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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Green business travel (?)
February 19, 2010 - 3:24pm

Before I came to work at Greenback, I used to travel on business quite a lot. Never much cared for it, and was happy to give it up.

Or, at least, to give it up as much as I could. Working for a University, it's pretty much a requirement to go to the occasional conference. Sometimes you present, sometimes you just sit and listen, but pretty much every time you meet people you wouldn't otherwise get to know. And, in a field which evolves as rapidly as "sustainable practices" does, those folks almost always know something you haven't yet had the opportunity (or the need) to figure out for yourself, yet.

My wife. is also in a field where occasional conference attendance is a necessity. Unlike me, she has little opportunity to pick and choose. Sometimes, a conference is the only one of its kind in a particular year. And on occasion, she'll get told flat out by her granting agency that attendance is mandatory.

Mrs. R. was recently required to attend a conference in mid-town Manhattan. It was a 2-day affair, so the best she could do was to stay over only one night in a hotel. She reports that the (major chain) hotel room was too big (although not as big as in some other cities) and over-heated. She also reports spending $30.00 to get a burger and fries for dinner.

Now, I'm not adverse to spending $30.00 on dinner when I travel, but I do try to get something healthier than a burger and fries for my money. And I recognize that mid-town Manhattan isn't Backboro. (Around here, you typically get a very nice three-course meal for that price.) But I was struck by the fact that, given her meeting location, she really didn't seem to have a lot of better options. A consumption level higher than necessary or even desired was (as far as she could determine) the only game in town.

So casting my mind back to my days on the road, I got to wondering -- is there a market niche for travelers who want to be as green as possible? (That's a different question from whether there's a niche serving travelers who want to be told they're behaving sustainably and are willing to spend luxury prices for the privilege.) And since modest rooms at modest prices are fairly available at the metropolitan perimeter, this question pretty much refers to center-city sorts of locations.

In many cities, if I have sufficient time to plan, I can find a small -- usually, older -- hotel in a slightly less fashionable part of town where the room is smaller, the HVAC more modest, and the surrounding restaurants frequented by locals not on expense accounts. But what if my planning time is short? What if I need to be in (or to be able quickly and reliably and efficiently to get to) a high-rent location? What if it's a city with which I'm unfamiliar?

It would just seem to me that a chain of something along the lines of the commercial hotels of a half-century ago -- less posh than today's major chains, but operating on maybe two-thirds the energy per overnight stay, still conveniently located, and providing access to healthy meals realistically priced -- could do a land-office business. Corporate/government bean-counters would certainly approve, small entrepreneurs might go for it in a big way, sustainability offices would try to get it written into travel policies. And "sleep green" might even turn out to be a successful marketing approach.

"It's not just cheap, it's more sustainable." Has a nice sort of ring to it (or am I nuts?).

PS to anyone who has done a lot of business travel recently -- does such an option already exist?

 

 

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