It’s time for vacation. You might be dreaming of secluded beaches, or bustling cities, or mountainsides lush with foliage. No matter what, you’re skipping town and you’re excited.
Of course, there’s a lot of planning to be done before you can hit the road. This is especially true if you’re an eco-conscious traveler who wants to stay at a hotel that is maintained just as sustainably as you are.
You’re not alone – according to a 2013 TripAdvisor.com survey 62 percent of travelers “often or always” considered the environment when choosing a place to stay. The same survey showed that 64 percent of travelers believed hotels could do a better job of presenting their green efforts.
If your resort, hotel or B&B can live up to these standards, then it looks like you’re ready to book — and get yourself on vacation.
Light on the Linens
There was a time when hotels would wash all of the linens you used at an almost super-human rate. Every time a towel was dirtied, it was taken away to the washroom. The same went for sheets even though, truth be told, most people don’t even take that much care of their own linens at home.
Fast-forward to the age of sustainability, and you’ll find lots of hotels that have cut back on this regimen in order to use less water. In most places you can hang your towels on provided hooks so that they can be reused. The staff will also often leave the same sheets on the bed until you check out unless you’re staying for an extended period of time. Making sure your hotel does this is the bare minimum when it comes to making sure your hotel is sustainable.
Most hotels do this today, and you’ll likely find a note or placard describing the wash cycle in your hotel room’s bathroom upon arrival. If you have any doubts, call ahead to ensure they will take it easy when it comes to washing your linens.
Look at the Hotel Itself
A picture’s worth 1,000 words, they say, and the same goes for your hotel. By simply looking at pictures and reading provided descriptions of the building, you can get a quick idea as to whether or not the place was built with the Earth in mind.
You might be considering a log cabin in the mountains. While log cabins are built of an automatically sustainable resource – wood – you should delve deeper to see if the logs are sustainably harvested by ensuring they’re verified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which notes which logs come from a sustainable source.
Not every hotel will be built of logs, of course, so learn about which types of materials are the most sustainable and then whittle your choice of hotels to places made of things like HempCrete, recycled plastic or bamboo. If a hotel is built with these types of sustainable materials, it’s likely they’ll proudly share this information on their website, either in the “About” page or in the pages describing the rooms or lobby décor.
Consider the Staff
Another sign of sustainability is where the hotel staff comes from. If the hotel is hiring locals, then they’re promoting the local community’s economy by paying salaries to locals who will, in turn, spend in the area. This lifts everyone up and creates an ongoing positive cycle.
You might also want to check if the hotel is paying its employees a living wage, no matter where they come from. This is vital in terms of social sustainability: employees should be able to provide lives for themselves without working multiple jobs, working crazy hours, etc. You could even look into the training and skills provided to employees in order to prepare them for promotions and better jobs in the future.
See How It’s Sourced
Smaller, locally owned hotels will likely take pride in the fact that they use products supplied by local merchants. If it’s not something touted on the website, then don’t be afraid to ask if they do. While larger chain hotels are less likely to do this, you can still inquire; you never know, you might be pleasantly surprised by their efforts to pump money back into the local economy.
Aside from promoting sustainability, making sure your hotel incorporates local goods and services also means you’ll have a more authentic experience of the local area. If that’s not a win-win, we don’t know what is.
When All Else Fails, Seek Out a Seal
Perhaps you can’t find information online about how your hotel protects the environment and gives back to the local community in order to keep it afloat. You might still be able to stay there if the place has a seal of approval from an organization like the Global Sustainable Tourism Council or the Green Hotels Association.
The latter is a 24-year-old organization that gives hotels the tools they need to become more sustainable. They provide suggestions for more sustainable practices, such as concierge staff only providing drinking water to guests who request it, and that hotel maintenance staff replace HVAC systems so that the building becomes more efficient in its use of electricity.
There are also dedicated search engines which can help you to find accommodation that suits your sustainability desires. Sites like Green Hotel World do the picking for you if you don’t have the time to narrow the list down on your own. It’s important to do your part too by rating and ranking your green hotel finds once you’ve completed your stay so that other green-minded travelers can use it to make informed booking decisions.
These aren’t the only ways to ensure that where you’re staying fits your criteria for an eco-friendly lodging. But they’re a great place to start your search and will certainly help you narrow down the field. And, once you settle on the perfectly earth-friendly hotel for you, you can head off to vacation and truly relax — what you’re doing is good for you and the earth, after all.
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