Should you reuse your hotel towel?

Many of you will have stayed in a hotel that asks you to ‘look after the environment’ by reusing your towel. So, should you reuse your hotel towel?

Sure, there’s the argument for doing your part to save the planet – and it’s a bloody good argument. But don’t be fooled into thinking that a hotel owner cares about saving the planet. If they did, they probably wouldn’t have built a multi-story building and resort complex on a once pristine Bali beach.

Unless you’re staying in some fancy eco-lodge in the hinterland, then no, the bottom line is what matters most to a hotel. But is that any reason to not be a good eco-soldier yourself?

Let’s start the debate with how hotels go about requesting towel reuse. Most will guilt-trip you into making the right choice by telling you how washing towels wastes water and electricity, and how your holiday towel usage is ruining the world. No one likes a guilt-tripper, and those people will be the ones most likely to ask for fresh towels just to stick it up ‘em.

Then there are the smart hotels that present the ‘this is how much water other guests saved by reusing their towels’ mantra. Still a bit guilt-trippy but, in my opinion, this tack is more likely to make me want to reuse my towel.

On the other hand, there’s the ‘I’m on holiday’ justification. And if you’re a clean-towel-a-day kind of tourist, then treat yourself. No judgment here (well, there’s a little bit of judgment!).

However, you don’t wash your towel each day at home. Do you? And no one is asking you to use a sopping wet towel. If that’s the case, ask for a nice dry one.

But if you can reuse your towel at least once during your stay, you’re doing your teeny-tiny part towards saving the planet. Every little bit helps.

Here’s a juicy National Geographic statistic that should get you thinking:

The American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates that the request reduces the number of loads of laundry washed—as well as the related water, sewer, energy, and labor costs—by 17 percent. The association also notes that such programs increase the lifespan of towels and linens, thus reducing replacement costs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that hotels and other lodgings use about 15 percent of the total water taken up by commercial and institutional facilities in the United States, according to agency spokesperson Carissa Cyran. The commercial and institutional sector, in turn, is responsible for about 17 percent of the withdrawals from U.S. public water systems.

Although you can almost guarantee that the money a hotel saves on not washing your towel will not translate to less expensive accommodation, you shouldn’t let a hotel’s push for profit prevent you from putting the planet first.

Do you reuse your hotel towels? If not, why not? Have you seen a reuse request sign that’s put you off wanting to do the right thing by the planet?

Related articles:
Hotel requests you should be making
Hotel room fails
Hotel extras you actually need

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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