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!
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.
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.