An Eco-friendly Hotel: Tru by Hilton

During a drive to Texas, I stopped for the night in Little Rock, Arkansas. And wound up in a south side hotel behind an outlet mall. The hotel, Tru by Hilton, impressed me so much that it warrants a blog because of its emphasis on sustainability and low carbon footprint.

First off, I’m not trying to advertise for Hilton. I’ve heard Marriot has a similar type brand that also emphasizes low carbon footprint, but I couldn’t find the name of it with a simple internet search. Other hotel brands probably are pursuing sustainable options in a similar way. If you know of any, I would love to hear about them. I believe in voting with my money when it comes to companies and politics. Therefore, anyone that creates situations that encourage less waste, less plastic use, and more energy savings is far more likely to earn my business.

The Tru hotel was quite lovely and modern looking. It did not skimp on the standard amenities with the exception of no swimming pool. Given the rising global temperatures and increased water issues in the south, this seems like a wise decision. On the other hand, they had a pool table in the lobby for socialization. I’ve rarely seen this.

Their degree of sustainability and yet workability was subtle yet everywhere I looked. For instance, the open architecture lobby included a number of work stations for laptop use. Even the comfortable couches and chair areas had plugs within easy reach for those with a modern electronic life style. One wall featured a quick charging station, while another held a water bottle hydration station. I had never seen these in a hotel before. All the newspapers and magazines were tucked into a display area for those that wanted it. No newspaper showed up at my door in the morning as I’ve seen in years past at different places, although my husband tells me this is the new norm for most hotels.

Below is a list of ideas that I saw at Tru and hope other hotels will adopt as their new norms too. These simple changes make sense for any business wanting to improve their ecological footprint.

Hotel Wide Approaches

LED lights used throughout. As you may know, LED lights last longer, provide better illumination, and use less energy.Tru water area

Only paper plates and cups in the breakfast area. No plastic lids, cups, or straws in sight although the utensils were plastic. In short, most of the breakfast dishes will decompose easily and not harm the environment. In addition, the food offered included healthy options like range-free white and brown eggs, fruit, and greek yogurt.

One ice maker for the whole hotel. On one hand, it sounds like a pain to go down to the lobby for ice. However, having one machine saves on energy and water while still offering the amenity to anyone who wanted it. The plastic containers were kept at the ice machine rather than in individual rooms. This made me wonder if they did not have to wash the containers quite as often.

Room Specific Approaches

Tru bedroom

No plastic garbage bags in the garbage cans. Rather than plastic bags, each can featured a removable inner hard-plastic liner that could be cleaned. This is a wonderful idea, given the amounts of plastic grocery bags clogging up our water and landfills.

Reuse towel service. This refers to not replacing the towels every day. I’ve seen this service in many hotels but noted the cleaning staffs often replaces them anyway. I hope the Tru system pays more attention to this factor.

Cloth shower curtains without a plastic liner. Many hotels seem to switch these as well. Certainly, their washability is wonderful as compared to replacing plastic curtains when they start to look nasty.

No small bottles of shampoos, lotions, or soaps. Instead of the two-use, wasteful bottles and tiny bricks of soap, the hotel installed large, squeezable tubes of supplies near the sink and in the shower. Each tube looked like it could hold more than fifty doses of shampoo or soap, which means fifty tiny plastic bottles are not entering the landfill.Tru soap tubes

No box springs. The furniture included platform beds which use a board and a mattress rather than a box spring and a mattress. Many hotel guests may miss the importance of this decision. Beds often must be replaced about every five years, so not having a box spring saves wood, metal, and fabric and decreases the material going into the dump.

Open Closets. What I mean by this is the closet didn’t have walls and a door. A bar in an alcove serves for the hanging space and flowed into the overall design of the room. The hotel didn’t use excess lumber and drywall in building a tiny room in each of the bedrooms. This saves more trees and again provides less waste.

Other Desired Factors

Although I didn’t see this in the Tru by Hilton, other factors hotels should adopt include the use of solar or wind energy where possible. It would reduce their enormous electric bills. In fact, I would love to see more use of solar glass and solar panels in all kinds of businesses so our cities can be a part of the energy solution instead of the global warming crisis.

Given that the electric cars will someday be the norm, a few charging stations in the parking lot seems like a great idea. I saw them at the Little Rock outlet mall, but not at the hotel.

Overall, this hotel made me feel good about staying there because I didn’t feel like I was going against my greenie nature. As the younger generations demand less plastic and waste and more sustainability, I suspect many of these features will become standard in all of the brands. However, Tru by Hilton seems to be leading the way, and I will continue supporting its efforts.

