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traveling green

When you reach your destination, walk or bike when you can, and be sure to use local bus services and cab companies when you can’t. The same goes for local restaurants and hotels; supporting local businesses enriches your travel experience and puts your tourism dollars to good work by helping to cultivate and maintain the community.

A more ambitious option for the environmentally and culturally savvy traveler is to book your holiday through an agency that specializes in sustainable tourism. Companies like Whole Travel and Ethos Travel are dedicated to planning vacations that minimize the negative impact of tourism on local communities while focusing on properties and activities that benefit the economy of your chosen destination.

If surrendering the details of your trip to a third party doesn’t appeal, you may want to research resort management and development companies like Six Senses. These businesses operate hotels and resorts in locations all over the world, and are committed to maintaining the ethos of responsible travel in their establishments.


10 Tips

In the end, I suppose the fact that hotels are pushing more environmentally benign practices is more important than why they are doing it. So, with that in mind, let me offer a few additional suggestions to facilitate the greening of hotels, motels, and inns everywhere:

1. Eliminate your obscene Internet access charges for guests who agree to receive an electronic copy of their bill instead of a loooong paper printout — entire forests will be saved!
2. Give Earth First! free use of your conference centers and lobbies to stage their awareness protests and offer your best corporate rates to the group’s members.
3. Rig your plumbing and lighting so that guests must listen to pre-recorded environmental messages from Al Gore before opening a faucet, flushing the toilet, or turning on a lamp.
4. Replace the tiny liquor and wine bottles in the mini-bars with full-size ones to lessen the burden of all those little plastic containers on community recycling efforts. Of course, the hotel should absorb the cost of the bigger bottles as their way of “paying” the world back for its plastic footprint.
5. Stop offering pay-for-view movies. That only encourages guests to watch television, which in turn causes more electricity consumption and leads to excessive couch-potatoism.


Forks and Knives

4. Use a travel mug (and fork and spoon)

Many consider a steady supply of coffee a necessity for extended road trips, and take out food is convenient and inexpensive. However, the waste produced from meals and snacks on the road quickly adds up. Take along a travel mug for coffee and reusable plastic sports bottles for other beverages and water. Skips the straws if you can. Inexpensive plastic containers from your grocery store can hold snacks from home such as fruits, vegetable sticks and trail mix (another money saver).

You might also want to pack an inexpensive set of cutlery to use for takeout food rather than opting for plastic utensils (which are often wrapped in plastic as well). Also, you can request silverware and dish soap at your hotel if it isn’t already provided.

Need to know what items belong to which family member? Try permanent marker or nail polish to label items such as water bottles and utensils.

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The Green Seat

The environmental protesters who camped out near London’s Heathrow Airport last week and demonstrated noisily over the weekend had what most business travelers consider a radical agenda: A long-term reduction in flights to offset the carbon footprint of the world’s airlines.

I think my green credentials are pretty good; the perennially threatened Hudson River is literally at the edge of my backyard, so I have an up close and personal view of how humans mistreat nature. But I’ve never thought much about frequent travel and the environment. As much as I condemn their business practices and financial models, I’ve never thought of airlines as big, bad polluters. Nor have I paid much attention to my own actions on the road and how they might affect the environment.

But I think I get it now. We might want to continue to fly globally, but there’s no reason not to act locally to reduce business travel’s impact on the planet.

I’m going to leave the metaphoric elephant in the room—airlines’ carbon emissions—to the experts for now. But here are some small steps we can all take to become greener business travelers.

Soft Goods, Hard Impact
Partially for environmental reasons and partially because it reduces their overhead costs, hotels around the world have instituted in-room conservation efforts. They want you to use your bathroom towels more than once, and they would be thrilled if you took a pass on the daily change of bed linens.

“In the 30,000 hotels in the United States, there are more than 2 billion sheets washed every year and almost the same number of towels,” says luxury-hotel consultant Michael Matthews. “And 99 percent of the water used to do all that washing doesn’t get recycled.”


Carbon Offets

STI has created a unique carbon offset program for the Club by calculating Quintess, LRW’s Carbon Footprint: the total carbon dioxide emissions associated with the internal operations of each home. This includes:

**Home electricity consumption expressed in kilowatt-hours or megawatt-hours on a month-to-month basis;

**Square footage of common areas;

**Total number of rooms;

**Average occupancy rates; and

**Estimated total number of guests annually.

This program also enables Quintess, LRW members to positively impact the environment on their own by simply mentioning Leading Green when reserving an experience at any of Leading Hotel’s 440 hotels worldwide, or directly booking through LHW will make a corporate donation of 50 cents to STI for every night of a guests’ stay. And, if Club members want to make a financial donation on their own, they can use the STI carbon calculator, which is on the Quintess, LRW website, to calculate how much would be needed to offset the carbon footprint from their travel beyond their stays in Club homes.


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