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Greenwashing or a Commitment to Conservation?

Updated: May 26, 2020

Greenwashing…is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.  ~ Wikipedia

Just about every hotel I’ve stayed in over the past several years has a visible statement in each room to tell their clients about the hotel’s commitment to conservation. This is a photo I took recently. I deleted the hotel’s name from the sign because I don’t want to single out any particular establishment. You can add any hotel’s logo and contact information to this sign.

Each hotel's environmental statement is pretty much the same. They say:

  • We aren’t going to give you clean sheets every day.

  • We aren’t going to give you clean towels every day.

  • You can’t smoke in the room. But if you must, you can pay us a big fee for cleaning.

  • We are very committed to the environment.

Then they promote bottled water, one of the most environmentally unfriendly consumer goods today. Take that Voss water in the photo. It’s $30.72 a gallon. The water is extracted from an artesian spring in Norway and flown to, in this case, California. Think of the energy cost of making the bottle and the fuel necessary to fly it to locations around the world and then truck the water to a hotel. Environmental? No.

Most hotels have many other environmentally unfriendly practices, such as:

  • Supplying a refrigerator in every room. Contrary to what you’d think, mini-refrigerators can use as much or more energy than the large Energy-Star-efficient ones you use in your homeTwenty four hours a day, seven days a week, hotel room refrigerators are keeping, in most cases, absolutely nothing cold. An alternative would be to provide a mini-refrigerator only on request, and if reserved at the time the room is reserved.

  • Providing ice machines on every floor. An alternative would be to have only one centrally located ice machine in the hotel. Or, hotels could follow the practice of Hotel 41 in London.  Each day around 4:00 PM someone shows up with a bucket up ice and a small bowl of olives.

  • Illuminating the outside of the building at night. I’ve been in hotels where the uplighting was so bright it leaked through the curtains and kept my room lit all night. An alternative is to modestly light only the hotel sign and provide shielded lights to illuminate pathways.

  • Mounting televisions on every wall in every public space, and then keeping them on 24-7. Not only is this an energy waster, but it intrudes on the personal space of travelers. The alternative is to get rid of public televisions and assume hotel clients will watch television in their room.

By changing any one of the things I've mentioned, a hotel would not only save money, but help the environment.  If hotels also refused to carry bottled water, they would truly show a commitment to conservation. It's rare to find bad water in the USA. Hotels could filter their own local water and provide a centrally located bottling station for those who are convinced that water coming out of a tap is unpalatable.

Can you think of other ways that hotels can go beyond sheets, towels, and smoking?

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