Corporate event professionals know the ins and outs of business travel: how to get best fares, speed through a security line and earn coveted rewards. But how do you turn your road warrior a deeper shade of green through lower-impact, sustainable business travel decisions?
The obvious choice: stay home. However for many of us, this limits the business outcomes we’re looking for, which can only be earned through face-to-face connections. So for those times when Skype and Google Hangouts just won’t cut it, consider these ways to reduce your business travel footprint.
- Combine trips. With a little careful thought it’s often possible to achieve multiple business objectives with one trip. This may involve planning your trip to coincide with an industry conference where you can meet with multiple customers or suppliers. Scheduling back-to-back trips can also reduce overall air miles and carbon impact.
- Ask if your travel buyer has “green preferred” suppliers. Some clients I work with have travel buyers who identify suppliers with sustainability programs. These programs help me find hotels and transportation partners that have preferred rates AND sustainable practices. Ask if your corporate travel partner offers this kind of program. If they don’t, don’t fret: many self-serve online travel sites now offer ways to search for hotels that have “green” certifications.
- Consider non-air alternatives. Living in Vancouver, my default travel mode is almost always air. However, I’ve recently taken the train to Washington and Oregon on business, and have to say: I could get used to it! Beautiful view, no stress, wireless access, and very affordable! Train travel has a much lower carbon impact than air, so if time and infrastructure permits give it a try.
- Book direct flights. Of course, unless I’m travelling to Seattle or Portland, it’s pretty impractical for me to take the train. If you’re in a similar situation try to take direct flights. This is not only convenient, but also carbon-conscious, given more emissions are produced during take-off and landing.
- Choose a central hotel near transit hubs. Make sure your hotel is located in the neighbourhood where you’ll be doing the majority of your business so you can walk. You can also check if it is near transit. To help you prepare, make note of transit information in your itinerary, or download a local transit app before you go. A personal perk of this choice: walkable neighbourhoods and transit connections can make it easier and cheaper for you to explore your host city when you have spare time.
- Pack less. If everyone flying from Vancouver to Toronto today packed one pound less, it would reduce carbon emissions by approximately 20 metric tons. That’s equal to driving 50,000 miles in your car. So if you can do without that extra pair of shoes, leave them at home! It makes a difference.
- Bring a tumbler. When I started my current job, I was given a reusable tumbler. I’ve brought it on nearly every work trip I’ve taken since then. By using it at hotel coffee shops, convention centre water fountains and on airplanes I estimate I’ve kept about 500 disposable cups from landfill. It may not seem like a lot, but the benefits add up. So pack a tumbler, and make a habit of reusing it!
- Ride-share. Sometimes getting in late at night to a strange city after a long day of travel makes taxi the most convenient, or maybe even the only option to get around. Even here you can go lighter by chatting up fellow travellers in the taxi queue to see if they would like to ride-share. Not only is it cheaper, and more planet-friendly than getting in a cab alone, but I’ve met some really great people along the way, many of whom I see later at the events I’m attending.
- Order half-sizes. When I stop for a bite to eat on the road I’m often not able to finish eating the larger portion sizes typical in airport cafeterias and restaurants. To help me feel less guilty about tossing away un-eaten food and wasting money, I’m trying to get in the habit of ordering half-sizes, or sharing a meal with a travel partner. If you want to take it a step farther, consider reducing meat intake on the road as well, which can also help reduce your footprint.
- Appify your eats. One of the best perks of travelling is being able to enjoy the local flavours of places your visit. Today there are many cool apps that help you do everything from find restaurants that specialize in sustainable food to locate nearby farmer’s markets where you may want to pick up some fresh fruit for your stay. Read more and take advantage of these tools here.
- Opt-in to green guest programs. Whether it is opting into towel and sheet reuse, turning off room lights or adjusting your thermostat to an eco-efficient level, try to take simple steps to be a good green hotel guest. I recently learned that every night I turned down laundry service at my hotel I avoided the use of seven ounces of laundry chemicals and 50 gallons of water. Again, they may seem like small steps, but the benefits can add up!