A hotel filled with dozens of rooms has an ENORMOUS footprint for a single night. Over the course of a year, that waste accumulation can be massive. It’s important as conscious travelers to make changes to have a more sustainable hotel stay. 

Ideally, the hotel would take responsibility for it’s impact. Until that happens, as travelers we will do our bit to leave a smaller impact on the communities we visit. 

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1. Don’ use the freebies

This means passing on the tiny shampoo bottles, shower caps and even bar soap.

To avoid using the bar soap to wash your hands after going to the bathroom, bring your own bar soap and leave it next to the sink when you’re not showering.

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A quick case for why you should travel with bar soap instead of liquid:

  • If you’re flying, there’s no limit on how much soap you can take, like there is for liquids
  • Solids don’t have a risk of leaking and causing a huge mess in your bag
  • They’re generally cheaper than liquid products
  • Solids are lighter, which helps if there’s a weight limit on your luggage or if you’ll be carrying your bag on your back.
  • Bar soaps generally have a smaller footprint than bottled soaps: they last a long time, you are less likely to use more than you need, they don’t come in a plastic bottle and can be bought with simpler ingredients

A tip on transporting bar soap: some people complain that bar soap is messy to transport.

On the contrary, it’s easy and low-mess with one simple trick. Buy or sew a washrag pouch and you can toss the soap right in, even if it’s still wet. As long as the washrag is dry then your soap will be fine.

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2. Report equipment that has problems

Have you ever been in a room with a leaky faucet that dripped endlessly?

Or a toilet that ran all night?

Or an air conditioner that’s broken and only goes on full blast, making you pile on every blanket in the room to stay warm?

I don’t like to complain, so I used to just let all those things go and not mention it to the hotel staff.

However, that’s certainly not in the best interest of the environment or the hotel, which loses money with water and electricity running unnecessarily.

Kindly mention it to staff or leave a note on a comment card to bring it to their attention. They very well might not be aware that something isn’t working properly.

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My husband playing guitar on the balcony of one of my all-time favorite hostels in Panama City, Panama. 2017

3. Use towels as you normally do at home

It might be fun to use a freshly washed and folded towel every day, but the footprint of your stay goes up with every freshly washed towel.

If you would normally use the same towel for a week at home, but instead use a new towel every day at a hotel, you use 7x the water, soap and energy as you normally would.

Certainly don’t use a dirty towel to save resources, but consider whether or not your towels really do need replaced.

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4. Be vigilant about energy usage

What’s the point of leaving a lamp on in your hotel room when you leave in the evening?

We’ve all been guilty of it before, but use energy like you would at home. Don’t leave the television running or the lights on while you’re gone.  

5. Show there’s consumer demand for sustainable travel

Leave suggestions for more environmentally-friendly practices in your hotel review.

A function of reviews is to help the hotel know how it can better serve its guests. Let them know that you’d be happier with more sustainable practices.

If the hotel didn’t advertise as an eco-hotel, then don’t penalize them for it, but kindly offer some suggestions. Here’s a recent Trip Advisor review I left for a hotel in Lisbon, Portugal:

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I implore you to exercise this practice with all of your hotel and restaurant visits. I have an entire guide on this practice here: Copy/Paste This Into Your Next Review To Encourage Sustainable Practices.

These are easy steps for any traveler to take to have a sustainable hotel stay. What do you do when you travel to minimize your footprint?