Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions!

2013 is quickly approaching so if you haven’t come up with your New Year’s Resolution just yet here are some “green” suggestions - some small, and some requiring a bit more commitment. Although it may be difficult to maintain the goal for the entire year it is important to at least have the mindset that you can improve something this year.

Last year HI-Chicago determined to become a more sustainable hostel and we have certainly done so with our many green initiatives. We will continue to improve in the coming year. One great way to do this is by setting green goals. With our two EZ H2O water stations (fountains) installed we hope to save at least 10,000 water bottles in 2013!
What do you plan to do in the upcoming year?

1. Purchase a Reusable Water Bottle and USE it!!!
Or if you are staying at our hostel, comment on this post or answer a question about the blog at our Info Desk and you will receive one for free! Fill it up at our newly installed EZH20 Water Stations specifically designed for filling up water bottles. Over 1000 bottles saved this past month!

2. Ride your Bicycle or Use Public Transportation!
If staying at the hostel, public transportation is easily accessible, inexpensive, and convenient! Take the CTA Bus, the “L” or the Metra.

3. Use a Reusable Bag instead of Plastic Bags!
You will save hundreds if not thousands of bags throughout the year.
4. Spend More Time Outdoors!
Enjoy the many wonderful parks that your city has to offer! If staying at HI-Chicago make sure to check out Millennium Park and Grant Park!
5. Recycle More!
Start by recycling your real Christmas tree instead of simply dumping it out!
6. Reduce Consumption!
Use less water, electricity, and containers. Use reusable products whenever available.

7. Install Energy Efficient Lighting!
Save electricity, money and the environment using CFL’s and LED light bulbs!

8. Volunteer in a Green Effort Once a month!
Plenty activities are available around the city of Chicago year round - indoor as well as outdoor.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Clean VS. Green: Finding a Happy Medium

When it comes to cleaning products it is difficult to find a good balance between a product that will perform well in a building of the scale of HI-Chicago, but one that will also be environmentally friendly. Many chemical products do a great job disinfecting and getting rid of all the dirt and grime. This is a priority for us, as we want all of our guests to feel comfortable in a clean environment. However, many chemical cleaning products often can be harsh on the environment. For example disinfectants kill virtually all bacteria, which can in fact have negative effects on the environment and arguably on our health, as we will not build immunity to many of these common bacteria. In addition some products can release chemicals that can be toxic. We have already been using multiple “green” products for a significant amount of time. However, in our pursuit of excellence, we are continually searching for something that will better fulfill all of our criteria. Currently we are completing further research and comparing products to determine which products will perform the best while also truly being “green” and safe for our environment, guests and staff.

Let us know what is a priority for you - A “clean” environment, or a “green” environment? When is clean to clean? And when is green too green?

For example, the LEED certification has the following certification for hand soap:

“No antimicrobial agents (other than as a preservative) except where required by health codes and other regulations (i.e., food service and health care requirements).”

This standard is likely an attempt to curtail the very high use and dependency of places on antimicrobial products. Do you support this standard? Feel free to share your thoughts.

Check our blog regularly to stay updated on the progress that we continue to make in finding the best eco-friendly cleaning products!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fake Tree VS. Real Tree

During this holiday season you can easily spot a Christmas tree decorated and lit just about anywhere. As Christmas trees are purchased, many people face the question of real versus fake.

Some people prefer the tradition behind going out and choosing a natural Christmas tree every year and bringing it home with the family. With it comes the wonderful pine tree scent and the aesthetic of the real tree. Others however, prefer the convenience of a fake Christmas tree. Since it is reusable, there is no need to search for the perfect tree over and over again. In addition many fake trees come pre-lit.

However, in addition to convenience, aesthetics, and tradition, one should also consider which tree is more environmentally friendly,and healthier for the family members.

Following is the most comprehensive summary of the pros and cons of both options as outlined in an article by Prevention News.

