Whether you're traveling for business or leisure, the environmental impact of your trip may weigh heavily on your mind. Many people only think of their transportation when they want to make  eco-friendly changes to their travel itinerary. However, planes, trains, and automobiles aren't the only sources of waste and pollution.

Hotels and other accommodations can be extremely wasteful. In most hotels, the sheets and towels are washed on a daily basis, which uses an excessive amount of water. Additionally, many hotels provide single-use plastic items like water bottles, cups, utensils, and toothbrushes, among other things. These may not seem like such a bad thing, but every one of those will end up in a landfill, where they will take decades to break down.

Finally, most hotels require an incredible amount of electricity to stay up and running. Think about the electricity bill for your house or apartment. Now multiply that number by 100 (or more) and that's what you can expect with a hotel.

To make matters worse, many guests leave air conditioning, heaters, and lights on more than they would at home. When someone else is paying the electricity bill, it's easy to be wasteful.

Fortunately, there are many sustainable hotels that engage in eco-conscious business practices.

Which accommodations qualify as sustainable?

A sustainable accommodation (often referred to as an "eco" or "green" hotel) is a hospitality business that has made efforts to minimize the environmental impact of its structure and business practices. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways.

A hotel can install solar panels, use energy efficient light bulbs, encourage guests to recycle, ban single-use plastics, provide locally sourced food, and/or reduce linen washing for long-term guests.

However, making these changes alone does not always qualify a hotel as "sustainable." Depending on the country, region, or state, a hotel must meet certain criteria established by the government or a third-party organization like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

This helps guests identify hotels that actually meet the necessary standards to be considered "sustainable."

The cost of sustainable accommodations

Like any kind of hotel or short-term living space, sustainable accommodations can vary in cost based on location, amenities, reputation, and even the time of year. That said, sustainable hotels tend to be more expensive than their non-sustainable competitors. This is due to the fact that many non eco-friendly practices are chosen because they help cut costs, which drives down prices for consumers.

However, this does not mean that you will always have to pay more for sustainable accommodations. Some studies indicate that there is little to no correlation between higher prices and "green" business practices. Additionally, many sustainable hotels save money on electricity and water bills.

These savings get passed on to consumers when they are ready to book a room. Regardless, consider paying for your hotel with a flexible small business credit card, such as the Ink Business Preferred that earns more points for travel purchases and comes with travel protections. This way, you'll earn valuable points for all your spending. 

Booking sustainable accommodations

Finding a sustainable or "green" hotel is easier than many people realize. If a hotel engages in green business practices, they will generally advertise it to the public. When you're shopping around for hotels near your destination, scan their respective websites for information about any and all sustainable business practices they engage in.

You should also look for any accolades or certifications that a hotel has received from the government or a third-party organization like LEED. If you find a hotel with LEED certification or similar credentials, you can trust that they are sustainable.

You can learn more about LEED certification right here.

Finally, there are several independent companies that help travelers find sustainable accommodations. For example, Green Hotelier and Ecobnb match travelers with eco-friendly hotels around the world. You might need to pay a little more for their service, but this is one of the simplest ways to find sustainable hotels when you travel.