During the summer, we camp a lot (and I mean, A LOT). But during the winter, when it’s too cold to camp without specialized gear and a very whiny child, we stay in hotels. Technically speaking, we also live in one. But we’re super hippie, composting weirdos and we do what we can to minimize our environmental impact. These are some of the small things we do to avoid wastefulness during our hotel stays.

Avoid using the provided products

Single. Use. Plastics. Need I say more? I do, actually. Pack your own shampoo and conditioner. Bring soap, which I personally think everyone should travel with anyway (see the next section). Don’t use the coffee they provide in the room – it’s usually not that great anyway. I could go on. Just don’t use them. If you open anything at all, they’ll throw it out even if it’s recyclable.

This even extends to breakfast. Remember – hotels don’t recycle. Not the ones we stay at, anyway (i.e. inexpensive ones). So when you’re eating breakfast, avoid the foods that come in single serving packaging, like the yogurt and muffins, unless you know you’re going to recycle your trash.

Bring your table service

I know it seems really strange, but you should. Pack a set for everyone. We even have designated travel table service. Our pack includes a plate, bowl, spork (specifically these ones, which come with a case!), and water bottle for each of us. We usually bring more for The Kid, because he needs it – you can see a list of what we take on a road trip here. Sometimes we take other things, depending on where we’re going and how long we’re staying, like a non-stick pan, a knife, and a cutting board. Oh, and don’t forget a travel mug.

If you take dishes with you, of course you’ll need a way to wash them. Bring your own dish soap and get yourself a travel drying rack or just use towels. We actually pack our own towels for other reasons (like a wet dog), but they’re very very useful to have with you.

You might get some funny looks when you show up to the continental breakfast with your own dishes, but then you can secretly shame everyone who doesn’t. Well, unless the place you’re staying has regular dishes, not single-use ones. In that case, you are the weirdo, but don’t let that stop you!

Reuse your towels

I mean, really? Do you wash your own towels after only using them once? My guess is, if you’re reading this of your own volition, you reuse your towels. If you’re only staying one night and shower while you’re there, there’s not much you can do about this. But if you’re staying for a week, don’t let housekeeping take your towels unless they’re actually dirty. Or, better yet, bring your own towels!

Recycle anyway

I’ve never stayed at a hotel that actually recycles anything from the guest’s room. The place we live has finally started to donate (their words, not mine) the used shampoo and conditioner bottles though, so they’re getting warmer. Don’t let housekeeping take your recycling. It’ll just get thrown in with the regular trash.

Most cities have recycling drop-off locations, so find one that’s close and recycle what trash you can before heading out. I know, this seems like something you’d only do if you were staying for a long period of time, but it’s worth it even if you’re only staying for a night. If even that’s too much work for you, you can always just take your recyclables with you when you leave. Pack it in, pack it out.

Our latest Airbnb was a super cute cabin in the mountains, with a great family. We’re going back.

Be selective about where you stay

Airbnb stays seem to have less of an environmental impact, generally speaking, than hotel stays. It’s my feeling that because it’s usually in a home, not a hotel, and there are fewer amenities expected or relied upon. That makes a difference. It’s the same with house-sitting, couch surfing, hostels, and staying at your family member/friend’s place. Continental breakfast with individual wrapped muffins? I don’t think so.

There is a growing movements of resorts and hotels that make an effort to be eco-conscious. Be wary though; still apply the other tips. Even the places that are making an effort will use things like disposable cups and whatnot – just because it’s made of recyclable materials doesn’t make it sustainable.

35 Replies to “Small Ways to Avoid Wastefulness During Hotel Stays”

  1. I was just watching Shark Tank and a college aged kid pitched a shampoo and body soap that was a single use product and was in its own container. All you did was get it wet and it turned into soap or shampoo. It was ingenious. That show alone made me think about all the waste in hotels and your post really drove it home. Great insight.

    1. I’m the same way, but until I convinced him otherwise, The Husband insisted on using the hotel products- his desire to save like $1 overrode rationality haha

  2. I can’t lie, I sorta feel wasteful when I stay in a room for one night and I got people changing my sheets and towels like I’ve been there for days. Next time I travel, I’m definitely gonna try to use as much of my own stuff as I can.

    1. I’m the same way… Oddly enough, it really sunk in when we’d been staying at the same hotel for a few weeks and were still eating the breakfast. I figured we should start doing what we would be doing if we were living in an apartment… And then we started applying it to shorter stays

  3. I’m in the UK and most hotels now have signs up encouraging you to reuse towels if you’re there longer than an overnight. As you say, we wouldn’t be washing them after one use at home.

    1. The place we live at has those too… Except they ignore it. Even if you hang the towels, the take and replace them. We just stopped letting housekeeping in

  4. I’m not sure how you’ve managed to live in a hotel with a dog and a preschooler for the last six months, but I should have known you’d find a way to make your stay more environmentally friendly. I hate the small hotel shampoos and conditioners anyway because there’s never enough conditioner for my hair.

  5. lol i was literally at a hotel last night and am proud to share that i practiced these acts to avoid wastefulness! recycling is so important 🙂

  6. That is crazy I never knew they didn’t recycle! That is a huge waste and I will be sure to watch what I use when I travel.

  7. These are great tips! I had never thought about taking my own plates and silverware when I travel. I do when I go camping, but it had never occurred to me to take to a hotel. I always travel with my own bathroom products though. I have really long hair, and crap conditioners are a no-no.

    1. Camping is kind of how it started, actually! We had all our camping gear with us, and it slowly started to get used in the hotel…

  8. This post was a great reminder to be less wasteful on hotel stays. I guess hotels kind of have a “splurge” idea associated with them.

  9. Wow! These are really great tips. We’re starting to implement annual trips to Ocean City, and we have already decided that we’ll be taking our own food to prepare our own meals 95% of the time. Now we can also take our own dishes and utensils!

  10. Great tips! I personally love the small products because it introduces me to new products that I may love. If not, I tend to take them and donate them to local women’s organizations that are in need.

  11. I have such mixed emotions! I’m pretty conscious on the day-to-day, and seldom stay in hotels because of the expense. So when I do finally go away, I kind of love enjoy the luxury of it.

  12. We’re doing out first stay this coming weekend as a family. These tips should come in handy — more so the one about being selective.

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