Reusing Hotel Towels Actually Does Make a Difference

Laundry accounts for 16 percent of hotels’ water usage, which translates into significant energy costs

Photo: Joel Kramer

Dubious hotel guests who spot a sign reading something along the lines of "Please save our planet - reuse your towel" might assume this is just a money-saving ploy spun up by the company. By putting an environmental spin on towel washing, the hotel saves on the labor cost of restocking and washing all of those extra towels and sheets. It turns out, however, that reusing towels and not changing sheets every day really does save significant amounts of water and energy. 

Here's National Geographic, reporting on the data supporting this finding: 

For years, many hotels have been offering their guests the chance to skip washing towels and sheets every day, in a bid to save water and energy.

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.

Contrary to what you might assume, toilets and showers—not swimming pools—account for the majority of a hotel's water usage, NatGeo continues. At 16 percent, laundry, however, is tied for second place, along with landscaping.  

Cutting back on laundry expenditures—water-wise and energy-wise—brings results. When Caesars in Las Vegas installed more efficient laundry facilities and began emphasizing its mission to conserve water, it saved around 30 million gallons of water in a year, which translates into "a savings of about $135,000 to $218,000 per year" on water heating, NatGeo writes. 

To try and encourage other hotels to get in line with environmental savings, the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced the WaterSense H2Otel Challenge. The program provides water-saving tips and ways to track the monetary savings that result from making those changes. Guests, of course, can do their part, too.

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