Things to Do in Martha's Vineyard

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Going Green on Martha’s Vineyard Part 1 – Baby Steps

BY VSH | 05 February 2010

Recycling by e-magic (1)I will attempt to walk a fine line in this article. I like our planet…I think we should keep it! It’s a ‘fixer-upper’, that’s for sure, but I’ve grown fond of it over the years. The more research I do into the realm of becoming ecologically responsible the more I feel that it could be impossible.

You will find no references to song by a certain Frog as I discuss the issue of going ‘Green’. To The Frog I will simply say ‘Ain’t that the truth, Brother!”

As a hotel manager, I make this VOW: I will do what I can to help our planet survive, but some of those steps take the involvement of our guests to be most effective.

The Colonial Inn has changed some of the ways we do our jobs over the last year and a half or so, and I will spare you the mind-numbing research in comparing and contrasting products…I will sum up the entire affair with the words ‘flaming hoops and ecologists with whips’!

We do not have an eco-manager at the Colonial Inn. We all wear many hats and there is not one person with the duty of making sure we are environmentally conscious. Each of us plays a small part of the process and we work at it during the course of our service to potential and in-house guests.

What We Have Done:


  • Where appropriate, incandescent light bulbs have been replaced with compact fluorescents
  • Every room in the Colonial Inn and the Edgartown Residence Club now has a small blue bin for all co-mingle recyclables.
  • The shampoos and lotion in our rooms are in recyclable packaging and they don’t need to be rinsed – our waste removal vendor told us that the small bits of shampoo and lotion left in the bottles do not damage the recycle process.
  • Every guest has a choice whether have sheets changed and towels replaced daily during their stay.  This helps reduce chemical and energy use in the laundry.
  • We are reducing our use of plastics in housekeeping by using canvas bags to tote laundry instead of large plastic garbage bags.
  • There are large co-mingle recycle bins in our lobby area and the front desk now religiously uses separate bins.
  • We now send 99% of our confirmation letters by email instead of printing and mailing (Sorry Post Office…)


These are some of the steps in the process. There are drawbacks to each of these systems.

There is not a day that goes by without housekeepers or managers finding food waste contaminating the recyclables. The huge white arrows forming the global symbol for ‘RECYCLE’ on bright blue bins apparently confuse some people.

To use small soaps and shampoo / lotion bottles is an effort to conserve… resources as well as our costs. These little bottles sometimes make it hard to liberate the required liquid. However, with many one-night stays, there is a lot of soap and shampoo thrown away. So…bigger bottle = easier access, easier access = waste…argh!

The canvas bags for soiled linens are no easy feat. Such a simple step to conserve plastic bags, but on a property built in 1911 there are no rolling house cleaners carts (the hallways are too narrow and have little one-step risers at random) so laundry must be hauled, not nicely rolled and dropped like larger more modern constructions. It is a little detail, but speaking as one who has done his share of laundry hauling…it is a workout. The canvas holds more and gets heavier than the plastic and with no elevator, it is all human effort to bring laundry up and down four flights of stairs each day.

These are the ‘baby steps’ of our conservation system. There are more, but this article is already overly long for a subject like this. I may have bored you all to tears!

Sadly, I plan to do it again. Look for “Going Green…Part 2- ‘Meat & Potatoes’” in which I have learned that …everything will kill you! It’s my job to make sure it kills you more slowly!

That last line made more sense in my head…