If you’ve been at a hotel in recent years, you’ll have noticed that they’re increasingly urging you to give the environment a helping hand. For example, a sign gives you the opportunity to re-use your towels or put them on the ground to be washed.
The aim is to reduce water wastage and reduce the negative impact on the environment, but new research now shows that this often does more harm than good.
A report published in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research showed that there is no evidence that washing less towels and linen is better for the environment. In fact, it would be even more harmful to the planet and public health.
By cleaning the towels less frequently, there are often stubborn stains in the fabrics. As a result, staff must wash them more or use stronger chemical cleaners to remove stains. If neither of these two options works, the towels often have to be thrown away and new ones purchased. This completely cancels out the positive effect of less washing.
In addition to the negative impact on the environment, employees in hotels also experience negative consequences for their health. Principal investigator Grace N. Sembajwe spoke with various hotel staff and noted that many people were struggling with respiratory problems in response to the chemicals used to wash the towels. They also increase the operating costs of the hotel because more employees are dropping out due to illness.
To ensure that daily cleaning is sustainable, Sembajwe and her team at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research encourage hotels to invest in energy-efficient washing machines. Although at first glance it may not seem that cost-effective, the change would lead to higher returns, both economically and ecologically.