By Truc Vu
LEED Green Associate
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)
According to Deloitte’s 2019 US Travel and Hospital Outlook Report, this past decade showed a tremendous rise in the US travel industry (1). Technological advancements in combination with the economy’s expansion make travel more accessible, cheap, and efficient, allowing consumers to spend more on travel and leisure. Likewise, increasing corporate profits and business investments correlate with a growth in business travel as well (2).
While city economies are booming, a resulting consequence is the rise in air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, sewage waste, litter, deforestation, land degradation, and an overall depletion of natural resources (3). Therefore, it is imperative to support environmentally conscious stewards in this industry and to adjust our own behaviors as a personal traveler or employee.
Below is a list of ways we can do this:
Check for LEED, Energy Star, and other building certifications, as these hotels most likely have adopted low energy light bulbs, automated lighting, linen and towel reuse programs, locally sourced menus, recycling and composting initiatives, Energy Star appliances, and/or the use of benchmarking tools to track their energy and water usage (4).
Locally Sourced Food
Choosing to eat at restaurants that use locally sourced food will reduce food miles, cutting the environmental impact of meals (5). In addition, doing so also fuels the area’s local economy and workforce as well as provides access to fresher produce.
Fly Only When Necessary
Flying is one of the most environmentally-taxing modes of transportation; therefore, if it is necessary to fly, make informed decisions to reduce carbon footprint (6). This includes flying nonstop to reduce emissions, bringing minimal baggage to reduce the weight of the aircraft, flying economy to take up less space and weight on the plane, and choosing fuel-efficient airlines (Frontier, Spirit, Southwest) (7).
Low-carbon Driving or Public Transportation
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the “largest absolute increase in 2014 energy-related carbon dioxide emissions was from the transportation sector.” To mitigate this, drive/rent cars with low carbon impact (electric, hybrid, and/or fuel efficient). If the city has access to public transportation or bikes, this will usually cut time and costs (6).
Be informed on the local area’s recycling rules, as they vary from city to city.
What Employers Can Do
According to Global Business Travel Association’s research director Kate Vasiloff, “Many companies are taking a holistic approach to improving what some call the triple bottom line—comprised of social, environmental and financial factors—or the three P’s, which is people, planet and profits.”
Your business can encourage sustainable travel practices by (7):
- Establishing clear performance and sustainability goals and metrics.
- Support these goals via travel policies that encourage and incentivize employees to book green hotels, use public transportation, and rent low-carbon vehicles, among other actions.
- Track employee carbon footprint and make changes accordingly.
- Educate employees to increase environmental consciousness.
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, travel & tourism contributed to 10% of the global economy and generated 319 million jobs in 2018 (9). As the industry continues to grow and change, we must adapt with it by making informed decisions on the businesses and practices we choose to support. Doing so will normalize a healthy, sustainable growth in the economy.
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