The hotel industry is moving in the right direction in terms of curtailing single-use plastics and other waste, but not enough is being done.
I’ve been openly advocating for a long time in this column (and more frequently in our office) for wider use of soap dispensers in the hotel industry over small single-use bottles. I’ve been happy to see that slowly but surely more hotels have been adopting them recently.
But as the practices grows ever more prevalent, I think it underlines how small, simple changes can eliminate a ton of unnecessary waste in hotel rooms. In short, hotels just aren’t doing enough.
Although my initial call for soap dispensers over individual bottles was driven more by preference than environmental concerns, most hotel companies are pointing at sustainability as the driver for their change. But if that’s the case, why are there still so many unneeded single-use plastics and disposable items scattered throughout the room?
As I sit to write this, I’m on the road sitting in a hotel room. When I first walked in, I was happy to see soap dispensers in the shower, but at the same time, an individually wrapped hand soap sat at the sink by a small bottle of body lotion. Why?
Next to the TV sat two water bottles. I know bottles of water have somehow become synonymous with care and hospitality, but they’re still incredibly and undeniably wasteful. There’s also an ice bucket with a plastic bag right here, and when I ordered some roomservice it came with two sets of plastic ware (for a burrito I ate with my hands).
None of these things individually are the end of the world by any stretch, but in aggregate they paint a picture of a hotel and more broadly an industry that still has a long way to go in terms of doing its part in terms of sustainability.
In the interest of fairness, I’ll point out that hotels are put in a generally awful and unfair position when it comes to this stuff. The ideas of sustainability and general cleanliness, at least as they’re currently understood, don’t exactly go hand in hand.
Without considering practicality or the environmental, I think we’d all like to imagine everything in a hotel room is completely new and special to us, because the more time you spend thinking about other people in that room, the more disconcerting it is. It’d be great if you were the first and only person to sleep on that bed, and basically the entire room was shrink-wrapped and hermetically sealed for any individual traveler.
But it’s not, and things like shower soap dispensers are an acknowledgement of that reality and the fact hoteliers should be better stewards of the environment rather than making compromises to chase an unattainable ideal of cleanliness. That being the case, half measures aren’t needed. If a soap dispenser is good enough for the shower, it’s good enough for the sink.
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