Every time I stay in a hotel (and nowadays, with all the travel I’m doing to promote my book, I’m getting to visit more and more of them), I inevitably roll my eyes at the preponderance of single-sized, plastic-packaged amenities: little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and single-sized soaps. Sure, many guests love them and stuff them in their luggage to take home, but does that justify their wasteful existence? I’ve blogged many times before about saying no to single sizes, which have a higher ratio of plastic packaging to product than larger sizes, and now an Albuquerque luxury hotel is promoting the same message by providing a better alternative: bulk amenities.
Not Like At the Gym
But let me back up a bit because offering personal care products to guests is not a new idea. The showers at my gym have dispensers for body wash/shampoo afixed to the wall, as do all of the hostels I have stayed in during my travels. The problem for hotels that cater to a more upscale class of traveler is that this doesn’t look so great:
I can advocate switching to bulk products until I’m blue in the face, but as one hotel manager explained to me a while back, guests don’t want to spend big bucks on a luxury room and then feel like they’re showering at the gym or at a hostel. You or I might not mind, but this message won’t get too far if we can’t convince the mainstream.
Back in 2010, I stayed at the Sheraton Delfina in Santa Monica, California, while in town for the TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch conference and was pleasantly surprised to find larger sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner in the shower.
However, I did wonder how the hotel kept guests from packing them up in their luggage to take home. And sadly, the rest of the amenities in the room were still single-sized.
Hotel Andaluz Makes Bulk Beautiful
So last month, when I received an email press release from luxury Hotel Andaluz touting all the eco-friendly steps it had taken, I was particularly interested to notice at the bottom of a long list of environmental initiatives that included energy efficiency, sustainable materials, rainwater capture, and composting, there was a statement that all guest amenities come in refillable, fixed dispenser bottles. Well, I thought, that’s a shift. So I arranged to speak with the general manager, Howard Jacobs, to find out how the hotel managed to provide personal care products in bulk and still maintain its high end aesthetic.
Howard explained that after doing so much work to create a LEED certified building, they wanted to find more ways to sustain that model and noticed that they were discarding thousands of pounds of wasted product per year from the single-sized containers. Sure, they can be recycled. And unopened ones can be donated. But a less wasteful system would be to eliminate the single-sized containers in the first place. So they searched for a high quality brand of personal care products that could be purchased in bulk and mounted the bottles to the bathroom walls in such a way that they can’t easily be removed.
The brand they settled on is Molton Brown. The ingredients of Molton Brown products are not listed on the website, but you can call or email customer service for that information. The point that interests me here is not so much the product but the means of dispensing it. It’s clear from images I captured from the Hotel Andaluz website that the atmosphere of the guest bathrooms is not degraded in any way by the existence of bulk hair wash, conditioner, shower gel, lotion, and soap.
The bottles mounted to the wall each hold 10 oz of product, but they are refilled from 5 liter containers. The wall mount hardware was put in previously by Pacific Products and ensures the bottles cannot be removed without a wrench. Of course, the bottles and containers are plastic, and plastic-free bulk containers would be an even better solution. (If they’re mounted to the wall and can’t break, why not make them out of glass?), but one step at a time, right?
What You Can Do
Of course, if you’re in Albuquerque and want to stay in a luxurious green hotel, you can support Hotel Andaluz’s efforts. But I didn’t write this post to advertise for that hotel, and I have received nothing from the hotel in exchange. (Although I have to say, if I get to come to Albuquerque to promote my book at some point, I would love to stay there. Hint. Hint.) No, my main point is that this is a great example that other hotels could follow.
The next time you stay in a hotel that provides single-use plastic containers of personal care products, let the management know that you would prefer less wasteful, less plastic bulk products. And then, you can point them to Hotel Andaluz as an example of how such a system can reduce waste without losing elegance.