In recent years, we’ve learned a lot about the serious impact that traveling has on the environment. With travel becoming cheaper and easier than ever, global tourism now accounts for 8 percent of total carbon emissions.
You might strive for sustainable living at home, but what if you have to travel frequently for work? Small, simple changes can actually make a huge impact when it comes to traveling sustainably. Start by considering your personal transportation and energy use. Then, choose to work with hotels and tourism businesses that prioritize efficient and eco-friendly operations.
Our Tips for Eco-Friendly Business Travel
Here are a few ways business travelers can make greener choices.
The Environmental Protection Agency says that airplanes account for a whopping 12 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases from transportation. In fact, just a handful of cross-country flights can cause as much damage from greenhouse gases as an entire year’s worth of driving. Consider train travel as a greener alternative. Not only can the journey be more scenic and comfortable, but most modern trains come equipped with Wi-Fi so business travelers can stay productive en route.
When air travel just can’t be avoided, simply choosing to avoid a layover can make a huge difference. The majority of emissions come from takeoff, landing, and taxiing, so flying nonstop is always the greener option. You can even opt to pay a small fee to support ecological projects that will “neutralize” or offset your carbon emissions.
Once you’ve arrived, choose to take public transportation, bike, or walk. Walking and cycling are not only greener modes of transportation, but they’re also better for your overall health and wellbeing.
If renting a car is necessary, there are still ways to lower your impact on the environment. Offer to carpool with your colleagues, avoid idling or making sudden starts/stops, and keep the tires properly inflated. Skip the gas-guzzling SUV in favor of a small, compact car or, even better, a hybrid vehicle. The Inn at Virginia Tech has two electric vehicle charging stations on-site that are complimentary for guests to use.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Remember the three R’s? Eco-conscious business travelers can keep these in mind throughout their hotel stay. Reduce your energy consumption by taking shorter showers and switching off the tap while brushing your teeth. Any time you leave the room, remember to turn off the lights, TV, and heat or air conditioning.
Greener housekeeping practices are also becoming the norm. Keep an eye out for recycling bins in your room or in the lobby. Towels left neatly hung up are typically not replaced, conserving the energy and water required for daily washing. If you’re not sure, ask the front desk about their policy or simply leave your housekeeper a note.
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Ditch the Single-Use Plastic
Recent estimates say around eight million tons of plastic products are polluting our oceans, rivers, and coastlines every year. Unfortunately, most of those products are single-use plastics commonly found in hotels and restaurants. Things like plastic straws, cups, and even cocktail picks are used once and immediately thrown out. No good.
The Inn at Virginia Tech is working toward eliminating all single-use plastics as part of a larger initiative by BENCHMARK®, a global hospitality company, which manages The Inn. We’ve ditched plastic straws, providing paper straws on request and using 100% compostable coffee cups with lids made from 25% post-consumer recycled material.
What else can you do? Consider packing your own reusable toiletries, a stainless steel coffee mug or water bottle, and a foldable canvas shopping bag.
Make Your Meetings Greener
Greener travel isn’t limited to transportation and packing; meetings can be green, too. Planners should ask about their venue’s waste management and composting policies, as well as what local, seasonal food options they have available.
In addition to ditching single-use plastics, The Inn at Virginia Tech can recommend a variety of eco-friendly, beautiful decor and dinnerware options. Pressed palm leaf plates and bowls, along with compostable utensil kits, are both a stylish and sustainable choice for your next corporate event.
Whether planning an event, traveling for fun, or meeting some colleagues, you can always be greener when making the trip. All it takes are simple, small changes. These alone can have a huge impact on the footprint you leave behind.