Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's Not Easy Being Green

By Mark W. Danielson

I normally don’t climb atop soapboxes, but today I’m making an exception. Living in higher-end hotels five months each year, I am constantly amazed at how well they preach environmental friendliness, and yet fail at being proactive. So this post is dedicated to all the hotel managers who have ignored my pleas for improvement. As a minimum, perhaps I'll gain empathy from those who travel as I do.

I could address numerous areas on this topic, but I’ll limit this discussion to water, for clean water is our most precious resource, and yet we flush it away as if there’s an endless supply. These days, most hotels leave eco-friendly bed-notes reminding their guests to make the choice of using minimal towels and reusing their bedding, or insisting on new laundry every day. While I believe that most guests prefer being earth-friendly, it’s difficult to do when the hotel’s shower heads are so wasteful. The Westin is a fine hotel chain, and yet they chose to install dual shower heads in each guest room. Why they would do this is beyond me, but to their credit, they have a placard near the shower head that empowers me to make the choice of single or dual. Unfortunately, when you select “single”, the shower head pressure doubles, so you still end up wasting water. Even more frustrating is running the water for five minutes or more before it’s warm enough to climb in. Truly, there is no excuse for this.

Now, I’ve always maintained that no one has the right to gripe unless they can offer a solution, so mine is for each Westin hotel to replace all of their dual shower heads with single, high-pressure, low-flow ones that use 1/3 of the water. Eco-friendly shower heads provide plenty of flow to rinse the soap out of your hair and off your skin. In fact, many hotel chains have already done this. As for the hot water delay, hotels should install booster-heaters on each floor so the water is instantly heated as it passes through. Adding solar panels to hotel roofs could not only power these booster heaters, but they would further reduce fossil fuel energy consumption.

Of course, all of these improvements require additional investment, but considering the fuel and water savings, the break even period would be minimal, and the long term savings could add up to millions. Now, I’m no financial genius, but this makes sense to me – especially when so many of these hotels are currently being renovated or upgraded.

Some guests may argue that they specifically book at Westin hotels because they love their dual shower heads, and to them I say, grow up – we’re all in this together. Wasting resources affects everyone, regardless of where you reside, how much money you earn, or what hotels you stay at. These days, people tend to appreciate eco-friendly hotels, so I see few repercussions from my recommended changes. As Kermit says, it’s not easy being green, but it would be easier if everyone did their part to conserve.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Amen! Water shortages are realities in many areas of our planet, including some of our most highly populated areas. The city of Los Angeles imports its water from northern California as well as the Colorado River. The city of Tucson also imports water from the Colorado and a resident recently told me that she expects any day to see sand coming from the pipes instead of water. And Phoenix's water level has gone down drastically since developers have uprooted orchards to plant houses.

It's time for a concerted campaign for water conservation!

Mark W. Danielson said...

Anyone who has traveled overseas understands how precious clean water is. Climate changes have left areas once rich in rainfall suddenly dry. Clearly, water is something we can no longer take for granted.