by Elizabeth Hobart
Between fuel usage, hotel stays, and dining out, staying green on the road can be hard. As planning committee co-chairs Kate Hutchens and Ben Goldman noted in an earlier blog post, conference travel has a heavy environmental toll. Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to make your personal conference travel more environmentally friendly, without spending significant time or money.
- Bring a reusable water bottle: Worldwide, a million plastic water bottles are purchased every minute, and most will end up in landfills.
- Fortunately, opting out is easy. When you’re packing, throw a reusable water bottle in your suitcase or carry-on. While the TSA won’t let you carry liquids through security, empty vessels pose no problem. As a bonus, in 2017, Baltimore’s municipal water ranked in the top 10 in the United States!
- Pack a travel mug: An estimated 16 billion single-use coffee cups are used every year, and due to plastic coating, most of these are not recyclable or compostable. For your daily caffeine dose, consider bringing your own reusable mug. As a bonus, many coffee shops (including Starbucks!) will give you a discount for bringing your own mug.
- Consider opting out of room cleaning: Washing hotel linens requires a significant amount of water, an average of 25 gallons per room per day. Add in electricity and detergent, hotel laundry can have a heavy environmental impact. Fortunately, you can skip it. After all, you probably don’t wash your sheets every day at home. Many hotels (including Marriott) offer a “Make a Green Choice” option, which give guests a chance to opt out of full housekeeping in exchange for bonus rewards points or a food voucher. However, while these programs can help to reduce environmental impact, they are also controversial, since they can reduce hours for cleaning staff. This is an example of two good impulses potentially being at odds with each other! Even if you skip some housekeeping services, please tip the hotel staff.
- Adjust the A/C when you leave your room: Hotel guests rooms account for a substantial amount of energy used in the hospitality industry (). A simple step you can take is to raise the air conditioner temperature a few degrees during the day. RBMS sessions start at 8:30 am, and continue into the evening, which means that many of our hotel rooms will be empty for hours each day. During this time, you can keep your room slightly warmer, and then turn the temperature back down when you return in the evening.
- Keep the hotel shampoo: Many hotels still offer small bottles of shampoo and other products. If bottle’s the seal is broken, hotels will typically toss the bottle with any leftover products inside. In fact, California is currently considering banning these items, and Marriott and InterContinental Hotels have announced a move to wall-dispensers in place of disposable bottles. If your hotel still offers small bottles, take them with you! You will keep them out of the landfill, and save a couple bucks on buying travel-sized cosmetics.
- Bring a reusable shopping bag: An estimated one trillion single-use plastic bags are used every year.
If you want to further offset your conference travel, you might consider a carbon offset, but read this information from Kate Hutchens first. Without purchasing a carbon offset, these simple steps will help to reduce the environmental impact of your RBMS trip.