What is a Green Hotel?

Day 320 – A Green Hotel is one that has taken steps to be more sustainable. Maybe they were built using sustainable materials. Or perhaps they have installed water saving plumbing fixtures. Some even donate to organizations that are helping protect the environment. There are numerous ways to be “green”, but it’s not always easy to know which hotels are being truthful about their efforts or if it’s just greenwashing.

GreenHotels.com states that certifications are expensive and not necessary when giving a hotel the title of Green Hotel. However, Earth911 shared some certifications that hotels can hold to help better identify them as a company that cares about the planet.

  1. Green Globe – The certification program has specific criteria for various types of tourism-related businesses, including golf courses, restaurants, tour operators, attractions, and resorts. Companies can have three different statuses: Certified, Gold, and Platinum. Companies can achieve the Platinum standards if they have been certified for 10 consecutive years. In addition, Green Globe has received Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) recognition, helping to increase trust in this certification.
  2. Green Key Global – Green Key uses a grading system with five keys being the highest and provides guidance on improving a rating. The assessment examines multiple areas of operation, including waste, energy, water, community outreach, and indoor air quality. Like Green Globe, Green Key is GSTC-recognized.
  3. Travelife – This international certification program is available for tour operators and accommodations in over 50 countries. Its program includes 163 criteria related to human rights, community engagement, and environmental impact. 

A few major hotel chains that have shown a concerted effort to green their operations include Hilton, Marriot, Hyatt, and Starwood Hotels.

Whether you’re staying in a Green Hotel or not, there are things you can do to help the planet.

  1. Avoid drinking bottled water (unless it’s the only safe water to drink).
  2. Let housekeeping know you do not need clean sheets and towels on a daily basis.
  3. Turn down heat or air conditioning when not in your room.
  4. Turn off the lights and TV when not in the room.
  5. When booking a hotel, choose one that is in walking distance of where you want to visit.
  6. Bring your own toiletries instead of using the hotel’s supply.
  7. If your hotel does not recycle, consider funding somewhere that does.

If you’re out enjoying a much needed vacation or working hard on a business trip, it’s always important to keep the planet in mind and your impact on it. Try to choose GREEN!

Tomorrow, green restaurants and what they do.

Packaging Labels: You can’t always believe what you read

Day 175 – When it comes to being an informed consumer, it can feel like a full time job. Countless labels to read and information scrolled out over packaging can get to be a little overwhelming. Thankfully, the people over at Earth911 has taken the time to let us know what we should be reading and what information is important to know.

Here are a few labels to consider when shopping.

  1. The expiration or sell-by-dates on packaging – Unless it’s deli meat, soft cheeses or infant formula, many food items are still good after the expiration date. Throwing out perfectly good food is a serious problem in this country. Do a little investigating before you start tossing out food. You may be surprised to find that there is nothing wrong with it.
  2. Certified labels vs. generic terms – On Day 74, I listed numerous labels that could be trusted on your food and products. They were items with certifications that met a variety of different standards. Unfortunately, many manufacturers use words like “natural” or “sustainable”. More times than not this a form of greenwashing. They make you think their product is environmentally friendly, when in fact it is not.
  3. Packaging without recycling symbols – On Day 127, I tried to make sense of all the numbers and symbols found on packaging and explain if they could be recycled. Sadly, some manufacturers do not put any symbols on their products making it very difficult to know if it can be recycled. If you have packaging without a number/symbol ask questions before throwing it away. Don’t assume it can not be recycled.
  4. Try to purchase items that are easily identified as being recyclable – When it comes to aluminum, glass, tin cans, cardboard and paper, we can all agree that these items are easily identified as being recyclable. When we get into the plastics it becomes a guessing game at times. Ways to avoid this problem is to avoid purchasing products in plastic. If you can not avoid plastic, than look for companies that use the How2Recycle label. They have taken out the guess work by using clear instructions on their labels on how to recycle the packaging. They include information on preparing a package for effective recycling; how widely recycling is available for the type of package; which category of material the package belongs to; and which part of the package the symbol refers to.

