the TAO of CHANGE

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Posts Tagged ‘hotels’

Convenience or Luxury? more on eco-travel

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

As it usually happens, if you spend time thinking about something and you’ll soon hear more about it. This hotel business has me thinking a lot about the difference between convenience and luxury. And, if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that luxury is not only wasteful, but greatly overrated.

I’m grateful for a way of life which allows me considerable convenience, but too much of a good thing simply makes many of us lazy, bored, neurotic and unhealthy. Electrical appliances and oil-dependent machines take over what was once, all in a day’s work. The consumer products “as seen on tv”, individually wrapped anything – and even things like yoga mat bags – baffle me. I don’t even have to mention the mess “convenient” paper cups and plastic bags has gotten us into.

But, back to hotels. Convenience which crosses a certain boundary becomes a luxury – something we can enjoy, but need to be wary of. Often, as a consumer, I feel ridiculously pampered. Luxury hotels (as well as restaurants and stores) pander to our desires to elevate our fragile egos to royal proportions and we buy into it – literally and figuratively. This is all part of what has made the process of hotel-greening a slow and resistant one, according to an article I found yesterday in Mother Jones magazine.

Despite my excitement over the Kimpton chain’s commitment to social and environmental practices, it turns out that it’s still only a fraction of this industry which actively engage in the process of becoming more sustainable – and, as reported by Kimberly Lisagor, Kimpton is the only chain using non-toxic cleaning supplies. Even more shocking, it turns out that the energy cost of an average single hotel room is $2,196 per year – equal to the energy use of an average American household for the same period.

Bottom line? It’s up to us (as consumers) to ask for what we want and then be willing to get out of the lap of luxury. The Green Hotel Association recommends that travelers can and should demand green services, helping dispell the myth that standards set by an excess of amenities. Call ahead to request nontoxic cleaning products, BYO toiletries (shampoo/body bars are airline friendly), turn off the AC, heat, lights and other appliances, avoid maid service, use less water and linens.

The biggest difference you can make is to travel less when possible and opt for the “staycation” otherwise. And when you really gotta/wanna hit the road, check the links below for B&Bs, hostels and earth-friendly hotels and enjoy the “luxury” of greener travel.

For lists and reviews of greener accommodations, visit GreenHotels.com, EcoTourism.org and ItsaGreenGreenWorld.com.

Kimpton Hotels – Responsible and Green Travel Accomodations

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

By Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Jerry, the Change founder, attends/speaks at a Green Fest each year. He could attend more, but instead tries to choose a new location each time. Sticky green business , this travel thing. While most companies can significantly reduce the frequency of employee travel through tele-communicating, web-casts and other tech-savvy alternatives to moving people about the world via airplanes, grounding the workforce completely is simply not an option.

But we can work our way through this enviro-issue with some discipline, planning (and offsetting!), as well as watching the size of our footprints once we’ve landed. So, after offsetting the flight, The Change made reservations at a hotel that has raised the bar regarding social and environmental responsibility.

Kimpton Hotels has developed Kimpton EarthCare, “uniting guests, employees, partners, and suppliers with one common goal – to decrease the use of Earth’s resources and increase sustainable business practices.” Their earth and people-friendly commitments include but are not limited to, the use of non-toxic and natural cleaners, energy and water efficiency systems and policies, organic and fair trade coffee service, recycled paper printed with soy inks, linen reuse, formalized recycling programs and on-property “Best Practices” contests for employees.

And it doesn’t stop there. Kimpton also mentors employees to be socially responsible through grassroots philanthropy, offering paid time-off to volunteer and make active contributions to the community. Kimpton Hotels also raises funds, makes contributions and holds events for the AIDS Red Ribbon Campaign, Parks for People, and other charitable organizations. Kimpton and their employees are also very active in and support the LGBT communities.

Here’s what Jerry had to say about his stay at one of the Kimpton Hotels in Chicago –

“Typically, at hotels, you can feel the commerce everywhere. Every time you make a decision regarding your comfort, pleasure or other travel needs, you can usually sense the billing mechanisms grinding away behind it. Entering The Hotel Burnham felt like an alternative world. The atmosphere was elegant but real, not calculated to look ritzy. It was what it was – and it was beautiful.

But the best part was the people who worked there. Every interaction, whether with the front desk, room service or others, was a genuine, enjoyable human experience. In every case, I felt like a guest, not a customer. These qualities, coupled with Kimpton’s corporate conscience, made me never want to stay elsewhere. Sorry to be so effusive, but – the truth is your best tool.”

For other green accomodations throughout the world, visit Itsagreengreenworld.com, a global listing of green and eco-friendly hospitality destinations of all kinds. They believe that travellers should actively benefit the places they visit, supporting those who provide sustainable services and accommodations. Read and subscribe to their newsletter here.



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