A Green Surprise at an Eco-Friendly Hotel
Lemont's resident "Eco-Mom," BJ Marshall, recently traveled to Boston, where she and her family stayed at the environmentally-friendly Lenox Hotel.
The frequent-flier miles were burning a hole in my pocket. For months, my family and I debated the merits of visiting different cities and attractions. Florida was too hot in the summer. Southwest doesn’t fly to Montana. We’d already been to Disneyland.
The East Coast was unexplored territory for my clan, so we decided on Boston. Take in a Red Sox game, go boating on the Charles River, feast on fresh seafood. I would check my Eco-Mom badge at the door, forget about my carbon footprint, and enjoy a weekend away with the family.
I secretly relished forgetting environmental responsibility — along with many of my other modern-mom responsibilities — for a while. On previous trips, I delighted in those extra-long showers, disposable plates and cups (no dishwashing for this mom!), and fresh, warm towels every day. I happily packed our bags for Beantown and vowed to make it up to the planet when we returned.
When I sought advice from a Bostonian about where to stay, she recommended the Lenox Hotel. The location looked great and there were adjoining rooms available during our travel dates, so I booked it and crossed that item off my to-do list.
Though I felt a twinge of guilt stepping onto the plane (air travel is one of the biggest contributors to global warming), I was really excited to have some time away from the endless list of things to do, work to finish and places to be. I’d never been to Boston and was excited to see a new city and take in all the history of America’s early years.
Once we landed, my Eco-Mom violations started mounting. At the rental-car counter I asked for the biggest SUV they had. I know we should probably have been tooling around the city in a Ford Fusion Hybrid or a tandem bike with an attached trailer, but if you have ever packed for six people or tried to fit multiple car seats in the back of a sub-compact, you understand why I looked the other way when presented with the rental car paperwork.
I earned my third Eco-Mom demerit on the way to the hotel. Bottled water. We would be consuming gobs of it walking around the city in the summer time, so I bought a case. A true Eco-Mom would have packed our stainless steel drinking bottles and used tap water, but traveling with kids comes with enough challenges. I really couldn’t see myself scrubbing water bottles in the bathroom sink with hand soap.
Thankfully the Lenox had other plans for us. It is one of the top eco-friendly hotels in the world and a leader in green travel. Every floor has a filtered water dispenser--with hot and cold water that is filtered on-site. And that’s just one of the many green perks we learned about at check-in, in addition to the dozens of behind-the-scenes choices the hotel’s owners make on a regular basis to support their commitment to environmental responsibility.
My son found the water dispenser just down the hall from our room shortly after we unloaded our bags. We could also get ice made from the filtered water with the push of a button. Thanks to this terrific amenity, we could use the glasses in our room to get water while in the hotel. When on the go, we refilled our disposable water bottles and took them on our daily adventures.
One of my favorite eco-surprises was what we could do when those reused water bottles became too icky: We could recycle them. There were divided recycling baskets in every room. It was the first time I’d ever seen recycling in a hotel room and was so glad to be able to have a guilt-free place to toss the bottles, along with the newspapers, tourist brochures and glass bottles we used during our stay.
The Lenox also offered the program I’d seen in numerous other hotels: the option of reusing towels and not having sheets changed every day. In fact, the hotel pioneered towel reuse years ago.
These obvious nods at conservation were inspiring, but the most amazing environmental efforts were going on behind the scenes. The hotel uses more than 95 initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint, including purchasing wind power, using only eco-friendly cleaning products, offering guests a hybrid car service, using no-VOC paint and installing waterless urinals.
Inspired by the placards and brochures encouraging eco-responsibility, I decided to do my best for the rest of the trip to be a green traveler. We walked to Fenway Park instead of taking a taxi. We took a ride on the Swan Boats at Boston Common, which are powered by operators who pedal the boats through the water. And, at the risk of looking like a penny-pincher, I took home the partially used bars of soap from the sink and shower.
I was heartened to find that I didn’t have to leave my green lifestyle behind when traveling. I still have a long way to go before being officially certified as a green traveler, but I’m planning to use some of the tips from greenhotels.com on my next trip.
They suggest packing a permanent marker to label drinking cups, water bottles, etc. That way one child will not be completely appalled at the thought that his sister might have drunk from his cup.
Similarly, packing safety pins, each with a different colored bead on it, will help each family member identify his or her towel. The site also suggests packing some plastic bags for things like leftover soap, as well as a nightlight so you don’t leave the bathroom light and fan on all night.
It may not be possible to completely offset my family’s carbon footprint while traveling. But by adding a few clever items to my packing checklist, I can do my part to conserve resources and respect the natural beauty of the places we visit. Next time, I’ll be sure to add my Eco-Mom badge to the list, too!
For many more suggestions and a list of eco-friendly hotels, visit www.greenhotels.com.