Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Please Place Towels On The Floor If You Want Them Cleaned"

Man, do hotels love trying to get you to reduce the amount of laundry you do. It's always couched in the language of saving the environment. Think of all the towels in the world being laundered after only one use! All the water! All the detergent! All the energy!

First of all, I'm not asking for all the world's towels and sheets to be cleaned, just mine. And they ain't much. I know, because I do it myself. Or, you know, pay someone, which is basically the same thing.

You know what? Now that you mention the Hindenberg-scale disaster of all those laundered towels, I'm thinking about it, and it doesn't seem like much. Not because it's not a big amount - it is. But simply because the percent of the world's energy use that goes to the unnecessary laundering of towels is basically zero. If you did nothing but devote your life to washing towels over and over at the laundromat, your actions are going to be rounding error compared with the amount of energy the aluminium smelter down the road uses on a given days.

And even when the total amount still seems like a large number, that's mainly because if you take absolutely anything and aggregate it over the whole planet, it becomes huge. Think how many miles of cotton are wasted every day by people pulling on loose threads on their shirts, jackets and pants. It would be enough to stretch to Pluto! It would be enough to manufacture garments for all of the starving children of Guinea Bissau! It would be enough to let 300 tired garment workers take a whole extra year of vacation! etc. etc. etc.

The reality is that the hotel cares about the environment only to the extent that it cares about its profits. Which is fine - that's how capitalism generally works.

But you'll forgive me for not getting all misty-eyed about how I need to sacrifice so that the hotel makes twelve cents more profit.

Screw that. You know the Holmes motto? No Linen Too Fresh! It's my contribution to the Keynesian stimulus that I'm reliably told the economy desperately needs.

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