At one Portland hotel, Earth Day isnâ€™t a once-a-year event.
Every day, The Doubletree Hotel diverts 68% of its waste stream from landfills, composts up to 17 tons per month and purchases more than half of their food products seasonally within a 500-mile region. You can even offset your travel footprint from the hotelâ€™s website.
As more hotels become eco-aware, theyâ€™re offering choices to families concerned about the environment. And some changes adopted industry-wide â€“ like the option to skip washing your sheets during your stay â€“ also save hotel-owners money.
â€œGreen travel has become part of mainstream travel,â€ says Brian T. Mullis, of Sustainable Travel International, a Washington State-based not-for-profit organization that helps visitors and worldwide businesses go greener.
We asked Mullis for tips on how to green your hotel stay, restaurantÂ visits and transportation options. Here are his suggestions:
1. Cut your carbon. Use aÂ carbon calculator to figure out your travel carbon footprint.Â Lessen or eliminate transportation-related carbonÂ emissions, by offsetting emissionsÂ every time you travel.
2. Train your kids. Train travel requires half as much energy per passenger mile, compared to an airplane. In theÂ Pacific Northwest, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver are all connectedÂ by Amtrak Cascades (and kids travel at 50% off).
3. Pack lighter. Apply the golden rule of packing when traveling byÂ plane, train or car: Organize everything you want to bring with you,Â and then cut it in half. Why? Additional weight requires more fuel andÂ produces more carbon dioxide emissions. You can always wash clothesÂ while youâ€™re away, read and swap books, and rent equipment (likeÂ camping gear or skis).
4. Seat yourself. Biking is another great, green way to see a region at a gentleÂ pace. Or in some cases, to sightsee at the localâ€™s pace, since bicycleÂ transportation is very popular in some countries and in some regionsÂ of the U.S., like Portland.
5. Waste not. Donâ€™t add to the waste stream. Ask hoteliers to recycle any paper,Â plastic and glass recyclables that you leave in your room. Bring yourÂ own shampoo and soap. Or request that the soap, shampoo and otherÂ amenities that are provided only be replaced if theyâ€™re empty.
6. Chill out. Turn off your air conditioner or set it a few degrees higher whenÂ away from your room. If itâ€™s a cool time of year, keep the heatÂ thermostat reasonable — not set at t-shirt and shorts temperature.
7. Burn less. Turn off lights, television and other appliancesÂ when not in use, just like you do at home. Appliances and computersÂ can leak up to 20 watts of energy even when turned â€œoff,â€ so if youâ€™reÂ staying somewhere for a few days, consider unplugging appliances youÂ donâ€™t intend to use.
8. Go local. Eat local foods at local restaurants, not chains, so thatÂ the money goes back to the local community. Choose local snacks andÂ drinks, and you might discover a new favorite food. But this isnâ€™t hardÂ and fast â€“ Portlandâ€™s Burgerville and McMenamins are both goodÂ examples of restaurant chains that have a heightened awareness due toÂ their eco-savvy customers.
9. Buy organic. Pesticide- and hormone-free, certified organic food isÂ better for the planet and your body. But organic certification isnâ€™tÂ available worldwide, and when it is, itâ€™s often very expensive. ThisÂ means that not every organic farmer is certified. Ask about organicÂ practices and use your own judgment.
10. Choose sustainable seafood. Many species are falling victim toÂ over-fishing with predictions of global seafood resources depletion byÂ the middle of the century, if we donâ€™t change our habits. Check outÂ Seafood Choices Alliance, Seafood Watch or Ocean Wise.
11. Ask questions. The best way to find out if your vegetables are organic, yourÂ fish is sustainable, or your milk is hormone-free is to ask theÂ waiter, the restaurant manager, the grocer or the farmer you areÂ purchasing it from.
And most importantly:
12. Talk to your kids. Mullis suggests that when you make greenÂ choices, talk about your intentional decisions with your kids. LetÂ the kids know why youâ€™re turning off the lights or choosing one seafood dish over another. Hopefully, they’ll follow yourÂ lead.
Find more travel-green tips at Eileen Ogintz’s Travel green for Earth Day and read this article on long-haul family train travel in my article for E Magazine, “Riding the Rails.”
Do you have any ideas to share?