sheraton hotels' "green choice" is really just precarious work

These days, most hotel rooms contain some sort of green messaging, as companies are expected to show how eco-friendly they are. Usually guests have the option of not having their towels changed daily, which is supposed to yield big energy savings.

Last week at the Sheraton Parkway in Toronto, I learned that Sheraton's green policy is not exactly as advertised. I don't know if this qualifies as greenwashing, but it is certainly not full disclosure. The card reads:
Conserving water, energy and other resources is rewarding for you and great for the environment. Enjoy a $5 voucher at participating food and beverage outlets or 500 Starpoints® awarded at check-out for each night you decline housekeeping (except day of departure). It feels good to conserve.

To participate in the Make a Green Choice program, please tell us at check-in or look for the door hanger in your guestroom.
It may feel good to conserve, but your conservation doesn't feel good to hotel workers. For each guest who uses this program, a worker's hours are cut.

As I looked around my room, I could easily identify many ways Sheraton could be greener. For starters, disposable coffee cups could be replaced with mugs. Tiny plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion could be replaced with hanging dispensers. Why are any hotels using those tiny bottles anymore? That's a lot of plastic.

Sheraton participates in Clean the World, which distributes unused soap and shampoo products to third-world countries. I don't know how effective this program is, or how many Sheraton hotels participate in it, but the best way to cut down on landfill waste is to create less waste.

On this Sheraton's website (scroll down to "Highlights"), there is a list of all their green initiatives. Some are significant, some are just padding. But less impact on the planet shouldn't mean less work for low-wage, precarious workers.

Next time you stay at a Sheraton, please don't Make a Green Choice. Sheraton should find ways to reduce that don't reduce workers' paycheques.

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