Chicago Green Jobs

Three Ways a Hotel Can Convince Guests to Go Green
April 6, 2009, 2:32 pm
Filed under: Creating Green Behavior Change

There’s a swank new boutique in town: Hotel Felix, the first hotel designed to meet the Silver LEED rating in Chicago. According to their press release, it’s got green features for days. Organic bedding! Green cleaners! Efficient plumbing, air conditioning, and insulation! AND if you show up driving a hybrid you get free valet parking.

So what if you’re a hotel that can’t afford to invest in these structural overhauls? Well,  most hotels start out with those little placards that say things like “Save the Environment. Reuse Your Towels.” Hotel linen reuse programs can have a profound impact on the environment – according to Green Suites International, hotels with reuse programs can reduce their yearly water consumption by 72,000 gallons and their yearly detergent consumption by 480 gallons. Of course, hotel reuse programs can also have a profound effect on the blood pressure of hotel customers – check out Jill Pellettieri’s hilariously bile-filled tantrum on Slate.  Here are three ways hotel managers can effectively boost participation in their linen reuse programs without irritating their guests:

1. Peer pressure: It’s not just for deviants anymore!

Robert B. Cialdini ran an elegant little experiment in a high-end hotel in Phoenix. His team crafted four appeals for linen reuse, distributed them across 260 rooms randomly, and then sat back and counted towels. One of the four messages outperformed the hell out of the other three – guess which:

Message 1: Help save the environment

Message 2: Help save resources for future generations

Message 3: Partner with us to save the environment

Message 4: Join your fellow citizens in helping to save the environment. The majority of hotel guests reuse their towells when asked.

Anyone who started smoking in high school should have gotten this one right: Message 4 outperformed the other three messages by an average of 34%.  Participation rates went up even higher when the message was tweaked to indicate that other guests who stayed in that specific room had participated.

2. Show your range

Make sure your customers know that you have a range of sustainability initiatives. If your guests think that your sole green initiative is the linen reuse program they will draw two conclusions:

  • That you are expecting your paying customers to do all the work for you
  • That “going green” is an excuse to guilt your customers out their right to wallow in piles of the fluffy towels that they paid for

A different study Cialdini ran tested the message “Help the hotel save energy.” Talk about an epic fail – just 16% of guests responded to that appeal, about half the rate of participation generated by “save the planet” messages. This isn’t so surprising – after all, your customers want you to save THEM money, not the other way around.

3. Create reciprocity, not a quid pro quo

The best way to beat the perception that your linen reuse program is a cheap attempt to get your customers to save you money is to put your money where your mouth is. The trick is to do it right. Here are two messages based on this approach:

Message 1: Partner with us to help save the environment. In exchange for your participation in this program, we at the hotel will donate a percentage of the energy savings to a nonprofit environmental protection organization. The environment deserves our combined efforts. You can join us by reusing your towels during your stay.

Message 2: We’re doing our part for the environment. Can we count on you? Because we are committed to preserving the environment, we have made a financial contribution to a nonprofit environmental protection organization on behalf of the hotel and its guests. If you would like to help us in recovering the expense, while conserving natural resources, please reuse your towels during your stay.

Message 1 pulled in a 35% participation rate, which is actually less than the 37% that standard “save the planet” signs generate. Message 2 pulled in a 47% participation rate, which is 10% over the average. When you make contributing to a non-profit a conditional offer, customers shrug and prefer to donate on their own time. But when you put your money on the line first and invite people to join your efforts, customers will help you out. And considering that hotel water bills can total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the savings from increased participation should be able to pay for a donation to the Sierra Club.

As with so many things, creating behavior change is all about HOW you ask, not WHAT you ask.


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[…] push any button they can find over and over and over until the teacher drags them away. But research shows that people are more likely to change their behavior when they get social cues showing them that […]

Pingback by Climate Change at the Field Museum: The Good, the Bad and the Corporate. « Chicago Green Jobs

This is the fourth article, of your site I personally read.
However , I actually like this 1, “Three Ways a Hotel Can Convince
Guests to Go Green Chicago Green Jobs” the most.

Thanks -Britt

Comment by

Yes! Finally something about airport hotel.

Comment by Resort Lower price (Hotels_Discount) upon Tweets

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