Reprinted with the permission of the author, Andy Stone; credit to The Aspen Times. The column as originally posted on The Aspen Times' website can be found here.
By Andy Stone
August 25, 2005
I don't mind saving the planet, but what the heck am I going to do with all these TV sets? And the miniature coffee makers? I'm running out of storage space.
Let me explain.
It all started with those annoying little cards that show up in almost every hotel room these days (except, of course, for really nice hotels).
You know, they're propped on the bathroom counter and they explain how the hotel is deeply concerned with the fate of the planet. And because of that deep, deep concern, the hotel is horribly depressed about the tragic waste of the millions of gallons of hot water that are used every day to wash hotel towels.
And so, the card implies, if you're any kind of halfway decent human being, if you have any concern whatsoever for the future of the planet, you certainly won't expect the hotel to wash your towels every day.
Come on! Think of poor Mother Earth!
I admit I find it curious that 1. Every hotel in the world has suddenly become environmentally conscious, and, 2. The only way they can think of to save the planet somehow involves saving themselves a lot of money.
Is that really all they could think of?
I mean, right off the top of my head, it occurs to me that a lot of hotels could help the environment by improving the food they serve at their lousy restaurants - which would cut way down on customer flatulence and thus reduce emissions of dangerous greenhouse gases.
But you never see a hotel bragging about that, do you?
And what really gets me is the last line on those little cards, the official "instructions":
If you hang your towel on the rack, that means you don't need it replaced. If you leave the towel on the floor, that means you want a fresh towel.
In other words, "If you don't give a damn about the planet, act like a raging slob and throw your towels on the floor. That's just what we'd expect from someone like you."
I can imagine where all this is heading:
"Dear Guest: Every year, timber harvesting clears millions of acres of forests, depriving wildlife of shelter and damaging the air we breathe by destroying chlorophyll. To help preserve our vital forestland, we no longer put furniture in our rooms. If you want to join us in our effort to save the planet, please sleep on the floor. If you selfishly insist on furniture, please call the front desk and tell the operator, 'I am an evil despoiler of the planet.' A cot will be sent to your room. Please don't ask for sheets. (See the card on your bathroom counter for an explanation of why we no longer provide sheets or towels.)"
Next step: a sign on the door of your favorite restaurant, saying, "Dear Patron: Every year, a shameful portion of the planet's resources are devoted to providing scandalous quantities of food to overweight Americans, while millions starve in other lands. If you want to join us in our efforts to save the planet, please just slide $100 under the door and go home."
Do I sound bitter? Sure. But, hey, I want to save the planet as much as the next guy (or even more than the next guy - if the next guy is, for example, Dick Cheney).
So I've decided to help hotels in their campaign to conserve our vital resources. I've focused my efforts on saving electricity. And nothing wastes as much electricity in a hotel room as the TV set and that little mini-coffee maker.
So now, whenever I stay at a hotel with one of those "save the planet" cards, I do my fair share by taking the TV set and the coffee maker home with me. Yeah, it's a lot of work, but I'm willing to do my part.
But now I'm running out of storage space for those TVs and coffee makers.
Not to mention towels. I take those home too - that way the hotel doesn't have to wash them.
No need to thank me. I'm just a concerned citizen, doing my part.
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org