This past September, we held the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s 2012 Fall Members Meeting at the Sheraton Station Square hotel in Pittsburgh. Upon checking in, I was informed about Sheraton’s “Make a Green Choice” program. To participate in this program, I would be required to hang a special tag on my doorknob each day I wanted to participate and agree to skip all housekeeping for that day. In turn, I would be rewarded with either a $5 credit to spend in the hotel or extra Starwood reward points.
At first, I didn’t like the idea. I mean, I already reuse towels during my hotel stays, and isn’t one of the nice things about staying in a hotel that someone makes your bed for you? But after talking to the front desk staff, I decided to try it out. Reusing towels is great, but housekeeping changes your sheets every day whether they need to be changed or not. I don’t need clean sheets daily, and I can certainly make my own bed (and do so every day in my own house). According to Sheraton, participating in this program for even one night will save a lot of water, electricity, chemicals, and detergents. Multiply these conservation benefits by each night and each guest room and it can really add up.
So why is “Making a Green Choice” different than all the other hotel chains that post a placard in the shower suggesting you hang your towels and reuse them, or place a card on your bed to avoid having the linens changed? The daily rewards, for sure. But the really interesting twist is the public aspect of the doorknob tags. Leaving my room for the day, I made sure my hangtag was on the door, and as I walked down the hall to the elevator, I was able to see which of my fellow guests were also “making a green choice.” I think that the peer pressure aspect of the program encourages people to participate who would otherwise not think to do so. Maybe it was the fact that the hotel was full of diligent Sustainable Packaging Coalition meeting attendees, but on my floor, I would say that about 1/3 to 1/2 of the rooms sported the hangtag. That printed notice in the shower about the towels? Well, no one sees whether or not you dutifully hang your towels or have them all replaced every day.
The only downside I can see to this program is a potential negative effect on housekeeping jobs. So let’s remember to tip the housekeeping staff appropriately when we do use their services at check-out! But environmentally speaking, I like the peer encouragement and public awareness aspect of this program. What do you think about these new hotel programs that incentivize conservation through rewards and peer pressure?