Road Tripping: Pittsburgh to South Dakota

    The first time I saw Psycho, I thought, hey, this Norman Bates looks like a nice guy. But after that famous scene where Tippi Hedron face-plants onto the bathroom floor and Bates carries her off in the shower curtain, I realized you never really know what goes on at a hotel behind closed doors.

    During summer travels, lodging is not only the toughest part of the trip to plan, it is also often the most wasteful component of a vacation. Think about it: the room has been chemically cleaned top to bottom before you even arrive. Housekeeping gives you supplies like soap and shampoo in little plastic, one-use bottles that they replace each day if you use any of the contents. Sheets and towels are changed every day and the vacuum is usually run. Sometimes you have the option to ask that your sheets and towels not be changed, but many times this option isn’t available. So what are some things you can do during your stay to avoid wasted water, plastic and electricity? A site call Go Green Travel Green has a very helpful list of 11 tips for “greening” your hotel stay, including bringing your own toiletries and totally avoiding all freebies. They even have a sign you can print out politely asking housekeeping not to change your towel:

 The site also features hotels that have made a pledge to be more environmentally friendly.

    In my case, I stayed the first night in an extended stay hotel near the Pittsburgh airport. The room had its own kitchen in which we made our dinner, reducing waste by not eating out, but the hotel had no option for guests to choose not to change their towels and sheets every day. Our second hotel was… well, a bit sketchy to say the least. It was also near the airport in Chicago and by the looks of the bathroom, they definitely do not clean the rooms thoroughly every day. When was the last time my sheets were changed? I have no idea. I probably don’t want to know.
    The other good thing about our Chicago hotel was that we were two blocks away from the elevated train. Being able to walk to sight-see is a great way to reduce your footprint, plus it’s much cheaper than paying for a rental car and parking in the city. A Chicago Transit Authority informed us that each “L” train takes 600 cars off the road. For only 4 dollars round trip to spend a day in the windy city, it’s not a bad deal at all.
    As we arrived in Sioux Falls, South Dakota today, we set up our tent at the family-friendly Yogi Bear Jellystone Campground, a themed camp centering around the beloved Hanna-Barbara character who loved his picnics. For about $20 a night you can pitch a tent, park an RV or stay in one of the camp’s cabins. This, by far, is the least wasteful option for lodging and it doesn’t have to be all bugs and campfire smoke. This campground has a pool, mini golf course and other entertainment for kids (even big kids like me), and they have campgrounds stationed across the country.

Whenever possible, camping, yurts, cabins or hostels are the most eco-friendly options. But when a hotel is just more sensible, think about the ways you can reduce your daily waste by avoiding freebies and planning ahead.

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