Caught Green Handed: On Vacation

March 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Myrtle Beach!

Myrtle Beach!

After a week of midterms, two days of traveling, and a slightly skeevy Super 8, (which all hopefully explain and justify the lack of recent posts,) I’ve finally arrived in Myrtle Beach, SC, and man, it is NICE! As I sit and look out at the beautiful beach and ocean, it hit me. This is what I’m working to save. Everything I’m doing here, with this blog, and with my life, is so that the world can continue to enjoy places as naturally incredible as these.

Another thing hit me, a little later in the day. As I came back to take a shower, I stumbled upon something I had seen many times, and in various permutations.

Save Our Planet!

Reuse Towels, Don't Waste Water!

Think about the last time you went to a hotel – you definitely saw one of the little signs somewhere in your bathroom that reminded you to save water by reusing your towels. There’s even a universal code for how to tell the cleaning staff what you’re doing – dirty towels on the floor, ones you plan to reuse get hung up. But have you ever considered the logic behind all this? The history? The actual environmental impact? Well, I’ll answer the questions you’ve always had, and maybe even a few you never though of:

Let’s do a little Q &A:

Q: What environmental benefits do these policies have?

A: According to Practically Green, a hotel of 250 rooms operating at 80% capacity can expect to save 220,000 gallons of water each year (and $66,000!). Energy, too, is also saved, since most laundry is done in hot water, and therefore requires a lot of energy to heat it to the desired temperature, as well as to power the washing machines and dryers. Chemicals such as chlorine and bleach are often used as detergents, and a decrease in laundry-doing is equivalent to a decrease in the entrance of these chemicals into our environments. Also, many hotels donate a portion of saved funds to worthy environmental causes, which is just an added bonus.

Q: Why do guests follow these procedures?

A: It’s easy. Well, that’s part of it at least. But think about it – it’s the same as if you were at home, except instead of having to take your own towels out of the bathroom or make them neat, housekeeping will do it for you. But that doesn’t fully explain why people do it. One argument is they know that by saving water, the hotel saves money, and therefore charges them less, so by following the procedures, they’re saving themselves money. A Scientific American article points out an interesting observation to take into account. According to the article, people tend to reuse towels more if they think others are also doing the same. Oh, and let’s not forget pure, good-hearted interest in saving the environment as a reason to reuse hotel towels.

Q: Is it a law that there must be these signs in hotel rooms?

A: Nope. Though it might seem like it, since a vast majority of American hotels have the reusing polices and resulting signs, it is purely the hotel’s decision.

Q: If it’s not a law, why do hotels do it?

A: There’s a few reasons for that. First of all, there’s the obvious reason: to help the environment. Now, we all should hope that environmental sustainability is a core belief and goal of every person and organization in the world, but let’s not be too naive. So why do it? Well, there’s the idea of personal gain. The hotels that participate in these policies have something to gain from them. A hotel has plenty of space, but most of it is front of house, guest-accessible space, with little left for waste management – i.e. trash, recycling, and laundry. Therefore, to successfully manage waste, hotels need to actively and masterfully design their programs. So in terms of towels, if guests reuse even a fraction of the towels they use daily, that’s a whole bunch of towels that the hotel does not need to be washing, and therefore less space, time, personnel, and money they need to dedicate to laundry.Oh, and speaking of money, hotels pay utilities just like everyone else, so each towel they don’t wash saves them money on their water and energy bills, and therefore creates more profit for them. (Special thanks to Waste Management World for help with this one).

Hope you found this informative! Have questions you want answered? Let me know!

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