Not Evangelism

Friday, December 10, 2010

An environmental policy worth something

Many hotels have little cards in the bathrooms that talk about saving water by not washing towels every day. The picture below shows one from a Hilton hotel. I'm not singling out Hilton but for the fact that I stayed in one of their hotels recently.

At first glance, the message is good. There is a clear statement identifying the area Hilton want to address: reducing water consumption. Good! Now we know what we're talking about we can do something about it. After all, achieving a meaningful kind of environmentalism starts with understanding what it means to you.

Empty promises

But the stated goal of reducing water consumption is neither measurable nor achievable in any meaningful sense. There are no targets, no commitments, no governance - only a vague aspiration.

Even worse, although the hotel appears to sign-up to this policy, the emphasis to actually do something is all on the guest. The hotel is the facilitator, and it is the guests that must take responsibility for their actions (which, of course, it is). This is good; empowering the guests. But there's no matching commitment from the hotel.

And what about that cheesy, corny phrase "staying at the Hilton will never cost the earth"? A phrase that's been used, in various forms, in so many other places, it's become hackneyed, clich├ęd.

There's also a problem in practice with this policy. In many hotels, and in the Hilton on this occasion, although I never left my towels on the floor, they were still replaced every day. Which reduces the message to little more than lip service. Worse, it's a slap in the face: the hotel has offered something I can participate in, and they're ignoring my requests, my instructions. "Hilton gives you the choice".  And then ignores it.

Ultimately, cards of this type end up being nothing more than a feel-good exercise for hotel and guests. The hotel appears to be considerate about the environment, and may make their guests feel like they're doing a Good Thing - but in fact the hotel does whatever they want to, without any consequence.

What's your definition of environmentalism? How would you make this a more toothy policy, something worth signing up to? Leave a comment below.

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