As a frequent hotel guest, I used to look forward to flopping down on my freshly made bed, resting my head on up to four pillows and feeling, if only for one evening, that I had nestled into the lap of luxury.
Now I feel as if I'm wedged under the armpit of guilt. Darn you, federal government!
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently gave the University of Tulsa a $15,000 grant to develop a device that, when attached to hotel shower heads, lets guests monitor their water consumption, in turn promoting water conversation. Opponents say this amounts to spying on guests as they lather up while others fear the device will shut off the water mid-rinse once a certain threshold is reached. The EPA denies both claims but the grant includes development of a smartphone app that will double as a guilt meter. Once downloaded, overnight lodgers can view their H2O usage via their iPhones and see for themselves what selfish (but sparking clean) cretins they've become.
My pangs of insensitivity toward our planet actually began years ago when the Green Hotels Association began littering rooms with towel rack hangers and sheet changing cards asking me to (GASP!) consider using my linens more than once. Excuse me? Sleep under sheets for multiple days? Never mind that, in college, I washed my sheets once a semester, usually as a respite from final exam preparation. Now I'm staying in elite hotel chains, charging equally elite prices. Crumb-free sheets should come with $11.95 Wi-Fi.
I feel the same way each time the bathroom towel card implores me to hang my dripping wet towels back on the rack, signifying my intent to reuse them. If the hotel was really counting on me to save the planet, the desk clerk would hand me a single towel with my room key and say, "Welcome to Camp Hyatt!" Instead, between four and six fresh, fluffy towels await me in most bathrooms, all saying, "Pick me, pick me!" Naturally, I oblige.
Now before all you hemp-wearing, tree-hugging readers of this column take to social media and call me every environmentally unflattering name in the dictionary, allow me to defend myself. I do make multiple efforts to keep our earth sustainable for future generations. My recycle bin is always the most jam-packed in my neighborhood. I fill biodegradable poop bags with my dog's business and curse the owner of the German Shepherd down the block for not doing the same. Never once have I considered burning leaves and fouling the air with noxious particulates.
But we all have our weaknesses when it comes to conservation, right? Mine just happen to occur in hotels. Sure, I'll deposit my empty mini-bar bottles into the in-room recycling container but I'm not averse to taking long, hot showers under those high-tech, pulsating, squirt-water-everywhere showerheads that have become standard in many hotel chains. At The American Club in Kohler, Wis., my shower featured four spray areas aimed at targeted body parts. Unbeknownst to me, all could be activated at once. I probably used 100 gallons of water before I stopped screaming. Eventually I figured out which handle to turn and had the shower of a lifetime.
So have at it Tulsa researchers, but I think you're fighting an uphill battle until the hotels themselves either install low-pressure heads in every bathroom -- penthouse suite included -- or drop their rates to Motel 6 prices. At $29 a night, I assume my shower experience will be lukewarm at best. At $300 a night, I'll shower until my skin assumes the texture of a breakfast prune.
But here's an environmentally-conscious idea: How about developing a hotel bathrobe made entirely from hemp?
2015 GREG SCHWEM. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.