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Sustainability: Travelers Care About Being Green. Or Do They?

Environmental concerns are slowly seeping into all aspects of consumers' lives, and travel is no exception. As with most green awareness campaigns, however, just how concerned travelers are is a gray area.

A recent TripAdvisor survey assessing travelers' levels of commitment to the environment claims a sizeable number keep their green mentalities while on the road. A full two thirds believe environmental measures in the travel industry do make a difference. One third would pay more for green hotels (perhaps like the ones featured in this New York Times article), while almost 40 percent would pay more for a flight that was less harmful to the environment. Moreover, TripAdvisor found most travelers (78 percent) are willing to give up the daily change of sheets and towels once so common in the hotel experience.

Funnily enough, this is the exact opposite of the findings of ELEMENT Hotels. According to their survey, 75 percent would not give up their daily fresh linens. On the other hand, 34 percent of those survey respondents claim they change their sheets and towels every day in their own homes, something that is completely incomprehensible to me. Do they really do laundry every day, or have that many spare sets of sheets?

The overall gist of the ELEMENT survey, which actually does make sense, is that people pay less attention to the environment while traveling because they're not paying for cleaning and utilities and they're just lazy. A majority of travelers are likely to leave a light on when they leave a room, leave the bathroom light on all night, or open a new shampoo bottle every time they shower. This fits in with the general indifference most consumers feel towards the environment when it doesn't affect them directly.

ELEMENT outlines a number of steps their hotels will take to cut back on their environmental impact, including reducing the amount of water used in sinks and toilets. They claim this will save about 4,300 gallons of water per room each year. Apparently the average hotel room uses 200 gallons of water every day. I'm not sure if this is really that much though, considering the average American uses over 100 gallons of water a day.

Do you maintain your green practices when you're away from home? What kinds of things can hotels and other travel-related businesses do to reduce their environmental impact?

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