So, the next time you’re in the grocery store think about the items you are purchasing. Do you have a plan for that packaging when it’s empty? Do you know if it can be recycled? Or will it end up in the landfill? These are all questions we should be asking and we should be supporting companies that are helping us navigate the tricky situation of recyclability.

Tomorrow, hydroponics in your home.

Your Purchases are Your Votes

Day 92 – When we think of voting, we usually think of politicians and elections. However, we are voting everyday. Every time we make a purchase we are voting. Our purchases support the businesses we patronize and in turn supports how that business operates. For example, most of us made sure to purchase “dolphin safe tuna” after 1990, because we couldn’t imagine supporting companies that would catch and kill dolphins that were caught in fishing nets. The idea of being an informed consumer is even more important, today. 

Unlike the 1990s, we now have many options to purchase products that benefit the planet and the people that reside here. There is an eco-friendly alternative for practically every need or want a consumer may have. However, you have to make sure you are choosing wisely. Back on Day 17, I discussed greenwashing and how many companies use Earth friendly jargon and buzz words to lull us into a false sense of sustainability. As our parents always told us, we need to do our homework. 

It’s important that we make an effort to support businesses that are making the environment its number one priority. Businesses that are choosing the planet over profit. When we find these businesses and support them with our purchases, we are voting. We are telling those that don’t follow similar business practices that we are fed up and want change. We want products that are produced and packaged in a way that does not harm the planet or those working to bring those products to the consumers. 

Just like you would campaign for a candidate, you need to campaign for businesses making an effort to be good stewards of the planet. Share what you know with family and friends. If you know of a business that you believe others should support, let them now. Encourage others to be well informed voters and to use that vote, so their voices can be heard. 

Tomorrow, celebrating my hero. 

Old Furniture: Donation or disposal

Day 24 – New furniture is exciting and can really spruce up your living space. Unfortunately, the task of removing the old furniture can be troublesome. For some it’s super easy, schedule a special pick up and have your local streets and sanitation haul it away for free. The only drawback, that furniture is going to end up in a landfill.

Another option, if you’re lucky, is to have your new furniture supplier take away your old furniture. I’m sure you have seen the Walter E. Smithe commercials advertising this service.

“We recently partnered with a charity that puts old furniture to good use. It is a halfway house for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. The organization takes 90% of our clients’ old furniture to sell at resale shops or give to their clients to use.”Walter E. Smithe

Walter E. Smithe also works with Chicago Furniture Bank. If you’re furniture store offers this service, be sure to ask where your old furniture is going.

Donation is the best option. Donation Town will set you up with a local charity and help schedule a pick-up. Once, you type in your zip code a list of local charities will pop up for you to choose from. The whole process seems very easy.

Now, what to do if your furniture is in bad shape and donation does not appear to be an option? Well, this is where it gets tricky. I was on the search for a company that would take my old furniture. I had two couches and a chair (why so much? I was holding on to a couple pieces for years, not wanting to toss in a landfill). One couch was in pretty good shape, while the other couch and chair were looking pretty shabby. I thought I found a solution to my problem. Couch Disposal Plus (run by Load Up) seemed to be the answer. They had good reviews and an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau. On their site they state:

“Your old furniture items will be professionally and responsibly disposed of in the most eco-friendly way whenever possible.”

So, I went ahead and scheduled a pick up. I was billed $154. It was a little pricey, but I figured it was worth it. I believed they would donate furniture pieces that were eligible and properly dispose of pieces that were not. I pictured them taking the furniture apart and recycling the pieces they could, like springs, wood and fabric. Once they arrived, I quickly realized that the picture in my head was complete fantasy. I was led to believe that this company was “eco-friendly” and clearly they were not. I had been greenwashed!

