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How to Green Your Hotel Stay

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Vacations can be wonderful -- but some people check out of their eco-values as soon as they check into a hotel. Whether your shelter for the night is a Ritz-Carlton or a Motel 6, these three tips should help you keep your hotel stay green.

1. Leave the Little Bottles. It's tempting to scoop up all those miniature shampoos and wrapped soaps so that housekeeping replaces them with new ones that you can then hoard home. However, those "freebies" do exact a cost on the planet: Producing them uses resources, transporting them burns fossil fuels and emits pollution, and their packaging is likely to end up in a landfill. Better to just keep a normal-sized shampoo bottle and bar soap at home, and the wee amenities at the hotel.

2. Monitor the Thermostat. Many hotels keep their guest rooms so frigid that entering them feels like stepping onto the tundra. To prevent some of this energy waste, readjust the thermostat as soon as you take ownership of your room. The DOE and Energy Star suggest setting air-conditioning temps to no lower than 78 degrees when you're there, and higher when you're sleeping or out. (While you're at it, switch off every light whenever you leave your suite.)

3. Have Green Reservations. Even if during your hotel stay you're turning off lights, lowering the A/C, and letting the little soaps be, you may be doing harm simply by giving your business to a place that burns through energy, pollutes water, or creates tons of waste. To ensure that the property you're giving money to is environmentally responsible, look for certification. If it's LEED-certified (there are less than 100 LEED hotels in the U.S., though more are forthcoming), Energy Star-compliant, or sports the Green Seal, you can be surer that the hotel's eco-commitment is real.