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But buyer beware: Just because a hotel calls itself green, that doesn’t mean it is—and not all green certifications are as strict as the GSTC.
“Some third parties just require applicants to fill out a form, send it in and get a label,” Mullis says. “It doesn’t mean much from a consumer standpoint.”
Still, there are plenty of ways to find a truly green hotel, wherever you’re going. And booking a green room is easier than ever. Just search online for “green hotels” in any major city you plan to visit, and you’re sure to find at least one that lists its sustainability practices. Or, let someone else do the work for you.
Booking a Green Hotel
The government-backed program Energy Star has put its label on more than 400 hotels in the U.S., and the discount travel booking site Travelocity.com has a “Green Hotels” link in its main navigation bar. A founding partner of the GSTC, Travelocity only endorses hotels that closely align with the organization’s strict criteria.
Additionally, Bricker says 23 states have their own green-hotel certification programs, like Maine's Green Lodging Certification Program, Wisconsin's TravelGreenWisconsin.com, and California's Green Lodging Program.
Going Green in Any Room
If you’re booked at a conventional hotel that doesn’t claim to be green, you can still lessen your impact on the environment and help support the local economy during your stay. The first step is to ask what green practices, if any, the hotel employs.
Mullis suggests asking simple, open-ended questions about things that matter to you, like what the property is doing to manage waste, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and conserve energy. Or, if you’re traveling to an international destination, you might ask what the hotel is doing to support cultural-heritage conservation or if it’s employing local workers. Perhaps a hotel lets local artisans display their work, composts food waste or donates to local soup kitchens.
“As a consumer, you have the power to create the demand and the reason for that hotel to engage in green practices,” Bricker says.
How to be a Green Guest
- Request that room service not wash your linens and towels each day. (Many hotels offer door cards to help make this request process smoother.)
- Leave a message with the front desk or a note (on scrap paper, of course) requesting that your products not be replaced until they’re empty.
- Turn off all lights and unplug all appliances when you leave your hotel room.
- Don’t leave the air conditioner or heater blasting just because you’re not paying the bill.
- Take quick showers.
- Keep the luxurious baths to a minimum.
- Use the stairs, instead of an elevator, if you’re on a low floor.
- Eat and shop at independently owned businesses, instead of more-familiar chains.
- Walk around the neighborhood where you’re staying, instead of taking a cab or driving—who knows what you’ll find!
The bottom line, says Bricker: “When you’re traveling, follow the same sustainable principles—all the things you might do to conserve energy or water—you do at home.”
About the Author: Emily Farris is a freelance food and lifestyle writer in Kansas City, Mo., and Brooklyn, N.Y. She is the author of Casserole Crazy: Hot Stuff for Your Oven (Penguin Group, Inc., 2008).
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