News for the Hospitality Executive
|by Barry Napier, April 2007
I first noticed the little hanging cards in a Travelodge in the UK. Next I saw exactly the same card hanging in a Malta Hotel. After that, hotels in Berlin, Croatia, Prague, Lanzarote… everywhere. You know the ones I mean – they ask us to drop our used towels on the floor if we want fresh ones, but, to help the environment, use them for more than a day.
Being a cynic, the first time I saw the cards my immediate reaction was, “Yeah, right! You mean save your laundry costs and make more profit, but don’t pass it on to your customers!” Nothing wrong with making a profit, but I prefer it if companies are more honest. Anything else is marketing hype.
It could be, though, that some companies are honest and really do want to ‘save the planet’. So, they write policies about it and try to save money where they can. Trouble is, this idea is now like a folly-green-giant, stomping in its ignorance on everything in its path. So ‘saving money’ is automatically assumed to be ‘saving the planet’. Thus we lose our sense of perspective and, ultimately, things cost more, not less, just like so-called ‘organic’ foods.
Organic foods are best for you and taste better. At least that’s the claim. But, most of the time, I can’t tell the difference except that it makes my money buy far less. Everyone ate organically until some bright spark decided to sell food out of season. Then in came the chemicals, prices went up, and poison was our staple diet. Now, ‘organic’ (aka ‘food as it ought to be in its natural state’) is even pricier, claiming to taste better. Scientists who have studied the difference say there is no difference! They admit that, even with chemicals, food is nutritionally similar to that of organics. So why pay more for a mythical benefit? Nowadays, then, if it aint glowing in the dark I will usually eat it. (A bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I’m getting at).
In its folly, this green giant is now stomping all over the world, stepping on coal and wood fires, making companies pay large sums to reduce their ‘carbon footprint’, and forcing third world countries to use less energy (though we in the West use huge amounts of it). A whole new industry has evolved around supposed dangers. Reports show that these third world countries are then denied heavy industries because of the ‘carbon footprint’ they would produce… even though a ‘carbon footprint’ is mythical.
In real terms, it means tiny life-saving medical clinics in the deepest bush can use electricity either to have a fridge to cool vital drugs, or a light bulb – they can’t have both! ”Use energy-saving solar panels” shout the green giant’s green friends. What they don’t tell you is that it takes electricity to work the things, and savings would not be experienced for decades! Meanwhile, people die and Africa stays poor.
Now, hotels everywhere are writing green policies, and say they want to reduce their ‘carbon footprint’ by this or that percentage. Even large stores and diverse kinds of companies are doing the same thing. But, what is really going on? Are hotels and resorts just following a fashion and not a scientific principle? Is there any real need to go as far as they are going in the mad clamour to keep the green giant jolly? The answers are not so encouraging!
As one who taught research methodology, I can usually spot rogue science a mile off. Look at the language of claims and reports. Do they say ‘maybe’, or ‘might’, or ‘could’? What about ‘if’. This tiny word is used frequently by pseudo-science, but it has no actual relevance. ‘If’ means guesswork and no more. You can ‘prove’ anything by inserting ‘if’ into a statement.
Top hoteliers are intelligent. Many have MBA’s. They should have at least a grounding in research, so why don’t they use it? Then they will discover that green giants only exist on tin labels, not in reality.
Green Hotels Association
Go to this organisation’s website and you will read in the first paragraph: “Green hotels are properties whose managers are eager to institute programs that save water, save energy and reduce solid waste – while saving money – to help protect our one and only earth.” Sounds good, except that the last part is based on unqualified opinion, not fact. I am not being judgmental; I am pointing out a flaw in the argument.
The first part of the statement is about straightforward financial and management basics. Any manager who allows obvious waste to continue is a bad manager. The second part of the statement is ethereal, the kind of thing said by tree-huggers whose language is kinda foggy and impossible to prove.
All hotels should make the savings this group rightly advocates. I find it hard to understand how hotels, and especially hotel chains, need green groups to persuade them to make savings! As a manager I was constantly on the look-out for savings, via quality control, environmental check-lists and basic good practice. This had nothing to do with the planet, but with profitability and waste management! If you want to make it a great marketing ploy, then do so – but not on the back of pseudo-science. Come clean!
I am all for hotels cutting waste, and thereby making more profit. But, when hotels start adopting environmentalist myths, I object on the grounds of honesty and truth, and the sheer waste of effort and time. I have been very encouraged lately by policies written by top industries. But, I wince when I read their copy-cat policies on ‘carbon emissions’ and the absurd ‘carbon footprint’.