First, I was expecting a box truck with the Couch Disposal Plus Logo, as shown on their website. Instead two gentlemen showed up in a rusty old pick up truck. As they struggled to get all three pieces of furniture on their truck (which did not safely fit on the truck), I asked them where they had to drive to drop off the furniture. One gentleman explained it was going to a warehouse, where it would be decided which pieces could be donated and which pieces would go to the landfill. Landfill? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What happened to disposing in an “eco-friendly” way? On top of it all, the one couch I thought had a chance to be donated was now in a pickup truck, exposed to the elements (January in Chicago, not ideal). I was beside myself. I had been completely duped and I felt awful.

After they left, I sent a strongly worded email, expressing my extreme disappointment and dissatisfaction. I explained that I would be sure to tell everyone I knew not to use their services. As I clicked the send button, a text message came across my phone asking for a review of my experience. I copied and pasted my email to the survey and clicked on 1 star (zero stars was not an option). I quickly received a message apologizing for the experience. The message went on to say that a representative would be in touch soon to address the problem.

As of today (8 days since pick-up), my original email (that was sent through their website) has been sent back saying it was undeliverable and I have not heard back from a representative to discuss my unfavorable review.

So, the lesson of the story, always ask questions. Make sure you are working with reputable people that are honest and stand behind the claims they make about their business. As for an environmentally friendly way to dispose of your old furniture, unfortunately, I have no good answers.

Lastly, since we are on the topic of furniture, we went ahead and invested in a LoveSac couch. I have never spent so much on furniture in my life, but we were sold on their business model.

  1. Their versatility and removable and washable covers make their lifespan far longer than a typical couch.
  2. Sactionals use upholstery fabric made from 100% Repreve (using recycled plastic bottles) certified recycled yarns.
  3. Sactionals were designed and packaged to maximuze shipping efficiency. Recycled kraft cardboard is used to lessen the use of bleaches and dyes, further reducing their total environmental impact.
  4. The hard inserts have a lifetime guarantee.

To say the least, we are very pleased with our new furniture and are happy to know we will not need to find an “eco-friendly” disposal option ever again!

Tomorrow, appreciating a product that has lost some major points on the environmentally friendly checklist.

Greenwashing: Don’t be fooled

Day 17 – Yesterday, Certified B-Corporations were covered. It was learned that these companies take the utmost effort in being the leaders of a global movement of using business as a force of good. Today, we’re going to take a look at the other side. We’ll examine how companies make false claims and mislead the public using greenwashing.

Borrowed from Avaycay – words that hook us into believing we are making good choices for the environment.

What is greenwashing?

“Greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound. Greenwashing is considered an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly.” – Investopedia

Greenwashing is not new. The term has been around since 1986 when it was coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld. And well before the term was created, companies were greenwashing their customers to give them a false sense of security and the belief that they were doing good in the world.

Just the other day, I experienced greenwashing. My husband and I had a gift card for Chipotle, so we purchased two burrito bowls for lunch. After I was finished, I went directly to my computer and searched up, “Are Chipotle bowls compostable?” I figured that a company that boasts being “one of the first national restaurant brands to commit to goals on local and organic produce and first national restaurant brand to commit to using only responsibly raised meat with some of the highest animal welfare standards”, would definitely have earth friendly bowls.

Article after article (dated 2019) popped up describing a bowl that was advertised as being compostable but was later tested and found to contain cancer causing, non-biodegradable chemicals. Chipotle promised to have safe and fully compostable bowl by the end of 2020. As of today, there is no mention of a compostable bowl on Chipotle’s website.

There is no doubt that I have been greenwashed countless times and there’s a chance it may happen again. However, just knowing it exists and realizing that a little research can uncover an avalanche of information, I’m hoping to be a wiser and more careful consumer. There are plenty of companies out there that want to take advantage of those trying to make environmentally friendly choices. Don’t be fooled. Do you’re homework and choose companies that are truly making a difference in the world.

Tomorrow, remembering a man that fought for equality for all and how that transcended to the environment.