Save the Earth -- Later

by Randy Cassingham

The hospitality industry is incredibly wasteful of natural resources. According to the ecology in hospitality web site ECOnomically Sound, the "average hotel (150 guestrooms) uses as many resources in one week as 100 families do in one year."

Some hotels really try to be more "green". Some say they're green but aren't, and it seems to me hypocrisy about being good is far worse than just not being good.

It's almost unfair to single out a single hotel on this one, since I've seen it so many places, but the Fiesta Inn Resort really takes the cake: this Tempe, Arizona, (read: crowded dry desert) hotel didn't buy "promise cards" from some hotel supply catalog, but instead, they printed their own card:

photo of the save the earth hotel card
Here's what the card says, complete with bold red text to really drive their hypocrisy (er... Earth-saving message) home:


We are doing our part to preserve the beautiful desert environment and invite you to help us conserve water by using your towels more than once. Doing so will also reduce the amount of detergent waste that is recycled in our community.

Please hang your towels up if you wish to participate in this water conservation program... if you choose not to participate, simply leave your towels on the floor.

No problem: I don't wash my towels at home after using them just once, so why ask hotels do it? I'm happy to try to reduce my impact on the desert by doing my part to save water, so I carefully hung my towels up and went out to my meeting.

When I got back to my room that afternoon, sure enough: the maid had taken my towels down and replaced them with freshly laundered ones. That's "doing their part"?!

And it wasn't just me: the next day, back at the conference, I asked several others if it happened to them, too. Yep: they hung up their towels, but they were replaced anyway.

Such daily laundering does use huge amounts of water and cleaning chemicals, uses significant electricity for washing and drying, and generates a lot of waste. And it adds a lot of extra wear and tear to the towels, meaning they have to be replaced sooner. And it slows down the housekeeper. A towel and sheet reuse program saves about $1.50 per day per room for hotels; at the Fiesta Inn Resort, which has 270 rooms, that translates to nearly $150,000 per year in wasted money, let alone wasted water that people around here need to drink. Let alone wasted electricity, and the pollution that's pumped into the air generating it.

That is an awful lot of needless waste. But here they are trumpeting in Big Red Type how ecological they are while they're not actually doing it. Shame on them for the ridiculous waste. But double shame on them for patting themselves on the back while doing it.


Randy Cassingham is the publisher of This is True, the curator of the popular joke site, Jumbo Joke, and is the founder of Cranky Customer.

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I have some friends who owned a large B&B in Torquay for a while. They had those signs - and did it. I think B&Bs are far better than hotels about those kind of things, though, as it's a much smaller group of people running them. Nicer places to stay, as well.

In response to the comment by Justin, I think that the only way of effectively adhering to a green program and compensating a hotel maid for it is for the guest to make that decision... they can leave a tip for the maid or they can fill out a comment card to leave with the manager. If a hotel has a policy where the maids are paid more for conserving water, I am pretty sure that you will end up with high instances of maids that will hang up towels that were left on the floor and/or excessively dirty in order to boost their paycheck. If keeping the guest happy by following the policy and the guest's wishes is the only way to get that paycheck boost, they will follow the policy.

Regarding the comments about maids that do not speak English and the various cards the hotels have (do not disturb, green policies, etc.) these people work for the hotel: the cards are the same in every single room. It shouldn't take months of study or foreign language cards in each room for the maid to know what the cards mean. If I got a job in Japan working for a hotel, I'm sure that I could identify a do not disturb or green policy card written in Kanji on my first day, after having my manager explain them to me once. These cards often also have pictures on them, depending on the hotel. I don't think you need to learn a foreign language to read pictures.

I recently stayed at a Ritz Carlton and the card wasn't even there! Luckily they do have GREAT customer service, and I speak spanish, so I was able to tell the maid to only change the towels that were on the floor and to leave the sheets alone. They did that! I guess because it is so luxury, guests might think it's cheap - but if you have $, you can presume (sometimes correctly) that you have intelligence and realize that the hotel is caring for the environment, not trying to save a few bucks when EVERYTHING else there is so expensive.

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