Are Hotels Just Greenwashing Or Do They Really Care?
If you’ve travelled at all in the last two years, you’ve likely noticed those cute little reminders hanging on door knobs at hotels across the country. These cards give the impression of ‘hey, we care about mother Earth here. Do you?’ Asking customers to delay sheet and towel washing to save on water. What a fantastic idea! Nobody needs new sheets every day, right? But let’s take a closer look to see if they really care about the environment like that plastic card says they do. Or is it, as they say, literal greenwashing?
How to Spot It and What to Do About It
There are a few easy ways you can spot if a hotel is greenwashing with their laundry sign, or if they actually are doing a good job at trying to protect the environment. On your next hotel visit, try looking in these three areas to see for yourself:
1. Do they offer reusable dishware for coffee, water etc.?
When you walk into your new hotel room and notice the coffee maker neatly positioned beside the television, do they offer mugs for tea and coffee and glassware for water? Or instead is it a stack of paper and plastic cups individually wrapped in more filmy plastic for single use only?
How to get around it: If it’s plastic you’re seeing and they offer a continental breakfast, skip the coffee in the room and head downstairs in the morning. There will likely be mugs for hot beverages in this area of the hotel. If they don’t offer this option, it’s always a good idea to bring your own mug to fill up so you can take it on the go anyhow. Are those little plastic stir sticks the only option for stirring your cream and sugar? Look further down the line to the yogurt and cereal and grab a spoon from that section and stir away.
2. In the hotel bathroom, what type of soaps / shampoos and conditioners offered?
While not ideal, if the little bottles on the counter are plastic, look closer at the ingredients. Have they chosen a product for you with natural ingredients? Is it good for you and the drain it’s heading down every day all day long in their building? Or better yet, instead of bottles, do they have refillable dispensers?
How to get around it: Bring your own, plain and simple. These single-use items all end up in the trash once you check out. Cleaning staff simply don’t have the time to sort through and empty out, rinse out and recycle each and every small plastic item left behind. By bringing your own you know the ingredients are safe and that the bottle you are using will be reused or at the very least properly recycled in the end.
3. Do they offer a recycling bin in the room / hallways and lobby?
There’s nothing worse for an avid recycler than resorting to throwing something in the garbage. In your hotel room there should be a recycling bin beside your trash bin so that you can properly dispose of any waste during your stay. This shows that they actually do care and are trying to divert waste from the landfill.
How to get around it: Be persistent. Ask in the lobby where the recycling bin is. If they don’t offer one in each room keep your items separated until you are ready to check out. Then bring those items down to the lobby in a grocery bag and ask if they recycle and where the nearest bin is. By making it inconvenient for them you are showing them that it matters. If nobody complains, they won’t see it as a priority. Remember, there’s strength in numbers.
What To Do If They Fail The Test
Hotels have the unique ability to make real lasting change in our society for the benefit of our environment. They see many different people from all over the world, and by taking a stand they are promoting healthy eco-practices we can all learn from. The next time you check into a hotel, think of this checklist. Ask yourself if they are greenwashing or actually care about the planet. If you find that they don’t pass the test, send them a letter asking them to do better and don’t be afraid to bring up that little promise hanging on the doorknob they love to brag so much about.
Christina Hunter is an Author, Mother, Entrepreneur, Environmental Activist and Desktop Publisher. Recipient of the Paul Harris Fellowship award and nominated for Women of Distinction award through YWCA. Christina is a Climate Reality Leader, Founder of Little Sprouts Eco-Club, Director at Muskoka Conservancy and Co-Founder of Reusable Revolution (a local zero-waste advocacy group). Her book All Out of Womb is a collection of birth stories meant to empower women. Her passion is writing, environmental activism and parenting two inquisitive emboldened girls.