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.