By Randel Tomina, Chicago, Illinois, USA
As consultants, one of the huge challenges we face is our usage of resources while traveling. Flights, food containers, and travel sized toiletries that are quickly disposed of add to a heavy environmental impact. Most employees of large companies accept this environmental cost as a cost of doing business. As IBMers, it is our responsibility to find smarter ways to mitigate our impact while traveling. There are multiple ways to accomplish this via transportation, hotel accommodations, and dining choices.
As a starting point, if feasible, take the train over driving or flying to your destination. The train provides significant environmental savings over flying or driving yourself. Taking the train also allows you to work while in transit–and if you rely on your cellphone for a mobile hotspot connection, you can use it without issue, whereas this is not an option on a plane. In addition, travel via train is typically more comfortable and cheaper than the cost of a plane ticket, or the cost of fuel if you drive yourself.
When setting up travel for a new location with multiple hotel choices, consider calling the hotels and asking if they have recycling facilities available. This way you can ensure you are supporting businesses that engage in sustainable environmental practices. Even if the hotels do not currently make recycling facilities available for their guests, the simple act of asking may help get them to consider this for the future. You can also use the website Environmentally Friendly Hotels for listings of hotels and their scores in terms of being environmentally friendly.
Additionally, at hotels, people tend to lose the good habits they have at home. This applies to consultants especially, because we aren’t paying for the hotel stays, and that can lead to a myriad of bad habits–leaving the lights on, using towels once and then changing them, having bed linens changed daily, etc. In order to lower our environmental impact, it is important to make sure that while traveling, we maintain the good habits we have at home. In regards to hotels, check out this Energy Star website for more information on energy efficiency at hotels. Additionally, because of advances in technology that create more energy efficient appliances and architecture, newer hotels are also more likely to be more environmentally friendly.
While dining out on business meals, try and support businesses that source their ingredients locally. Products grown and consumed locally eliminate significant amounts of waste due to the lower fuel emissions from the transportation of the product. Additionally, consider purchasing organic coffee. With so many business travelers consuming millions of cups of coffee per week, organic coffee greatly reduces the amount of pesticides being introduced into the environment. If recycling facilities aren’t available in the area you are traveling to, reuse meal containers as much as possible and dispose of them at the end, rather than during, your trip.
Although it may seem like it won’t make a huge difference if you personally work towards sustainability while traveling, consider that over the course of your career, you personally can make a huge impact by adopting these techniques. Additionally, your colleagues may notice your actions and join in as well.