Guests must ask for clean towels at this green hotel

| October 1, 2013

It’s long been traveler-code: a towel left on the hotel bathroom floor is a cue for housekeeping services to deliver clean replacements. Travelers are well aware of those hotel bathroom signs that notify guests that any towels left on the bathroom floor will be replaced. (Towels that guests leave hanging up are left for their continued use.) But now, at least one major resort is taking this practice a step further in its quest to become a truly green hotel. At the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada owned by MGM Resorts, guests will have to specifically request new, clean towels. Housekeeping will simply hang up any towels found on the floor.

“We say, if you want us to wash your towels every day, we will do it, just let us know,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer for MGM Resorts, told Marketplace.“But other than that, we’re just going to hang the towels up every night.”

green hotel

Replacing hotel towels automatically is not the greenest way of doing business. From Emily Wise.

Aria has a defined environmental code, available online for guests and corporate bookers to view. The potential environmental impact of this new initiative is significant. As reported on Marketplace, the impact of an individual choice as seemingly insignificant as replacing your wet towels is amplified when that choice is made by major corporations.

At Aria, corporate guests account for a third of the resort’s business. Major companies know, or are learning, both the obvious value and the public-relations importance of doing business the “green” way, and request specific information about a hotel’s environmental impact. Explains Ortega, “Companies like IBM and other big companies, they give us a whole survey that might be two, three, four pages long saying not just do you recycle, what do you recycle. It’s a very sophisticated questionnaire.”

IBM, for one, requests an environmental plan from every single company it does business with, “from MGM [Resorts, which owns the Aria], to the company that makes circuit boards.” As Wayne Balta, vice president of environmental affairs at IBM, explains, “We have also said to them that we would like it to cascade down to their own first-tier suppliers, so that way it gets cascaded down the supply chain.”

That “cascade” means that the more companies involved with IBM — and MGM Resorts, in this case — the more pressure those companies feel to adopt greener practices, starting with something as simple as leaving wet towels hanging in the bathroom.

Approximately 70 percent of large businesses demand that their supply chain partners commit to certain sustainability practices, according to the Boston Consulting Group. Whereas one person opting out of clean towels for a three-night stay may save some energy, on a grander scale, those businesses have the power to effect a rippling change.

green hotel

The Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. From Prayitno.


As Howard Connell, director of the Center for Business Strategies for Sustainability at Georgia Tech, told Marketplace, when an individual  needs paper towels, “you go up to the shelf and look at what product you want and you grab it and you go. Most people don’t have time to worry about ‘what are the sustainability implications of the choices that I’m making.” However, large corporations may order a million dollars’ worth of paper towels, meaning that “the discussion that occurs around that purchase is much more involved,” says Connell.

As companies ask would-be business partners to conform to their established environmental plans and adopt green practices — else risk losing a lucrative contract — their positive pressure will greatly impact the environment, many rooms of wet towels at a time.

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Category: Restrooms

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