Tag Archives: green

Going Green for Green Sake?

In the mid-1990’s, I traveled to Norway to negotiate NASA’s Sounding Rocket agreement with the Norwegian Space Agency to study Northern lights. (Note: This project nearly caused World War III when the Russians mistook the Black Brant XII, launched from the Andøya Rocket Range, for a U.S. Trident missile.)

NASA Sounding Rockets: Black Brandt XII

NASA Sounding Rockets: Black Brandt XII

In my tiny little hotel on the Norwegian island of Andøya I encountered, for the first time, thegreen hotel’ concept where guests are offered the opportunity to reuse the towels and sheets to save the environment — saving precious water, reducing energy required to heat the water and power the washers, and preventing spread of pollutants caused by cleaning detergents.

Since that time, the idea spread across the Atlantic. I rarely stay in a hotel that doesn’t offer me the opportunity to reuse my towels and sheets.

For the record, I wholeheartedly support the option of green services at hotels. I feel quite nobel for my contribution to help save the world by using ‘dirty’ towels and sheets. (Ewww. Sounds pretty awful though, doesn’t it?)

My sister Aimee, however, doesn’t think it’s noble at all.

In fact, she refuses. Her rationale: she’s paying full cost for the service.

Why should the hotel save money on water, energy, detergent, AND staff labor at the guest’s expense?

My sister believes hotels reap financial reward from environmental do-gooders. Hotels charge daily rates. Guests willingly opt for less service. Hotels come out ahead. She sees the environment less of a concern to the hotel than the bottom line.

She makes a good point!

In the article, “‘Green’ hotels juggle conservation with customer service ,” Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin points out a totally different issue — hotels boasting green service without the follow-through. Towels and sheets are changed out each day even when the guest wants to save the planet. I guess I prefer the hotel erring on the side of clean.

Tangent: I once stayed at a very nice hotel only to wake in the middle of the night to the pungent smell of dirty hair (not mine) on the pillowcase. Evidently not all the pillowcases had been changed from the previous guest. That’s a little too green for me.

So how do we get this right? You know, the whole saving-the-world-one-choice-at-a-time thing….

What if hotels offered a discount on hotel rates for green services? 10% off the cost of the room, perhaps?

Guests might be persuaded to sleep on the same sheets a couple of nights in a row…and reuse a towel or two IF they have financial incentive.  Going green to save green (money, I mean). It’s only fair, really. Hotels DO save money. Personally, I’d LOVE a discount on my room.

Or, it could go the other way. If we’re not careful (with our precious water), we may find ourselves facing additional fees for water-based services, like clean towels. Look at all the places around the world where people live daily with water shortages.

Zambia: Mukuni Village Water Supply

Zambia: Mukuni Village Water Supply

But in the places-of-plenty, where I live, sometimes the green (dollar) speaks louder that the green (environment).

A “green discount” might just be the place where water conservation and wallet conservation meet.


Filed under Earth, environment, leadership, NASA, water

Shame Saga of Icy Kitty-Littered Paths

Many factors brought me to my “snow low” — a nasty intersection of frustration and shame. Yes shame. That’s a degree or two..or three…beLOW embarrassment.

Here’s how it all started:

  1. I enjoyed the Christmas season with family in New York City during Virginia’s historic snowfall; therefore, I wasn’t here to shovel every few inches of snow to keep the walking pathways clear.
  2. I live on a corner. By law or city regulation of some sort or simple humanity rules, I’m required to keep the sidewalks clear for my neighbors’s safety.
  3. I stopped getting salt and chemicals to treat the snow — to prevent harm to the environment and innocent dog’s paws (probably red fox paws too since I’ve seen one in my back yard).
  4. We came home to snow drifts of three-feet or more in strategic places where walking or car transport would normally occur.
  5. I happened to have a bag of old kitty litter in the garage.

So let me set the stage:

Piles and piles of beautiful snow held us hostage — preventing passage from my doorstep to the road that led to civilization.

We shoveled and shoveled. Whew. Finished? Not quite. Once we dug out, every surface froze — transforming the steps, driveway and sidewalks into a treacherous ice creature eager to gobble up solid footing and crunch unsuspecting human, bone by bone, limb by limb.

Frantic to battle the evil ice creature and save myself, my family, and my neighbors, I grabbed the only weapon I had in my arsenal — the old bag of kitty litter in the garage!

I sprinkled (ok, poured) kitty litter liberally along the walkways. I stamped it in, feeling quite proud of myself. Proud, that is, until I took one step back inside the house and left a clumped, gooey footprint on my cute little Christmas rug.

I realized, to my horror, clumping-technology infested what looked like an ordinary non-clumping bag of kitty litter, and was now at work clumping the snow and ice on every walking path outside my house. Now, not only was the ice creature out there treacherous, but messy to boot!

My unsuspecting neighbors’ dogs will now track kitty litter paw prints throughout their houses.

Now, in my defense, I want you to know I really, REALLY didn’t know the kitty litter was the “clumping” kind. The bag looked like the prehistoric kind…you know, way back when before the clumping-technology lightbulb lit up the minds of pet-industry scientists. Where does it say “clumping” on this bag (see pic below)?

Kitty Litter bag

Back to the story:

Ever resourceful, I grabbed my recycling bag of Washington Post newspapers — which I knew to be kind to the environment since newsprint decomposes quickly. (I use it often to smother summer weeds under mulch in my garden.) I laid a new pathway of newspaper-covered clumping kitty litter-covered ice. Ah, my work was complete. I was ready for a long winter’s nap.

Not so. My daughters’ informed me the wet newspaper turned to ice. That EVIL ice creature assimilated ALL in its path.

Yesterday, rain came to the rescue. I decided to leverage the 40-degree WET weather to clean up the kitty litter newspaper soup. OH MY GOSH!!! What a sloppy, goopy, slippery mess. Nightmare! I won’t go into the clean-up details. I prefer to wipe them from my memory (pun intended). 😉

The moral to this story: Buy salt…or move south!

(But IF you insist on staying put and care about the environment, read the kitty litter label before spreading over ice.)

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Filed under Earth, environment