Environmentally speaking, the best business trip is the one you do not have to make. But there are times when face-to-face interactions are essential and business travel itineraries are a must. Before packing your bags and grabbing your laptop, there are some green options you can consider for your next business trip.
It is estimated that a three-day meeting of 100 people can use more than 20,000 kilowatts of power and produce more than a ton of trash. Here’s how you can minimize these numbers with green preplanning before you travel:
- Choose greener transportation: Traveling by bus or train beats driving by yourself. Carpooling also beats driving alone if several people are going to the same location. If you’re in shape and can travel very light, bicycling for 25 or 30 miles beats all of the above. If you must fly, look for direct flights, and if you have a choice of carriers, take a few minutes to research which ones are protecting the environment.
- Book green accommodations: The hotel industry is working hard to keep pace with the needs and concerns of its green-minded clientele. Rather than booking the usual accommodations, do your homework. Web sites of most major hotel chains will indicate some of the activities and initiatives being taken to become more sustainable. For example, Marriott has embarked on a companywide plan to cut 25 percent of its energy consumption over the next 10 years. It has also introduced biodegradable cutlery in many of its restaurants and recycling bins in meeting rooms. Meanwhile, in Boston the Seaport Hotel is composting and using chemical-free bleach for cleaning, while in California, the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Resort has been named the nation’s first LEED Gold Certified Hotel for its energy-saving efforts. The point is, there are hotels that are taking green measures, and with a little research you’ll find them in almost every city and town.
- Position yourself well: One of the easiest and most overlooked areas in which you can save money and the environment is how you get around the city that you are visiting. Car sharing and carpooling should be the norm if you have a car; when renting, hybrid vehicles should be reserved well in advance. If, however, you can select a hotel that is centrally based for your business needs, you may be able to avoid car rental completely and utilize a shuttle to and from the airport or train station. Public transportation, bike rental, and, of course, walking are all excellent means of getting around locally if you’ve positioned yourself well regarding your business needs.
- Hold greener business meetings: If properly planned, business meetings can be decidedly greener. Open windows, skylights, and vents in advance to cool the room rather than use air conditioning. E-mail agendas to attendees to save paper. Set up recycling bins, and if possible buy fresh produce for snacks from local growers. You can also make sure all lighting and electronic equipment is only in use when necessary. In fact, some meetings can take place in low lighting by utilizing sunlight. The idea is to think through in advance the possibilities of utilizing as little power as possible during your meeting.
- Shut down before leaving: The number of computers, lights, and climate-control systems that people leave turned on at home or in the office during business travel is staggering and incredibly wasteful. Not only do you want to make sure everything is turned off but you can lower the furnace and water heater as well. Many appliances use energy even while off. Unplugging just a few can boost your energy savings substantially. Scan your home and office before traveling to make sure you are as waste-free as possible.
- Travel light: Cars and airplanes use more energy when they are heavier. The lighter the load, the less energy used. For any equipment you may need to carry, use rechargeable batteries rather than carry extras.
- Minimize waste: Bring along a canvas bag for your shopping needs, a refillable water bottle, and your own washable mug as well as other items that will save you from using disposable (often nonbiodegradable) items along the way.