Is luxury defined by disdain for shutting off lights? It would seem so if one listens to managers thinking about adding environmental features to their hotels. Speaking about a system widely used in Europe, a master switch that is activated by your room keycard when you enter, US hoteliers expressed skepticism about the acceptance of this in the US.

It is an easy way to conserve energy. Yet it is almost never seen in the United States. Guests who are in a hurry — or simply don’t care about saving electricity — leave TVs, air-conditioners and lights on when there is no one in the room. Brian McGuinness, a vice president of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, explained the mind-set of some travelers: “Part of being on the road means the ability to live a little more luxuriously than at home, and that means not having to turn off the lights and the TV.”… Mr. McGuinness added, “People say they want to be green, but they don’t want to compromise.” As a result, he said, “We don’t really know yet what it means to be green in the hospitality field.”

The story then shifted to a discussion of a device that I write about a lot—the two-button toilet. Pictured above, this toilet offers the user an obvious choice. The real secret of this device is that it makes the user stop, reflect, and take responsibility by making a choice. Only a handful of hotels in the US have installed them, saying that they are afraid of customer push-back, in spite of demonstrated savings in water use and reduced loads on municipal treatment systems. The connection to sustainability is not the water savings—it is important for sure—but the awareness and responsibility for taking care of the Earth that can be generated via the need to stop and think. What has been a mindless routine action becomes a learning opportunity.

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