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Anyone who has stayed at a hotel before is familiar with the small signs in the bathroom that ask hotel guests to consider reusing their towels in an effort to help the environment.
While it's easy to write the signs off and assume that reusing a towel won't make much of a difference in the long run anyway, that assumption is actually wrong.
According to National Geographic, an estimate from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that hotels and lodgings use 15% of the total amount of water that's used by commercial and institutional facilities in the country.
And those facilities take 17% — close to one fifth — of the water that is available from America's public water systems.
Even more surprising is how much of a hotel's water supply is used for laundry. Besides bathrooms — which account for 30% of hotels' water usage — laundry uses up the most amount of water (16%), the EPA reports.
Swimming pools, in comparison, account for less than 1% of hotels' water use.
So yes, reducing the amount of laundry a hotel has to do definitely makes a difference when it comes to reducing our environmental footprint. And if every guest in every hotel keeps their towel for as long as possible, that translates to a lot of water conservation.
Hotel managers agree that reusing towels does have an impact. And according to Michael O'Shaughnessy, manager of the New Hampshire Marriott property Wentworth By The Sea Hotel and Spa, encouraging guests to keep their towels has little to do with cutting costs for the hotel.
"You might save us a little bit of money, but at the end of the day not too much," O'Shaughnessy says. "For us it's more important to be able to give the guest a choice because there are a lot more guests now that are pretty conscious of that nowadays."
Plus, the prospect of using a new towel everyday is just not that exciting when you really think about it. Sure, a fresh towel may smell and feel slightly nicer than an already-used towel, but that's pretty much the only difference.
And if a new towel a day is what you're really looking forward to on your vacation, you may want to reevaluate your priorities to focus a little more on the destination you're visiting.
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