Whenever I travel, it seems nearly impossible to maintain any behavior of consuming less. Tickets with bizarre layovers, tiny drinks in plastic cups, freezing cold air-conditioned rooms, copious amounts of takeout foods in un-recyclable containers–it seems endless. Even if I pack my own snacks and bring my own washable water bottle I still end up throwing so much away. Towels get changed and laundered and tiny bottles of shampoo are thrown out, half-used. Inevitable food delivery after a hard day arrives in Styrofoam containers. I can never find a recycling bin. What can you do?

Consuming Less: energy

Consuming Less energy while travelingOne of the biggest issues with traveling is how we behave as if none of our personal rules apply. At home, you wouldn’t leave every light on when you’re not there. You wouldn’t run the air conditioner at 70 degrees while you’re gone for ten hours of the day. So, it’s simple. Try consuming less by turning off the lights when you leave. Turn up the air conditioner or turn down the heat when you’re not there. If housekeeping turns it all back on or up or down, adjust it, or leave a kind note. But this brings me to the next issue.

Consuming Less: water and energy

A recent hotel I stayed at had the best idea: leave a door hanger that states you don’t need housekeeping. Most hotels have little cards about leaving towels to change on the floor. Even though that may be the rule, you can still return to a room with all new towels and new sheets. Why? I don’t know anyone who changes their sheets and towels every day (or I hope I don’t). There seems to be an expectation that this is more necessary in a hotel than in our our own homes. Every time a towel or sheet is changed, it is washed, wasting water and energy unnecessarily. The best solution I’ve come up with is leaving a Do Not Disturb sign up all day long. Try sleeping in the same sheets for three days…it’s just like home!

Consuming Less: plastic

Consuming Less Plastic while travelingI lost track at a trade show of how many water bottles my co-workers went through. Aside from the cost, the empty bottles just kept piling up. An easy solution is a refillable bottle. Whether refilling at a water fountain or a water station, it is easier to stay hydrated and way easier to carry. It probably also saves at least $20 of inflated water bottle prices.

The other big plastic waster are the trial-sized bottles of toiletries in the hotel. When you bring your own toiletries, filled with your own reliable products, it doesn’t only save all that plastic but also allows you to use the products you trust and love. Housekeeping (as far as I know) won’t throw out entirely unused products. Some hotels have become smarter about this and use large containers, mounted to the shower or sink, that can be refilled. This saves them cash AND waste.

We all want to kick back a little when we travel and there’s no reason we shouldn’t! But, if we can remember that we’re the same people with the same values no matter where we go, we might tread a little more lightly on these guest spaces.