Yes, save money and stop waste, but don’t pretend it ‘saves the planet’, because it doesn’t. It is now commonplace to hear about ‘climate change’ being linked to ‘global warming’, and otherwise very proficient companies are caught, hook, line and sinker, by these gloom and doom prophets.
From what I can see, the Green Hotels Association is a decent enough group. There’s nothing wrong with making our environments better, stopping waste and generally maintaining a cleaner atmosphere. These are all based on proper scientific reasoning. Who wants to take in smog? Who wants a lungful of smoke and grime? Who wants to pollute the ground? We can have resonance with desires to put these things right, because there is proven cause and effect. Put acid in your tea and it will burn your stomach out. Simple! But ‘saving the planet’? Eh? To me this is like Buzz Lightyear’s “To infinity and beyond’… sounds great in animation but makes for scientific nonsense.
The Association helps hotels by sourcing better solutions to waste and output, and that is admirable. Its sheet and towel-change cards are said to save 5% on utilities because about 70% of all customers comply, and that’s good.
Ron Berger, General manager of the Sheraton Rancho Cordova, California, said that the majority of customers participate and “some days, housekeeping staffers, who usually clean 15 rooms a day, don’t change a single bed.” So, they save on laundry. But, when staff do not change the beds, and laundry staff don’t clean sheets, what else do they do? Surely it means that this part of their wage is now wasted? Or, they have gone into short-time? No matter – making savings and stopping waste is important. Otherwise a business will not survive.
That, however, is by the way. My beef is not about savings or losses, but about pseudo-science ruling hotel policies. I am astounded that hotels and even governments are following the green giant like obedient sheep. Hotel chains, in particular, are run by hard-headed top-notch men and women, acclaimed in their field of expertise. They normally look into every aspect of their business in immense detail. So, what is going wrong with ‘green’?
The Association claims: “hotels can save $6.50 a day per occupied guestroom and help the environment.” (Press Release, Green Hotels). Great – but what proof is there that ‘helping the environment’ actually ‘saves the planet’? In what way? The two concepts are as different as chalk and cheese! There is absolutely no connection whatever.
Laundry costs are reduced. That is mainly it. Prof. Robert Chase of Cornell University Hotel Management school says that hotels win in three ways and that “The third win is for our environment – really doing something to save our planet.”
What does he mean? How is the planet ‘saved’? And, does it need saving in the first place? Is he a physical scientist with expertise in… whatever? I don’t think so. But, he is in a position to use his research head, to examine claims made by green exponents. If he does, he might just change his mind! ‘Saving the planet’ is such a vast concept, it is meaningless without specifics. And the number of possible variables is so huge, it is impossible to even think about it.
It is true that detergents and chemicals can damage the environment. The Association is correct in saying this. But, when statements about saving money, and keeping the environment safe from man-made goods, then jump to making extraordinary claims about ‘saving the planet’, we should stop still and see if it makes sense.
‘Saving the planet’ is a cosmic claim to make! I repeat – who says the planet needs ‘saving’? The answers will surprise you.
If you look into it, many claims made by the green giant industry (because that is what it has become, in its own right) do not make sense, or are incompatible with genuine science. If that is true, then why do hotel chains in particular spend a lot of money to ‘save the planet’? Why detract from making a profit and keeping people employed?
Green Giant Is Only Imaginary
I am left in no doubt that ‘global warming’ is the latest fashion accessory for governments, companies and hotels. There is a truism – say it long enough and loud enough and people will believe it.
A big part of the global-warming-save-our-planet argument is that human beings are guilty of corrupting the planet by emitting carbon that causes the planet to overheat. Simple, really. Except that it is rather fraudulent.
Where does all this come from? Those who are expert in earth sciences, weather, etc., who oppose the very idea of global warming, are usually shouted-down for very good reasons. The claims are not morally good, but they are great for those who make lots of money out of it. And they trace much of the problem to Marxist groups who have “taken over the green groups” to create confusion, panic and worldwide disruption (This quote and others, are taken from an independent TV company who aired a ‘tell the truth’ program earlier in 2007, and from the New Max corporation. Go to www.WAGtv.com and www.NewMax.com for details).
It is clearly political to claim that people must be ‘protected’ from terrorism and environmental disaster. So, a wave of myth is engulfing everyone, from schoolkids to governments. The upshot is simple – it costs us billions in tax-money! The threat, after all, must be averted.
But – what threat?
