Friday, March 6, 2009

When Green Is Another Word for Cheap

Hotels' linen-reuse programs get me fuming. Which eco-marketing gimmicks do you find most annoying?

When my sisters and I were girls, we loved exploring the hotels my family stayed at on vacation. On arriving, we would race off to ride up and down in the elevator, thumb through the tacky bric-a-brac at the gift shop, and check out the pool, inhaling the sticky, chlorinated air. In the room, we'd fight over free postcards in the desk drawer, play with the phone in the bathroom, and salivate at the prospect of ordering room service and getting those miniature bottles of jam delivered to our door. This was a world that suspended the realities of life at home, and we reveled in every aspect of it.

My taste for luxury has evolved somewhat—I'm not nearly as taken with the M&Ms in the mini bar—but on entering a hotel room, I still immediately review the room-service menu, bask in the prospect of fresh, silky sheets, and inspect the bathroom to ensure I have fluffy, clean towels for every possible need. Then I spy one of those little placards, nestled among the tiny soaps or hanging from the towel rack, asking me to reuse my linens: "Save Our Planet … Every day millions of gallons of water are used to wash towels that have only been used once … Please decide for yourself." And, like that, my hotel buzz fizzles.

I'll admit that I sometimes choose not to participate in this program and request fresh towels and sheets every day. Before you write in scolding me for being a wasteful person, let me qualify that by saying it's not the program, in theory, I'm against. I'm all for saving the environment. But I don't want to be guilt-tripped into going green. It's the two-facedness of it that gets me—save our planet! Conserve our resources! It's up to you, hotel guest. Forsake that washcloth (or two!), or those crisp sheets that are your right when you pay for the room, and to what end—so the hotel can save money on laundry? How many natural resources are wasted printing all of these little signs? Here's an idea: Instead of printing out a placard for every room in the hotel, wash my towel.

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