iStock_000001084494_SmallWhen I checked into my hotel room a few days ago and was putting my toiletries by the sink, there it was. And just like it usually does, it mildly irritated me. 

“It” was the now-obligatory card that says something along the lines of, “Join this hotel in being green and hang up your towels to save water used in washing them.” I am sure you saw a card just like it in the last hotel room you stayed in. 

The problem I have with these cards, and the reason they irritate me, is that a more honest version would say, “Help us save money by reducing our water bill—please reuse your towel.”

Now at some point, I am sure some smart hotel marketer thought “saving water is green, so let’s present it that way.” And almost as certainly, at some point, a hotelier wrote an article or presented at a conference about how to reduce operating expenses by appealing to guests’ environmental sensibilities.

But this has been going on so long, and has become so transparent, that these cards have lost their appeal to guests’ green leanings. Instead, they have become greenwashing

So if you are in the hotel business, and want to truly be greener, and at the same time appeal to guests who care about that, here are three ideas for you. These are not all of the possible ways to become a greener hotel, but are a few low-cost to no-cost ways to help the environment. 

Bulk soap and shampoo: Why is the hotel room the last bastion of the wrapped bar of soap? Do you use bar soap anywhere else other than your hotel room? I don’t. So get rid of those tiny little bars with their wrappers and wasted soap, an install liquid soap dispensers like the rest of the world. I first saw this at the Hutton Hotel in Nashville. I hope more properties follow in their footsteps.

Recycle bins in the room: I can recycle pretty much anywhere I go on my travels. At the airport, in the restaurant, even some airlines are even doing this in flight. But almost never can I recycle my reading material or beverage container in my hotel room. Kudos to Fairmont for doing this consistently across its properties. 

Reduce printed material: Somewhere deep in their psyche, something compels hotel managers to support their local printer. I can tell because most hotel rooms I check into are chockablock with cards, flyers, pamphlets and folders or printed material. There are some useful items—namely notepads and TV channel guides. But it is mostly the hotel equivalent of point-of-purchase displays at the gas station: Come buy this, eat here, golf there, check out this special deal and so on. How about stopping the spending on paper, and using the savings to install a couple of well-placed electronic displays that will get your message across much more effectively? 

I am sure there are many simple, low-cost ways for an existing hotel to be more environmentally friendly.  Please share your ideas in the comments!

Topics: marketing, hotels, Guest Experience, Glenn Hollister, Going Green, Travel and Transportation