Pól Ó Conghaile: Why do hotels keep making this short-sighted mistake?
Showering guests with single-use plastics is tone-deaf to this cultural moment. So why do hotels still do it?
Single-use plastics may be the new smoking, but have hotels got the memo?
I've stayed in several over recent weeks, at home and overseas, and have encountered enough thoughtless plastic to fill a suitcase.
You know the story. Plastic bottles of water. Laundary bags. Mini-toiletries, shower caps and slipper packs. Individual tubs of jam. Bags for wet swimming togs. Tea and coffee boards with capsules of milk and individually wrapped biscuits.
It's a dispiriting list, and it's not just hotels - as anyone who has ordered a simple coffee and sandwich from an in-flight menu will tell you.
The obvious problem here is the thoughtless trashing of the environment (one recent study, from the University of Leicester, says we have now produced enough plastic to cover the planet in cling-film).
But showering guests with single-use plastics is also completely tone-deaf to this cultural moment. When your customers use Keep Cups and their kids march against climate change, is it really enough to ban plastic straws?
It's not, but sadly, I don't think environmental arguments are enough to make many hotels change. Legislation would be, but while we wait for that, what else?
Firstly, it's us.
If the customer is always right, then hotels need to look at this from our perspective. Guests do not want to feel like they are part of a problem. A smart plastics programme shows a hotel is serious about sustainability, but it also has a feelgood factor (as long as the message is not pushy). We are more likely to recommend it.
Creative green initiatives can also win awards and publicity. Dublin's Sandymount Hotel (below), for instance, was twice voted Europe's Leading Green Hotel at the World Travel Awards (95pc of its waste is now recycled).
In Co Clare, Hotel Doolin made our Fab 50 list of Ireland's best places to stay in 2019, largely on the strength of its green hospitality programme. It has no single-use plastics in its bathrooms and sells no plastic drinks bottles, among other initiatives.
Red Carnation, which owns Ashford Castle, says it will totally eliminate single-use plastics by 2022... from bottles and coffee capsules to single-use butter and jam portions.
This isn't rocket science. And think of the cost savings. Sustainable practises like reusable water bottling or waste minimisation can save even a small hotel thousands. It makes business sense.
Guests must do their bit too, of course. But here is a chance for Irish hotels and hospitality businesses to lead, to save money and to win loyal customers from a generation for whom climate change is a defining issue.
If not for the planet, at least do it for the PR.
Read more:Pól Ó Conghaile: The small Irish hideaway that could teach big hotels a lesson