Monday, September 13, 2010

Stressed to The Nines

These days, corporations try to appear actively engaged in making the world a better place. But so often their attempts are simply wrong-headed and neglect to take human nature into consideration.

I recently stayed at The Nines, "A Luxury Collection Hotel" in Portland, Oregon. I'm not sure if "luxury collection" means it's one in a collection of hotels or if one collects luxury there, but it's definitely a posh facility, seven or eight stories wrapped around a central atrium, all perched on top of the downtown Macy's in the heart of Pioneer Square. There is, of course, the requisite rooftop bar with outdoor terraces offering sweeping views of the city, along with several trendy restaurants frequented by Portland's most festively tattooed scruffy young things. The rooms are elaborately draped and carpeted, with 42-inch LED TVs, sea foam green velvet sofas, flocked wallpaper and marble bathrooms. And on each night stand is a card that reads:

Please note that all bedding including the duvet is cleaned prior to every arrival. We will make your bed each day. In an effort to further increase our sustainability practices at The Nines, we have also removed the top sheet of the bed. If you would prefer to have atop sheet during your stay, please contact our guest services...."

It's hard to believe that not having to launder an extra sheet per room is going to make a huge impact as to whether the Greenland Ice Shelf crashes into the sea or not, especially if the hotel has to launder or dry clean the duvet every night instead. Plus, what I quickly discovered is that when a hotel bed has no top sheet or even a light blanket, you only have the heavy down comforter as cover. So I did what I'm sure most other guests do: turn the thermostat down to 60 so the room will be chilly enough that you could hang meat in there and you'll actually need a down comforter. And what does that do but light another match under the cauldron of Global Warming?

It's great that companies like Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which owns and operates The Nines, are thinking about sustainability. But when those practices have no real-world practicality, it's simply greenwashing: the tendency for modern companies to spew the expected earth-friendly rhetoric without implementing anything that's at all likely to make "a world of difference."

And, on a separate note: as a compulsive ironer, I appreciated having a steam iron stored in the bedroom closet of my luxury suite. But could I maybe have an ironing board, too?

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