In the mid-1990′s, I traveled to Norway to negotiate NASA’s Sounding Rocket agreement with the Norwegian Space Agency to study Northern lights. (Note: This project nearly caused World War III when the Russians mistook the Black Brant XII, launched from the Andøya Rocket Range, for a U.S. Trident missile.)
In my tiny little hotel on the Norwegian island of Andøya I encountered, for the first time, the ‘green hotel’ concept where guests are offered the opportunity to reuse the towels and sheets to save the environment — saving precious water, reducing energy required to heat the water and power the washers, and preventing spread of pollutants caused by cleaning detergents.
Since that time, the idea spread across the Atlantic. I rarely stay in a hotel that doesn’t offer me the opportunity to reuse my towels and sheets.
For the record, I wholeheartedly support the option of green services at hotels. I feel quite nobel for my contribution to help save the world by using ‘dirty’ towels and sheets. (Ewww. Sounds pretty awful though, doesn’t it?)
My sister Aimee, however, doesn’t think it’s noble at all.
In fact, she refuses. Her rationale: she’s paying full cost for the service.
Why should the hotel save money on water, energy, detergent, AND staff labor at the guest’s expense?
My sister believes hotels reap financial reward from environmental do-gooders. Hotels charge daily rates. Guests willingly opt for less service. Hotels come out ahead. She sees the environment less of a concern to the hotel than the bottom line.
She makes a good point!
In the article, “‘Green’ hotels juggle conservation with customer service ,” Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin points out a totally different issue — hotels boasting green service without the follow-through. Towels and sheets are changed out each day even when the guest wants to save the planet. I guess I prefer the hotel erring on the side of clean.
Tangent: I once stayed at a very nice hotel only to wake in the middle of the night to the pungent smell of dirty hair (not mine) on the pillowcase. Evidently not all the pillowcases had been changed from the previous guest. That’s a little too green for me.
So how do we get this right? You know, the whole saving-the-world-one-choice-at-a-time thing….
What if hotels offered a discount on hotel rates for green services? 10% off the cost of the room, perhaps?
Guests might be persuaded to sleep on the same sheets a couple of nights in a row…and reuse a towel or two IF they have financial incentive. Going green to save green (money, I mean). It’s only fair, really. Hotels DO save money. Personally, I’d LOVE a discount on my room.
Or, it could go the other way. If we’re not careful (with our precious water), we may find ourselves facing additional fees for water-based services, like clean towels. Look at all the places around the world where people live daily with water shortages.
But in the places-of-plenty, where I live, sometimes the green (dollar) speaks louder that the green (environment).
A “green discount” might just be the place where water conservation and wallet conservation meet.