all those little plastic bottles;
- Navy blue towels and colored bed linens so we don't have to use bleach in the wash;
- Compost almost all fruit/vegetable waste from the kitchen (except in winter);
- Compact fluorescent light bulbs in all lights that burn many hours a day and I'm in the process of changing the bulbs in more places;
- Timers for outdoor lighting;
- Recycling, including bottles, cans, newspapers & cardboard;
- Freecycle(TM) for items we no longer use but that aren't ready for the trash, like blankets & towels that we change out every couple of years. Pillows and linens that are too stained or worn for human use go to an animal shelter;
- Air conditioners are installed in frames that allow us to open the window above the unit. This permits a cross-breeze in all our guest rooms and minimizes the use of air conditioning;
- Ceiling fans in all guest rooms, living room, dining room, kitchen and our personal space to cool without a/c;
- Minimal use of chemical cleaning agents;
- Purchasing larger refill sizes and/or concentrates rather than small bottles where possible;
- Programmable thermostat for the heat which allows us to keep the house warmer during peak guest usage (mornings and evenings) and cooler mid-day and at night without having to remember to set it ourselves;
- Purchasing recycled office supplies as much as possible, including copy paper, our letterhead & envelopes, file folders and clasp envelopes;
- Switched from sending snail-mail confirmation letters to email;
- Switched to paperless billing for as many of my business & personal bills as possible;
- In order to save water on longer stays, sheets and towels are changed after the third night. Requests for more frequent changes are, of course, honored;
- When planting my garden each spring, I specifically look for drought-hardy annuals that don't have to be watered every day.

Wow. Pretty exciting, right? I'm sure everyone who reads this is going to want to book rooms here now.

Let's face it, most "green" practices are pretty mundane. I do these things because they make sense to ME. In some cases they actually make my life easier (less watering, fewer light bulb changes, two or three loads of laundry saved in a busy week), in other cases they increase my workload (rinsing & sorting recyclables, bundling newspaper & cardboard, resetting timers, mixing cleaning agents and filling spray bottles).

Okay, now I'd like to hear from my readers. I have a stat. counter, I know you're out there. Do "green" practices weigh into your decisions about lodging when going on vacation? Do you think there is more I should be doing? And what do you do at home?