Global warming is by no means a universally accepted idea in the world of science. Indeed, a huge number do not accept it even exists. They tell us that the amount of carbon emitted by human enterprise is actually decreasing. They say that at a time when industry was at its worst for emissions – the industrial revolution – there was no damage to the planet!
They tell us that carbon in the atmosphere makes no difference at all to anything. We might cough with the smoke, but it does nothing to change temperature. And they give proper evidence.
They warned that scientists are working from computer models. They tweak it one way and there are fewer supposed changes to temperature. Go the other way, and there are more. More changes are better media fodder, so these are given. But, the media cannot differentiate models from reality, and so accept it all at face value. Hence the gloom and doom and Al Gore’s recent financial improvement. Folks love a good gloom!
Also, say pundit scientists, global warming is now popular and brings in the shekels for university departments. So, scientists give governments what they want to hear, even if it is garbage. Far more exciting than ordinary weather and everything quiet on the Western front!
Hotels, then, especially chains, should be realistic. There is the real science and there is the bad science. There is real management best practice, and there is false practice. Knowing the difference is the real cost-cutter and profit maker. Let me give an example from the health field…
There was a time when elderly patients were filled with tablets and medicines, to ‘make them better’. In my own practices I began to research all this and found it to be bunkum. Slowly, with the help of local MD’s, I removed as many medicines and tablets as I could. Lo and behold, the patients improved dramatically. Some, almost comatose, suddenly were full of life and walking again!
Look at claims for global warming – and then look at the opposite claims. The latter is good science. The former is guesswork and has no basis for action.
Lesson of Krakatoa
When Krakatoa exploded in the late 1800’s the shocks went 3000 miles. And the stuff blown out of it spread over most of the earth. Now here is the point – the event lowered global temperature by several degrees, and the effects did not disappear fully until about the 1960’s.
Guess what? So-called ‘global warming’ started about the time the effects disappeared! In other words, the world was starting to put itself right again, but it took seventy years. So, is the temperature rise we now experience merely the world temperature getting back to what it was?
The world experiences changes of this kind regularly. Some years are warmer than others. Or wetter. Or drier. Or colder. It goes in cycles. To spread doom and gloom for no real reason is not just absurd or bad science, it is irresponsible. And it has consequences.
Heavy industries tend to move to poor countries. These industries are the financial cast-offs of western societies that have moved on towards leisure economies. When Africa (for example) is stopped from having these cast-offs to help their economy and give the people at least a rise from poverty to fairly poor, it is scandalous. If there are no actual scientific reasons to do so, it is immoral.
Hoteliers, then, should not follow the green giant. His aims and claims are folly. He costs tax-payers billions around the world. And because they get impressive funding from it, unscrupulous scientists are faking the figures and turning the screw of anxiety. They are the myth-makers, the green giant keepers. Waste-creators.
One claim is legitimate. That is, saving money and resources and cutting waste. But no self-respecting hotelier deliberately allows waste and ignores the bottom line! So, that part is simply good management.
The second part of the claim, however, is absurd pseudo-science. Carbon does not affect the planet’s temperature at all. Nor do heavy industries. Or using cars and ‘planes. Or leaving your light on in the bathroom. It is all a sham, a falsity spread by those with vested interests.
Why, then, spend months devising ‘save the planet’ policies and procedures? In itself this is waste. Why use up energy thinking about things that have no basis in reality?
Many years ago, a cereal called ‘Puffed Wheat’ had a picture of a gun on the front of the packet, with the grand-sounding claim that the wheat was ‘shot from a gun’. It was marvellous marketing, but the claim was based merely on the very mundane production process. In a competitive market, similar products can be distinguished by clever marketing men, just by making a wondrous claim for the most ordinary of facts. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve done it myself!
But to make claims on the back of falsity is another thing. Hotels can easily make claims about their facilities, etc. But to make claims that are not real is a form of fraud. Don’t be so quick to get on the green giant’s back. One day he will stumble and you’ll have a mighty big fall! Come on fellah’s, be independent thinkers.
© Barry Napier
|Also See:||The Doubletree Hotel Portland’s Carbon Offset Program Includes the Elimination of Airport Shuttle, Installation of Low-flow Showerheads / April 2007|
|British Columbia's King Pacific Lodge Initiates Multi-faceted Plan to Reduce the Lodge's Carbon Footprint by 50% Over the Next Five Years / March 2007|
|Reducing Marriott's Environmental Footprint; Company's 2,800 Hotels On Track to Reduce its Greenhouse Gas Emissions by One-fifth During Period from 2000 to 2010 / March 2007|
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