In a Dying World, Individuals Must Be the Agent of Change

I heard two disturbing news reports in the last two weeks. The first was how the carbon dioxide has reached record highs. Here is the story on USAToday, “Emissions of carbon dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere reach record high”. With evidence like this, it boggles the mind that anyone can possibly think that mankind isn’t responsible. In addition, the Scientific American  article, “CO2 Levels Just Hit Another Record-Here’s Why It Matters”, made the event sound like a domino effect in that the more the we have global warming, the more the ice caps melt, releasing ancient carbon compounds to add to the problem.

CO2 emissions

The second nightmarish article Came from Forbes Magazine, entitled “We’re Now at a Million Plastic Bottles Per Minute – 915 of Which Are Not Recycled”. The last blog I wrote was on how plastic was not going away so we must reduce our single-use containers: bottles, bags, straws, take out containers. I still proudly agree with this and would scream RECYCLE, REUSE, REPURPOSE! daily from the rooftops if that would help.

Government Help?

When I see news like this, I feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. Trillions of bottles, 37 billion tons of CO2 emissions due to humans. All those numbers must decrease dramatically and they must do so by 2030 or in 11 short years. Companies must be forced to change packaging and one way to do that is make plastic use not as profitable. Governments must enact legislation that encourages research into and development of more economically sound recycling technologies for plastics and other waste products. We need those industries inside the United States so when we have problems with China or other countries, it doesn’t shut down the recycling like it has this year.

For instance, a Utah based company, Renewlogy basically melts down plastic back to its carbon core and changes it to diesel, kerosene, light fuels, and natural gas. The natural gas is pumped back into the factory to keep the process going. The process has only a 5% waste and no toxic emissions. Unfortunately, this company is overwhelmed with supply now that China is refusing our plastic. We need more factories like this. If we can spend tax dollars bailing out the auto and bank industries, why can’t we create low interest development loans on these types of recycling or reusing industries?

Individual Help?

None of this answer what I or you can do now about rising CO2 and global warming. The options seem overly simplified for one individual, which is discouraging. Not just a drop in a bucket but a micron of effort in a container the size of the Empire State Building. But collectively we can make a difference if we all change our lifestyles. Think of it as one drop of rain doesn’t do much, but a thunderstorm swells streams and rivers. It is time for all of us to be that thunderstorm of change to so we can save our planet.

Plant a Tree, bush, or flowers, or lots of them. We need to reduce CO2 emissions and deal with what is in the atmosphere now. Plants are the natural recyclers of the air. However, Americans have cut down most of our original forests and South America is losing the great rainforest. One small way to fight back is to plant trees in your yard, bushes along your walkway, flowers in a bed—any plant will do. Your grass helps but larger plants can do recycle the air more. Trees are the best because of their massive size makes them large recyclers. Flowers also help bring back pollinating insects like bees and butterflies, which are in grave trouble as well.

Make good recycling choices. By that I mean carry the bottle/can you used in the car back home again to clean and recycle properly rather than throwing it in a local trash can. Know what your recycler will and will not take so that you don’t contaminate large loads of plastic. For instance, I just learned deli take-out containers used in many grocery stores are not recyclable. This includes the large hot-chicken boxes many grocery stores use. See the recycling rules here. 

reyclingReject single-use items. The easy step is using canvas and net bags in place of store plastics. Refuse to use straws in restaurants. If you want to focus on not using single-use plastic bottles, then buy all your soda/water/whatever drinks in aluminum or glass and then always recycle those containers. Even better, buy a reusable drinking container (lots of types available) and fill it up at water fountains.

Change your use-and-discard habits. So many things we throw away can be reused or donated for others. Can you turn that old leaking plastic container into something else? A planter? Some folks make CDs into toys or mandala art projects while others use them for mosaics. Several websites will tell you how. Consider making a rag rug out of old sheets, clothes, t-shirts. Lots of instructions are online for doing so. These are just a few ideas you can find by doing searches on the Internet.

Hopefully you already are an agent of change. I believe it is a learning process and I can always improve. However, we need more “rain drops.” We need friends encouraging each other to recycle and reject one-use items. We should teach our children a more sustainable lifestyle since it is their future that is endangered. We must vote in leaders willing to make the hard decisions to limit some wasteful/toxic industries while encouraging other renewable or recycling companies. We need sensible environmental legislation. With everyone being agents of a better world, we can create a global thunderstorm of change and stop humanity from drowning in a sea of carbon emissions.