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OM in the News: Hotels Embrace Sustainability With Unwashed Towels

May 1, 2015

hotel2Stuart Gitlow traveled this month to the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta for a conference. During his three-night stay, he dispensed with housekeeping. “I don’t need my bed made every day and can certainly use the same towel three mornings in a row,” he wrote.  Gitlow was rewarded for his green efforts with 500 Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty points for each night of his stay. Had he not chosen points, he also had the option of receiving a $5 voucher for food. The program, called Make a Green Choice, allows all guests, not just frequent travelers, to opt out of housekeeping. About 6.4 million guests have participated since 2009.

As the drought in California and the Western states draws increased attention to conservation, hotels are turning to sustainability as a way of both attracting guests and cutting costs, reports The New York Times (April 28, 2015). Hotels have 3 reasons to pay attention to conservation: corporate sustainability; better expense management; and consumer interest. A study by TripAdvisor found that 79% of travelers placed an importance on properties that use environmentally minded practices.

Hotels here and abroad are introducing or augmenting farm-to-table cuisine in restaurants to lower their carbon footprint, providing charging stations for electric vehicles and using kitchen scraps for compost and even recycling cooking oil for experimental biodiesel fuel. Behind the scenes, hotels are installing energy-efficient light bulbs and digital thermostats and are using recycled water for landscaping. They also are displaying discreet cards in guest rooms about the energy saved by not changing sheets and towels daily. At the Westin Peachtree Plaza, groups are offered behind-the-scenes tours to learn about hotel sustainability. Sites include the kitchen, loading dock and laundry. The hotel has conducted seven tours since the beginning of the year.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. In what other ways can hotels practice sustainability?

2. Why is this a good OM strategy?

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