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?


volcano girl said...

Google those light bulbs. They are a fire hazard and I can attest to that here in my studio. I almost had a fire in my desk lamp when a bulb burned out but began to smoke and singe. i had to use a pot holder just to unscrew it from the lamp and to handle it to lay it out in my driveway. I was afraid it would rupture from the high heat. It was singed and blackened and the plastic crap part that screws into the fixture was beginning to melt...and that doesnt even touch upon the mercury that leaks out if the glass breaks...I changed back to all incandescent and I feel better even tho it costs more...i figure i can be green in other areas, but I wont risk a fire hazard if its not necessary. Talk to u soon!

Moose said...

Mz Volcano is right. The 'tech kids call them "Roman Candles", I think, because they catch on fire so often.

FWIW, personally I don't give much crap about green practices. Exceptions, which really aren't being "green", I think, are things like hotels asking for fewer towel & sheet washings when the area is in a drought.

Since the event years ago where the city of Pittsburgh's recycling company was found to be dumping stuff in landfills because they were losing money on the deal (the company was replaced, but who knows how honest they were?), and that paper recycling can be even more damaging to the environment than the initial paper creation (most logging companies plant new growth after removals), I'm not so sure that the "green" stuff is really as earth-positive as the hype would have you believe.

But I'm a bitter old moose.

Deborah Blicher said...

Green practices actually do matter to me for the same reason they matter to you: because that's how I want to live my life. Peter and I actually will take green practices into account whenever we make decisions on whether to patronize any business.

What do we do at home? Pretty much same as you: CF lightbulbs (never had a fire), compost, recycling, Freecycling, no bleach, chemical-free cleaning, thermostats on timers. We also belong to a CSA and buy chiefly local food; I do laundry in cold water only (Peter hasn't made this switch); we use power strips for electricity guzzlers; we have a tankless water heater. Oh, yeah, and we do the unthinkable here in suburbia: We don't water our lawn.