Adding to the mix of good Sustainability topics posted right here on SCN…hopefully this blog compels you to ponder your own sustainable habits at home, work, and while somewhere in-between.
Do any of the following scenarios apply to you?
• Getting ‘take aways’ with non-biodegradable packaging and disposables like utensils/containers is part of your weekly routine.
• Your hotel room is usually strewn with cups, lids, and other single serve items by the end of your stay, all of which is left for housekeeping to conveniently whisk away to the dumpsters.
• You contribute to various hotels’ daily waste production by adding your ‘disposable’ eating ware to all the other styrofoam & plastic contributitions overflowing from the garbage bins every day (either at complementary breakfasts or evening ‘manager’s receptions’).
If you humbly would admit that you can relate to any of the above statements, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re part of the majority of travelers who could probably be more conscious of and opposed to ‘single-serve‘ methods of consumerism.
It’s time to start a BYOB movement, such as Bringing Your Own Bowl (ie. reusable container, cup, or the like) around with you. Because being habitually green at home is not enough anymore — we’ve got to establish environmentally sustainable practices while traveling too.
The same applies to shifting houses as well. I have seen first-hand how easy (and tempting) it can be to dispose of unwanted belongings during a recent personal relocation.
Having moved to the Bay area several weeks back from DC, I’ve observed that the frequent need for convenience and decluttering which often accompanies a move can easily put green habits temporarily on hold. And moving is one of the most wasteful activities in terms of packing materials and having to ‘shed some weight’ of our accumulation of belongings to be transported.
From Convenience to Conscience — the need to Waste Less
Despite the numerous efforts made by communities and businesses to reduce their constant waste production, it’s still remarkable how much gets thrown away and added to a landfill. According to the CSR-focused company Accor, “On average 11.6 pounds (5.3 kg) of waste is produced per person per day in OECD countries” and “Waste recycling worldwide is below 10%.” Check out the their Environment Charter about some interesting initiatives to increase awareness and address this reality.
Just take an example of a large hotel (400+ rooms) that contributes ~24 tons of waste per month to a landfill (without recycling). That’s almost 300 tons of garbage a year from just 1 hotel ! (pulled from a Hotel Waste Reduction Recommendation Report by Solana Recyclers, Inc.)
Below are some suggestions on ways we can do our part combat the ‘use & throw’ mentality in our society. Interspersed are some personal examples of how I faced the waste by implementing some simple yet firm guidelines for myself when moving, and also while traveling for work. Feel free to replicate or integrate into your own green practices as you see fit.
• Sorted everything. Whatever got left behind was sorted into piles that either got recycled, sold second-hand, or donated to friends, Goodwill and charities.
• Shipped the car instead of driving. Although a hefty expense, shipping the car via truck/transporter gave the satisfaction of not having to put another car on the road to pollute across 11 US states. Being tax-deductible didn’t hurt either.
• On a lighter note, even our moving company encouraged carpooling & using re-usable/recycled padding materials. Old Baymeadows Moving (a great Jacksonville, FL-based company BTW) brought their companion and live security system — “Sparky” the pitbull — along for the ride (a state champion, apparently).
Here’s Sparky taking a break from ‘guard duty’ during the move:
Moving luckily doesn’t happen all that often, but it’s harder to make lifestyle changes that affect the day to day routine. Try to establish some green rules of the road (some examples/ recommendations offered below).
1. Make a commitment to something specific by pledging to yourself “I’m going to…”
…go through just 1 set of ‘use & throw’ utensils/dishes per day or two
…bring a set of containers/utensils to use in place of disposables at hotel eating areas, airports, etc.
…always hang towels for re-use instead of getting daily replacements by housekeeping
…not accept plastic bags (either for carry-out food or at grocery stores).
…and so on. Pledge –> Then Implement –> Demonstrate to others
2. Favor hotels that support ecotourism & waste reduction. When frequenting a particular hotel, ask the manager what they recycle, and if they don’t have a response — tell them to start recycling.
3. Be aware of what you take/use on a daily basis, and encourage children to be mindful too (who are pretty eager to learn from the behaviors/actions of adults)
4. Create a customized Eco-Packing Check-List:
• Travel size (>3oz.) container of dish soap.
• 1 set of real utensils (not plastic) from home — no fork & knife if traveling with just carry-ons though…
• 1-2 plastic (microwave safe) containers — 20 oz/600 ml is a good size.
• Napkins (saved up from previous to-go orders, etc).
• Re-usable shampoo/conditioner bottles containing your own stuff (to reduce the number of hotel bottles that get thrown).
• 1 small bowl or plate made by Correll (the most sturdy, unbreakable dinnerware there is) — can be found a la carte at Walmart.
• Microwave safe coffee mug (non-glass).
• Re-usable water bottle (ie. stainless steel variety like what was provided at SAP TechEd or a hard & durable plastic).
• Re-usable grocery bags for sundries / shopping.
(feel free to expand or simlify as per your individual preferences/needs)
Some final thoughts for the road…
We all have the opportunity to lead by example (whether good example or bad). The younger generations are also watching us closely and in many ways, their quality of life tomorrow depends on the environmental practices & choices we make today. Choose wisely.
If each person was to implement a small step or two to kick the habit of wastefulness or otherwise, it could go a long way in reducing the wear & tear we put on this earth.