I just spent 10 hot sunny days in the Klondike.
I slept in a tent, a shack and a hotel during that time.
I thought about little else other than what I was going to eat, when my next shower would be and what outdoor leisure activity was going to fill each of my days.
But, because it is my nature, I did worry about some things.
Nothing beats a road trip in which all of life’s necessities must be crammed into a Honda Civic to teach you the value of everyday things.
Beginning in my Civic, I learned the value of water.
Over a seven-hour road trip from Whitehorse to Dawson City, several bottles of tap water were rationed between my husband and two young kids.
Water was even more precious while camping.
The Yukon River that ran swiftly beside our secluded campsite was too silty to drink, as was the Klondike River upon which we dwelt for several days in an old mining shack without plumbing.
Our two nights in a hotel were beyond luxurious after that. Shower for an hour. Toss the towel away. Head out to the Dawson City Music Festival. Do it all again the next day.
There was an easy rhythm to hotel life that just didn’t exist in the bush.
Cramping my style a bit, though, was this pesky sign in the bathroom that asked me to re-use my washcloths and towels for the sake of the environment.
We have been seeing these more and more in recent years.
And I have never bought into the hotel industry’s sincerity on this matter.
“Hotels are like taxis,” a friend who had just spent the week camping remarked to me outside my hotel in Dawson.
Get in and get out, that’s the whole point of ‘em. Leave your dirt behind.
I nodded vigorously my agreement — hotels are like disposable homes, yes! Then we both shook our heads disapprovingly at the hotel industry’s pathetic cash-in on the environmental movement in order to save money on laundry.
The Green Hotels Association is responsible for some of these bathroom cards, though not all of them.
“These gentle reminders, now found in thousands of hotel guest bathrooms, can save five per cent on utilities alone,” says Green Hotels’ website.
“At least 70 per cent of guests can be expected to participate.”
The “association” is actually an enterprise that encourages a hotel to become a member so it can enjoy the reputation of being authorized as an environmentally friendly establishment.
“Guests are persuaded to come to your property by your strong concern for our planet… praise becomes dollars via return visits from ecologically-aware guests for your awareness.”
However, the flash-card-sized appeal to your environmental sensibilities in the bathroom may be all that your hotel is doing for the “planet.”
Green Hotels does offer members a manual and a website filled with great ideas on how to conserve energy and reduce waste, meanwhile saving money.
Besides the ‘please re-use your towel’ cards, they offer toilet-tank fill diverters, which saves about three-quarters of a gallon of water per flush; shampoo and soap dispensers, which can be refilled with bulk supplies of each, and recycling baskets, not to mention an endless list of hotel management tips to make establishments easier on the environment.
But member hotels need not take advantage of them all, or even a few.
I can’t say for sure, but I suspect many of them, like my hotel, opt only for the towel cards with the world “Green” on them because their commitment to the environment stops when it stops saving them money.
There was lots of waste in my hotel room in Dawson. All those teeny, tiny packaged things — the sewing kit, the shampoo, the soaps, the shower caps.
Who uses the sewing kit and the shower caps, anyway?
Those little frivolous items were as much selling points for the hotel as the “green” card was. And the lights and the fan were on constantly because our room had no windows.
Thinking about water and the exploitation of its fragileness was appropriate an appropriate thing to do in Dawson City.
Dawson, you are probably aware, has been trying to figure out a location for a new sewage treatment plant for many years.
Because the town is situated at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers, and at its back a wall of mountains, precious little space exists for a sewage treatment lagoon. Logic says it should go downstream from the water supply, but alas, it will have to be built upstream.
And the issue is not the sewage, as one might think, but high levels of surfactants, which come from commercial cleaning products.
Some Dawsonites have said that the only way to save the town’s water is for hotels to stop using toxic cleaners.
One that did that would be what I would call a “Green” hotel.