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Where You Stay Matters

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Lodging is one of the most significant costs while traveling, environmentally speaking.

Think about the last time you stayed in a hotel for a vacation. There were probably a lot of lights everywhere that were always on. Maybe you had a new set of towels and sheets every day. Perhaps dozens of people were watching the television and charging their devices. If not watching TV, maybe they were taking a long, hot shower. Next to transportation, where and how you lodge leaves the biggest environmental footprint along your travels. Tourism accounts for about 5 percent of global carbon emissions, and accommodations contribute approximately 20 percent of all tourism-associated emissions.

According to Bret Love, editor-in-chief of and, “The number one tip for minimizing your impact when staying at a hotel is to leave the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door so staff doesn’t clean your room.” This will save water and energy used to wash your sheets and towels, which don’t need to be replaced every day. It also reduces energy used in the room while it’s being cleaned, to keep the lights on and to vacuum. Love says an easy way to reduce your impact while vacationing is to practice the green habits you practice at home: “Turn lights and air-conditioning/heat off every time you leave the room, and turn off the water while you shave or brush your teeth.”

While you can minimize your own negative impact at wherever you’re staying, you can promote sustainability on a larger scale when you choose lodging that focuses on sustainability. Love says, “The simplest way is to look for hotels that have an officially recognized eco-friendly certification.” He recommends Green Key Global and Green Seal. If you’re traveling abroad, some countries have their own rating systems that assess energy efficiency, recycling programs, community involvement, and more. You can research hotels online, but beyond that, Love suggests directly calling and asking, “What initiatives do you have in place to make your hotel’s operation more sustainable?” You might also ask some more specific questions about the hotel's eco policies, like:

  • What kind of energy does the hotel use?
  • Does the hotel use local staff and products?
  • Does the hotel have a recycling plan?
  • What does the hotel do to help the surrounding community?

No matter where you stay, you can limit your impact. Here are a few ideas:

  • Bring a reusable water bottle. It’s more sustainable and a lot cheaper than bottles from a mini-fridge.
  • Walk or bike as much as you can instead of driving; reduce your carbon emissions and fuel-use, and explore your destination in more detail.
  • Avoid using the hotel laundry; they typically wash each guest’s clothes separately, even if there are only a few items, Love says.
  • Choose local restaurants that use sustainable and local ingredients.

When you’re traveling, green habits and an eco-consciousness are always things you can take long with you!

United Nations World Tourism Organization


How do you minimize your impact where you stay? Share your tips in the comments below.

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About the Author
Amy Spriggs
Amy Spriggs
From aluminum recycling to xeriscaping, I'm learning as much as I can about living sustainably every day. more
  • tommy b. 5 years ago
  • lisa p. 5 years ago
    Just don't use Air BNB - in my city, coporate landlord's are using an obscure act that allows elderly landlords who can't maintain properties to evict long term tenants, most of them real elderly people on fixed incomes and then once they clear the place, upscaling it and making it a "hotel" for Air BNB, getting more than a month's rent for one night. That causes more than just environmental damage, it empties out low-income neighborhoods and turns them into off the books hotels. Soon, the middle class and lower class will have nowhere left to live.
    • Celia C. 5 years ago
      It seems as though every good idea can be misused. I use AirBNB as a way of sharing resources more efficiently. But like everything else, you have to check your particular case and not abuse your host or your temporary neighbors.
  • Ann M. 5 years ago
    Noodles and Company offers local and sustainable food. We love to go there. I love almost all their dishes!!!
  • Ann M. 6 years ago
    We always bring our water bottles everywhere we go with frozen backups in a cooler.
  • Dona E. 6 years ago
    I recommend anyone needing to stay on the West Coast near the Monterey Peninsula stay at Asilomar. It is in Monterey, is part of the state park system, and the rates are reasonable for the area! There are no TV in the rooms, food is included and is served cafeteria style (and is 5 stars!!!), They ask you to reuse your towels and linens if you can. You can walk to everything, it's right on the ocean, they recycle everything and are completely green and Earth friendly. Park rangers keep an eye on things. A better place I've not been to.
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