Hotel Room Eco Audit (One Shade Greener)

hotel-room.jpg(by Sheila Samuelson – originally on One Shade Greener)
As soon as I stepped in, I smelled the “new building” scent. That’s the smell of VOCs (indoor air pollution) from the vinyl plastic shower curtain, paint and carpeting. The fan was running on “auto cool mode” and the mini-fridge was quietly humming away, cooling – on the “coldest” setting – nothing but the 2 cubic feet of air inside.
We’ve all been here, in the generic, timeless, placeless, kind of hotel room you can wake up in and not know where in the country, or the world, you might be – and you might as well be anywhere, really. I happen to be in Wichita, and I can’t help but wonder how a budget priced hotel can afford such wastefulness as an empty mini-fridge that runs 24/7, three lamps with incandescent 60 Watt light bulbs, a shower that uses probably 6 gallons per minute or more – half of that going straight from the tub faucet into the drain, not out the shower nozzle, and a room fan that was cooling the room with no one in it from the time it was cleaned, until I arrived to open the window at 7pm.
Each of these things represents waste. Changing the light bulbs to CFLs, fixing the shower and installing a low-flow shower head, unplugging the mini-fridge until it’s needed (there’s always free ice if something needs immediate chilling) and leaving the fan off would all save money and increase the bottom line of this, and all hotels.

Judging by the “new building smell” odor, this generally clean and pleasant hotel hasn’t been around long, which leads me to wonder how in (or near) 2007, a building can be designed, approved or built with such poor standards for indoor air quality and lack of regard to energy and water usage. This is not the stone age or the second industrial revolution – this is the 21st century, where we have the technology available, and recognize that resources, like fresh water, are limited, and that cooling an empty room all day is wasteful. If for no other reason than the viability of this hotel as a business, why all the waste?
Tomorrow morning at check out I will fill out a comment card, thanking them for the friendly service, the wake-up call and shuttle to the airport (you guessed it, I’m offsetting the flight), but I’ll also request recycling bin, non-disposable cups, CFLs, and an awareness of all the opportunities where they could pass savings on to me as a consumer, by saving money themselves.
Let’s start a comment card revolution. The biggest reason most companies carry on with business as usual is that they haven’t been asked by their customers to change anything. Luckily they give us those handly comment cards with a box to drop them in, anonymously even. So let’s ask for efficiency and eco-awareness. Let’s ask for recycling. Let’s ask for less disposability. Let’s ask for more efficient buildings. Because if you don’t ask,…..
Visit Environmentally Friendly Hotels for an eco-friendly place to stay the next time you’re on the road, and camping, couching or hostelling isn’t an option.

Sheila Samuelson

Sheila Samuelson is a Sustainable Business Strategist at Bright Green Strategy. She has earned an MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School, and has sustainability experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Samuelson has helped Greensburg, Kansas work toward a sustainable recovery from the devastating 2007 tornado; worked with the San Francisco Department of the Environment; co-founded a designed a green business certification program for the area surrounding Dubuque, IA; and helped some of the largest global corporations measure and track their sustainability metrics.

3 responses

  1. This is so interesting! I couldn’t agree more. I’m wondering, does anyone know of any meta-studies or academic articles on “best practices” for green hotels? A quick search in didn’t turn up much other than a few studies conducted a few years ago, such as in the Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly (published in 1999) — which itself is interesting, but it was over eight years ago. I wonder if anything has been conducted that’s more recent?

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