In every hotel I stay at there is a flyer on the bed. Or on the clock. Or hanging on the towel rack. Or stapled to the forehead of the desk clerk.
With lush green leaves and glittering waterfalls, it explains that hotels use the equivalent of the Pacific Ocean everyday to wash towels and sheets. They dump the equivalent mass of the moon into the environment in the form of laundry detergent -- just so your sheet will be clean every day.
Won't you please think of the environment and the health of the planet and pretty please reuse your towel for just one more day? By doing so, you will personally save half the Emperor Penguins in Antarctica. If you do it again tomorrow, you will save all of the pandas in China.
And all you have to do is put this flyer on your pillow. Or take it off your pillow. Or hang up your towel. Or turn around the door hanger. Or put a check mark on the desk clerk.
I can never keep the instructions straight. So I don't really make any particular effort. If I have the same towels and sheets for the stay, that's fine. I don't really care if they change them every day. And I'm usually too tired at night to pay attention to the instructions and in too much of a rush in the morning to deal with it. I'm fairly clean. Unless I have another Chicago Incident, I comfortable with the sheets I used the night before.
But how do the number turn out?
Scientific American just reported on tactics to encourage people to reuse the their towels.
They looked at what happens when they used two different messages. In one set of rooms, they implored guest to protect the environment. In another, they said that most other guests reused the towels.
In rooms with the latter message, guests reused the towels 25% more often.
It seem peer pressure trumped altruism.
When they took it a step further and said that previous guests in that particular room often reused their towels, the numbers went even higher.
The discuss various reason for this, including various social science discussions of human behavior.
They also discussed the cynicism guests have about the environmental message. This may come as a shock to you, but I actually share that same cynicism. It the belief that the hotel doesn't care about the environment, but just wants to lower their own energy and water costs.
Regardless, there are some interesting lessons in that short article.