Green hotels help you take green on the road

Eco-friendly hotels make it easier to be green away from home

Sunny Singh shows a model of Entergize, a device used to regulate energy in rooms at Residence Inn by Marriott in Reno.

Sunny Singh shows a model of Entergize, a device used to regulate energy in rooms at Residence Inn by Marriott in Reno.

Photo By Kat Kerlin

To search for an eco-friendly hotel and to learn more about what makes them “green,” visit the Green Hotel Association at Also try Hotels owned by Kimptons are also eco-friendly; see

Travel is not exactly an earth-friendly endeavor, even without taking into account gassing up the car or airplane. Just going to a hotel can be an exercise in waste. There’re the towels the maids wash every day, the barely used trash bag disposed daily, the once-used sheets washed and changed. In the morning, there’re the disposable Styrofoam coffee cups and cereal bowls, and plastic utensils laid out for that continental breakfast. For those staying just a few days or an extended time in a hotel, the personal waste can pile up.

But some hotels and motels are trying to green up. Not many of them, but more than you’d expect. For several years, cards asking guests to reuse their towels and bedsheets have been carefully placed in rooms in a nod to conservation. Others are taking those steps further, by serving organic coffee in compostable cups and boasting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or Energy Star certified establishments.

For people traveling to San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas and major metro areas, options for environmentally friendly hotels are relatively plentiful. Some “eco-lodges” are all out retreats for eco-conscious travelers.

Visitors to Reno have fewer options, though some places are stepping up. In addition to having a towel and linen reuse program and ceramic—not Styrofoam—coffee cups for guests, the Residence Inn by Marriott in South Reno is Energy Star certified. It meets criteria from the Environmental Protection Agency for energy efficiency, such as using an Entergize energy control system. The system involves a key card guests insert into a slot on their light switch when they enter or leave the room. This “tells” the room how to regulate its energy use—like preventing the AC from going full-blast to an empty room.

“With [Entergize], we locally took the initiative,” says Sunny Singh, Residence Inn assistant general manager. “Sierra Pacific offered this, and we thought it was a good idea.”

Travelers can search for green hotels at the websites of the Green Hotel Association ( and Kimpton Hotels has made major efforts to greenify its more than 40 hotels, such as the Hotel Monaco in Salt Lake City and the Argonaut Hotel in San Francisco. Kimpton’s hotels use eco-friendly cleaning products, a towel and linen reuse program, in-room recycling, organic snacks and drinks, recycled paper products, low-flow toilets, and green building, energy and water conservation practices.

If your hotel does nothing to conserve water, energy or resources, you can take things into your own hands—at least somewhat. For instance, bring your own traveler mug and spoon to spare those disposable cups and utensils. Leave a note for the maid not to change your bed sheets or wash your towels if you’ve only used them once—or hang the “do not disturb” sign on your doorknob to leave your room untouched until it needs it. Keep an eye on the heater or air conditioning controls. And use the comment cards to encourage those places to be more environmentally friendly.