An open letter to my environmentally-friendly hotel

Dear [hotel franchise]

Hello. I recently stayed in your establishment for a business trip. While my stay was perfectly enjoyable, I have several questions about how [hotel franchise] is run, particularly regarding your environmentally-friendly policies and practices.

I know that you at [hotel franchise] care deeply about the environment and protecting our planet’s diminishing resources. I know this because you stated it, repeatedly, via notices in my hotel room. You volunteered the information, in writing, so that makes it official. No judge would argue otherwise, I’m sure.

The thing is though, your passionate concern for the environment was, bizarrely, only ever mentioned in the context of towel use. I was told, quite firmly, that if I wished to re-use a towel I should hang it back up, while if I wanted a clean replacement towel I should leave it on the bathroom floor. By re-using towels rather than unnecessarily washing them, apparently I was helping save the planet. I had no idea it was that easy if I’m honest. Makes me think that Captain Planet was something of a diva, given the extreme lengths he used to to go to.

You’re not the first to point this out, I freely admit that. Practically every other hotel makes the same point, and has done for a while. It’s just, your approach was more “overzealous” than most, given that planet-damaging consequences of excessive towel washing was mentioned on both sides of the bathroom door, next to the spare towels in the cupboard, next to the shower, and in the standard information directory on the night stand. For all I know, dedicated staff also snuck into my room at night and whispered it into my ear while I was asleep.

I sincerely hope that last thing isn’t the case, by the way. As well as the massive invasion of privacy, the evidence that sleep-learning (a.k.a. Hypnopedia) actually works is insufficient, at best. And getting a decent night’s sleep in a hotel room is difficult enough, thanks to how the brain works. And that’s without there being a huge gang of drunken twentysomethings standing on the balcony opposite my room playing the ‘Let’s yell something incoherently but loudly every 23 seconds for no fu**ing reason whatsoever’ game. I can’t see how that last thing is your fault though, so please ignore that for now

Basically, I’m not saying that avoiding washing towels isn’t good for the environment, because evidence shows that it is. It’s just that your eco-enthused brow-beating seemed a bit excessive. I felt like wanting a towel laundered after anything less than mopping up after a ritualistic human sacrifice was tantamount to covering it in asbestos and throwing it on a tyre fire or driving to the nearest aquarium and force-feeding it to a dolphin.

This aside, your concern for the environmental consequences of your industry is admirable. But presumably they apply to all aspects of your business, not just towels? Assuming you really are concerned with the environment across the board and aren’t just using it as a cynical and hypocritical way to reduce laundry bills, could you please answer the following queries.

  • How much water am I, the guest, supposed to use? You go to great lengths to emphasise how excessive use of water and cleaning products is environmentally damaging, but it’s not just towels that need cleaning. My room came with a variety of soaps and cleaning products for my own personal use and full access to bath and shower facilities, yet it was unclear how much of these things I could use before causing severe climate damage. I, a standard sized adult human male, am somewhat bigger than a towel, and despite a greater-than-average coverage of body hair, I am structured very differently, so I couldn’t figure it out from the available information.

To be on the safe side I ended up having a stand-up wash with a coffee cup of cold water and the flannel provided (which I of course reused, despite my reluctance). Unfortunately it’s been very hot lately and the others at the work meetings I attended did not appreciate my minimalist efforts at hygiene. If you could provide some guidance in future as to acceptable self-washing practices, that would be helpful

  • Where do you get your meat? Breakfast was included as part of my stay and it was the standard buffet setup. Trays of sausages and bacon were both clearly visible, and it was reasonably busy while I was there, so both were replenished at least once. Assuming the rate of consumption remains the same over the three-and-a-half-hour period that breakfast is served, by my estimates you’re getting through at least a decent sized pig every day there. And that’s not even factoring all the dairy products like the butter, yoghurt and milk available, and being visibly consumed in great quantities.

I ask this because meat and dairy farming has a hugely negative impact on the environment. People with your eco-friendly enthusiasm will know this already and will have taken steps to avoid using such products. However, given how authentic everything at the breakfast buffet looked, smelled and tasted, you’ve clearly made incredible breakthroughs in perfecting synthetic vegan substitutes for these common foodstuffs, something countless people are working on. Would you be willing to share your procedures or suppliers with the wider world? There’s a huge market for this, and the environmental benefits would be way beyond that gleaned from reduced towel washing.

  • Related; where do you get your solar panels? You insist that excess towel washing uses too much energy and thus harms the planet, but during my stay the use of lighting in your hotel seemed rather extravagant. The reception area was very bright, there were over a dozen separate bulbs in my single-occupant room, the bar area had all manner of flashing decorations blazing for the enjoyment of the seven customers, and there was the huge illuminated sign at the front of the building.

Given your attitudes to energy wastage, I’m assuming all these lights were run from solar panels? But given the amount of energy being used and the general OK-but-could-be-better energy efficiency of most modern solar panels, you must be using a vastly superior model to those accessible to most people. This is particularly true because it was night time when I arrived, suggesting your solar panels work in the dark, which is all kinds of impressive/worrying. So, if you could share the specs with the wider world, the environmental benefits could be astronomical.

Of course, I could be wrong about your use of solar panels. It could be that you have a miniature nuclear reactor in the basement/on the roof to power the building. I feel like this is the sort of thing you should tell guests about though. You’re conscientious enough to tell people there may be nuts in the items on the room service menu, so surely you wouldn’t forget to tell people they’re sleeping within metres of a contained atomic explosion? Just a thought.

I hope you will respond with all the information requested above. Your gung-ho eco-enthusiasm, combined with your revolutionary approaches to the service industry, could be instrumental in saving the planet, if you were just willing to be a little more open.
Unless you’re just using environmental concerns as a front to cut down on laundry bills. But I’d never accuse you of that sort of hypocrisy. That would be awful.

Dean Burnett has stayed in many hotels because he’s been touring to promote his new book, The Happy Brain. Help reduce his carbon footprint and by it now. Available in the UK, US and Canada.