(Link to the full article -> )

(Real) Fresh Christmas Trees

Pros: Few Christmas trees come from forests anymore. Virtually all of them are grown on plantations, and those plantations are located in all 50 states, making fresh Christmas trees easy to find locally. Buying real trees helps support small local farmers, and at the end of the holiday season, the trees can be mulched up and used to feed plants or find some other environmentally friendly purpose.

Cons: Those real trees have real pest problems, and are usually grown with pesticides that are toxic to wildlife and, in some cases, to people. The most commonly used pesticide is Roundup, which is toxic to some birds and fish and was recently discovered to be toxic to human cells due to all the inert ingredients used. The Environmental Protection Agency has banned indoor use of some of the pesticides used on Christmas trees, such as chlorpyrifos and malathion, which damage human nervous systems.

Fake Christmas Trees

Pros: They're cheap, reusable, and may even come conveniently pre-decorated.

Cons: All that budget decorating comes at a cost to the environment. Fake trees are made from the plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and the toxic chemical dioxin is released during PVC production. (By the way, in the event of a fire, the tree will burn and emit dioxin.) PVC contains hormone-disrupting plastic softeners called phthalates. And many fake trees have been found to be contaminated with lead. In fact, many of them come with a warning label advising you to wash your hands after handling them to prevent ingestion of the brain-damaging metal. Also, the plastic tree can't be recycled, should you decide to ditch it for a newer model. So it's going to and wind up in a landfill and stay there forever, barring some intervention from St. Nick.

The “Comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Artificial VS Natural Christmas Tree” is the most thorough study completed comparing the two types of trees. It was performed in 2009 by “Ellipsos” research firm of Canada. One of the primary conclusion reached is that “ Clients who prefer using the artificial tree can reduce their impacts on all categories by increasing the life span of their tree, ideally over 20 years. (

Rarely are fake trees kept for that long. In addition, with children around the house, it is important to consider the potential negative effects to one’s health if the tree is touched often.

There may not be one clear answer to this question. The better option depends on multiple factors. Following are some questions that you can ask yourself when choosing a tree. How long do I plan on keeping the tree? What environement will it be in? Inside of a home with children? At my office?
As a hostel, we have many guests circulating through our building. Thus, we must be careful not to trigger any allergies that our guests may have.We chose to purchase fake christmas trees which we have now been using for years and will hopefully be used for many more years to come, thereby minimizing the carbon footprint.

So what will it be? Real or fake? Let us know!



Monday, December 3, 2012

To Ban, or Not to Ban?

That is the plastic bag question!

Recently a global movement is taking place to decrease the use of plastic bags. Many cities around the world have already banned plastic bags; Modbury, England; Mexico City, Mexico;  Delhi, India; San Francisco, United States; and the entire country of Rwanda.  These efforts are being made due to the many negative effects that plastic bags have on the environment. Considering the scale at which plastic bags are currently relied on, the usage and thus damage done is enormous.
Following are some statistics provided by

* According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers: $4 billion)

* Only 1-3% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide.
* Plastic bags are made of polyethylene which is a petroleum product. Production contributes to air pollution and energy consumption.

* It takes 1000 years for polyethylene bags to break down.
* Approximately 1 billion seabirds and mammals die each year by ingesting plastic bags. Not only that, these poor animals suffer a painful death. The plastic wraps around their intestines or they choke to death.

 A snapping turtle caught in plastic
According to, the solution however is not a ban. They argue that this will evoke a emotional response. Which can in turn result in opposition. This has recently been witnessed in Illinois, when a bill was proposed to prohibit the enactment of laws that would ban plastic bags. This bill was strongly supported by businesses, especially the plastic bag industry, because it would ensure that plastic bags would always be allowed to be in usage. instead proposes a tax. Click on the link below to find more information on their idea of an effective solution.

What do you think? Is it important to decrease our usage of plastic bags? Which is better according to you, a ban, a tax, or maybe another option? Is your city of permanent residence making any efforts to decrease the amount of plastic bags use annually?  

Whether at home or staying at a hostel, next time you go grocery shopping, consider bringing a reusable bag instead of a plastic one. Especially since now in many cities it may not be wise to assume that you will simply be provided with bags for no extra cost.