We left our urban homestead last week, lured by the magic of Disneyland. Throughout the planning stages of our trip, I tried to make as many eco-friendly choices as possible — balanced against practical and financial considerations. In this posting I’ll share the travel decisions we faced and the choices we made. In Part 2, I’ll share some of the personal aspects about our own efforts to be eco-conscious travelers, and in Part 3 I’ll report on our experiences within the Disneyland and California Adventure parks.
My definition of sustainable living includes trying to be a good steward of our finances, so during the planning stages I tried to maximize our value on this trip. For the air travel from Denver to Anaheim, I purchased one United ticket for $241 and redeemed one free MileagePlus ticket. For the first time, I also purchased carbon offsets for the energy we used flying from Denver to Anaheim. I’d always wanted to do this, but I frankly felt a little overwhelmed by all of the choices — there are literally hundreds of carbon offset organizations and I’d read rumblings that they weren’t all completely legit. After researching a number of options I ended up purchasing an offset from the highly-regarded organization TerraPass, enough to cover both our air travel and car emissions during the trip. (To offset an air travel trip, go to the air travel page and enter the airport codes for your departure and destination cities. TerraPass automatically calculates the carbon emissions. In our case, two direct roundtrip flights from Denver to Anaheim equaled 1,689 miles or 1,148 lbs. CO2. We purchased offsets for 2,000 lbs. of CO2 and the cost was a surpisingly affordable $11.90.)
Next, I searched for a green hotel. I dreamed of a luxurious, eco-friendly property like the Hotel Guldsmeden where my daughter and I stayed at in Copenhagen, with sumptuous organic cotton linens and a lavish organic breakfast buffet. Unfortunately, Anaheim is not yet a mecca for eco-friendly hotels.
I began my search at Green Hotels, but at the time there were no Anaheim hotels listed. Next, I checked IStayGreen, which listed five Anaheim hotels with some moderately green qualities. One of those hotels — the Courtyard by Marriott — was already on my short list based on its TripAdvisor reviews, so I checked out the hotel’s “Statement of Environmental Initiatives,” which reads:
“Property facilitates an on-site cans/bottles recycling program that raises money which is donated to a local elementary school to pay for field trips for low income students.”
Hmmm, I think recycling cans is great but the statement struck me as a bit underwhelming; I guess I was hoping for a bit more. Next, I posed the question on TripAdvisor’s Anaheim forum, where one reader recommended RezHub’s Green Travel Hub for Anaheim. This site listed the Disneyland Hotel ($252 per night) and Grand Californian ($350 per night) as two moderately green hotels, but along with being pricier these hotels didn’t meet all of my criteria:
- Convenient to Disneyland
- If not within walking distance, then on the ART (Anaheim Rapid Transit) shuttle route
- Refrigerator and microwave in the room
- Free parking
- Free wireless internet
- Swimming pool
We ended up choosing the Residence Inn by Marriott Anaheim Maingate because it was the #5 rated Anaheim hotel on TripAdvisor and the only hotel in the Top 5 that had all of these attributes — plus a ‘free’ hot breakfast buffet. Prior to arriving at the hotel, I sent an e-mail to the general manager inquiring aout any eco-friendly initiatives the property might have. She never wrote me back, perhaps because there’s not a lot to write about. We found two cards in our room explaining that the hotel encourages saving water. The first card was hanging on a towel and explained that the housekeeping department doesn’t replace the towels unless you leave them on the floor. The second card explained that housekeeping only changes your sheets every third day unless you leave the card on your pillow. I was happy to participate in both programs, as the practice of replacing sheets and towels every day truly seems like an unnecessary waste of water and energy.
I inspected the light fixtures in our room and discovered that most of them were fitted with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). We also quickly learned that we had a low-consumption toilet (uses 1.6 gallons of water or less per flush) in the room — more about this in Part 2. Overall, my sense about this hotel’s green programs is that it has mainly adopted the eco-friendly initiatives that also happen to save money.
Still, even though it wasn’t the greenest property we absolutely loved the hotel. It was pretty, quiet, convenient and very comfortable. We loved having our own kitchen (more details in Part 2) and the ART shuttle stopped just footsteps from our room. (The shuttle is a great deal; for $10 you can buy a three-day pass and ride as much as you want. For kids under 10 years of age, a three-day pass is just $2.00. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes and stops right in front of Disneyland. ) We paid $131 per night, including taxes, for a room through Orbitz. There were no hidden resort or parking fees, and with the free breakfast and internet access I felt like the room was a very good value.
Next, I researched rental cars. I was hoping to rent a hybrid automobile, and had read that Avis/Budget has hybrid cars for rent in some locations. Budget offered one of the best Anaheim rental car deals through Orbitz ($29 per day for 5 days) so I reserved the least expensive car, a compact. My plan was to call the Anaheim office directly a few days prior to our arrival in the hopes of securing a hybrid. When I called, however, I was told that the Anaheim location doesn’t have any hybrids. So much for that idea! When we arrived in Anaheim, the agent said that the compact cars were all rented so we would be upgraded to a Hyundai Elantra. The ‘old’ me would have been delighted, but the ‘green’ me felt bad that we were getting a bigger car than we really needed. Funny how your priorities can change. Still, the Elantra is an Ultra-Low-Emission Vehicle that got great gas mileage; we drove 99 miles over the course of 5 days and averaged a respectable 26 miles per gallon. When I filled up the tank at the end of the trip, even though I didn’t plan ahead and we were at the most expensive gas station across from the airport our gasoline tab was just $11.80.
If we hadn’t planned to take a couple of side trips, we could have saved money by skipping the rental car altogether and taking an airport shuttle. There were plenty of restaurants within walking distance of our hotel and the Anaheim Rapid Transit shuttle was a very easy, convenient and inexpensive way to get around.
The bottom line: we offset our air and car travel, and walked or used public transportation to get back and forth to the park. We stayed in a hotel that employs some green practices, rented a fuel-efficient car and did our best to balance eco-friendly considerations with our budget.
Stay tuned for Part 2, when I share more about the personal choices we made during our trip.