Greening Westin: It's All You

For a while hotels have been asking you to help them save the environment. A recent Westin I stayed at took this to a whole new level, and there were little cards around the room to help me understand how I was helping. Examples (my paraphrasing):

  • “If you want to save the earth, hang up your towels and we won’t wash them”
  • “If we don’t wash your linens the planet will be healthier, so you should leave this card on the bed”
  • “This shower has a really cool two-head system, but we’ve turned one off to help conserve water”
  • “If you can’t find any information about the hotel or its restaurants, its because we’ve put them on the TV in order to save the environment.”

I also got to help save electricity by using very low-grade CFLs that were incredibly slow to turn on and gave out funny colors of light (this isn’t a knock on CFLs in general, but we’ve all seen good ones and bad ones).

Of course this didn’t stop the Westin from leaving plastic bottles of water out for me to purchase, or encouraging me to watch lots of pay-per-view movies.

After a few hours in the room the message was clear: “Dear customer, please make some sacrifices in the quality of your stay in order to save the planet and save us a big pile of money.”

What I Preach, With an Addendum

Of course, if I’m honest with myself, they’re doing exactly what I’ve told companies to do over the past decade: find places where the interests of the earth and your company are aligned, and make those things a priority.

So I guess I need to make an addendum:

Make sure your customers are part of the equation. It’s short sighted to do things that hurt your customers’ experience, even if its in the best interest of the planet. You need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to not impact their experience, or figure out how to let them share in your benefits.

In my experience there’s no truly simple wins. For example, “Let’s stop using paper” is not a strategy; you need to figure out when and why you use paper today, and make sure that you have an alternative that’s at least as effective, and doesn’t have it’s own environmental issues.