Ethical Travel = a mitzvah

Let’s face it. When we travel, we’re not always thinking about our impact on the world. For those of you that do, you’re awesome. But often times, when we get to our hotel room, we take a minute to flop into the big ole bed, throw some pillows at whomever we’re sharing the room with, unpack into the roomy closet and the big bureaus in the room, throw off the top sheets and relax.
Ever think about how all that stuff got there? How the room got pristine and fully loaded with all those creature comforts? Or in the rare instances where the room WASN’T picture perfect when you got there, why that might be?
Housekeepers at hotels are, in some ways, the most important employees there, because without them, the main product the hotel is selling, a really comfortable clean room, would not be there. But being a housekeeper at a hotel is one of the most painful, difficult, physically strenuous jobs out there. Moving around extra-heavy beds and furniture over and over again each day is extremely difficult. Often, this group of workers is given too many rooms for them to handle cleaning properly in one shift.
Why am i pointing this out today? Well, it is a major travel weekend. And it also marks the start of the Ethical Travel Pledge by our friends at Jewish Funds for Justice, the Jewish Labor Committee, and the Progressive Jewish Alliance. The pledge, to support workers by being a little more considerate in our hotel rooms, in choosing where we stay, and making sure we leave decent gratuities, is not so big in what it asks (personally, I already do a few of those things). But a concerted effort to do the right thing by the workers who make our trips so comfortable will go a long way in making their lives a lot easier.
Kudos on an important project. Take the pledge here.

6 thoughts on “Ethical Travel = a mitzvah

  1. When i was in college, i learned an incredible lesson from a professor who had spent 30 years working with the UN in “development” projects around the world (i highly recommend his book, The Post-Development Reader, Rahnema and Bawtree, Zed Books, 1997).He had made staunch observations of what happens when outsiders arrive- even with the best of intentions. We learnt of the tremendous luxury travel is- and the intense affects it has on the places visited. In that context, a liberal arts school where everyone is heading off to the next most exotic place- he urged us to mitigate the inherent damage we do by showing up somewhere with our currency, clothes and general values.. If you don’t want to make the investment of learning the local language- then by being there we end up merely re-inforcing the cultural imperialism of the West by forcing locals to speak our English.
    Travel to a place that you might make a lifelong relationship to- instead of some one night stand where we soak up another exotic Other.
    Don’t flaunt the wealth that brought us somewhere in the face of people who have no means of ever achieving our way of living (not that the earth could support it either0–)
    just some radical thoughts for a ridiculous time…

  2. Isn’t it possible that we’re already paying exorbitant prices for air travel and hotels as it is, and we can rely on the hotels themselves to recompense their workers sufficiently?

  3. Mike– that’s the point– exorbitant prices for hotels don’t necessarily trickle down to the lowest regarded employees.
    check out the above links– especially the ones on the boycott list. They aren’t exactly cheap. . .

  4. I checked out the “boycott” list. (Unfortunately, the link explaining the issues behind the boycott is broken, so I can only speculate). Anyways, the hotel used on Rosh Hashana by the minyan I often daven at (and davenned at on RH) was on the boycott list. Oops.
    This info isn’t just for travellers. . . how many shuls and minyanim rent hotel space on high holidays?

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