Since starting my role as a regional Environmental Advisor, I have become well practised at living out of a suitcase. My work often requires me to stay away in number of hotels across the United Kingdom – it sounds glamorous right? But I can assure you the novelty soon wears off!
One night whilst staying away with work, alone in a hotel room on the Essex coast, I started to wonder how my behaviours had changed since becoming more environmentally conscious, and how I could be as sustainable as possible during my stay? I documented all of my thoughts and suggestions on my Instagram story and the response I received was overwhelming.
What really sparked an interesting debate, was when I asked my followers what they thought of the little sign in all hotel bathrooms, asking you to re-use your towel because it’s ‘good for the environment’. I was confused, I couldn't work out if this was ‘greenwashing’ an economic saving for the hotel, or if like me, the hotel really did care about the environment? So, I asked my followers.
Well out of the 289 people that voted, 73% thought it was greenwash, whereas only 27% thought that the hotel did genuinely care about the environment, plus a few direct messages from people saying that they think it’s a little bit of both (which I personally agree with, but for now Instagram only allows two voting options!).
So perhaps hotels should be a little more transparent and not shy away from communicating that re-using towels also saves them money – especially if that financial saving is passed on to the customer. And guess what? Only a few weeks later I was delighted to see this exact initiative in action. The Holiday Inn in Portsmouth were rewarding guests with 500 loyalty points for every night that they declined housekeeping services.
So when I asked the question again, the results were completely different. After learning about this reward initiative, 65% of voters felt that the Holiday Inn does care about the environment, and only 35% thought they didn’t.
So what’s the take home message for organisations? Be honest, don’t badge cost saving measures as purely environmental initiatives and reward customers for good environmental behaviour!
For those that missed my Instagram story, I’ve documented 5 tips below for a sustainable hotel stay:
1. Be prepared and pack well!
Being prepared is inherent to a zero waste lifestyle. However, I used to frequently forget my toothbrush, toothpaste and shower cap, so would request these from reception. You don’t have to follow a zero waste lifestyle for this tip (although I will always be an advocate of zero waste), just remember to bring your own toiletries, as the toiletries that hotels provide are often poor quality, packaged in single use plastic and will probably end up in the bin a lot sooner than your own products.
2. Avoid hoarding hotel goodies
I used to return home with so many miniature shampoos and soaps that weren’t particularly great quality so sat in my bathroom cabinet collecting dust. Why should you avoid these? There’s often a unesecary amount of packaging associated with such a small quantity of product. This tip also extends to hotel stationary too! I still have a loads of hotel pens and notepads that I am slowly working my way through which I collected years ago. Follow the 5 R's and Refuse what you don't need!
3. Dine out
Tea and coffee facilities can be a zero waste nightmare, I often bring my own instant coffee away with me (this relates to tip 1 be prepared) and avoid the single use milk pots by asking for milk at reception. I also dine out and avoid room service (something I’ve never actually done) as I’ve noticed discarded trays full of single use items left outside hotel rooms! As for my menu choice, perhaps one of the biggest environmental impacts you can have is through your diet, so I will always opt for a vegetarian or vegan dish.
4. Treat your hotel room as if it was your own
Don’t crank the heating or air con up full whack just ‘because’ you can. It’s likely you’ll wake up at 4am either in a climate similar to Antarctica or Sub Saharan Africa. Yes you’re not paying for the energy, but we’re all collectively paying for the impacts of climate change! It’s a simple one, but remember to switch the lights off when you leave – not all hotel rooms have key card enabled lighting. Also, if your room does have a swipe key card remember to return this to reception so that it can be re-used! I used to return home to find I had accidentally taken a spare card home with me. What a waste!
5. Live like a local
To contribute to the local economy consider an Airbnb instead of a large hotel chain. This is a great way to embrace local culture and gives you the freedom to cook your own food or if you’re lucky have a local meal cooked for you by your host!
These are some simple tips that I think we could all employ, but one girl that has really inspired me and taken sustainable travel to the next level is Kat Guidotti otherwise known as @thezerowastebackpacker and I have an exclusive interview with her coming very soon to my website! In the meantime, go check her out on Instagram!