Friday, October 14, 2016

Aren't humans a little weird?

Just a little note about something I noticed a few days ago in a hotel room. Note the ubiquitous sign where they ask you whether you want to be environmentally friendly by not having your towel replaced. I don't think there remains a single hotel in the whole world where they don't ask you that.

But, in this case, the sign is placed right near the tower rail heating system; it is electric, not part of the room heating system. And there is no obvious way to turn it off in case you feel that your towels are warm enough at the temperature of the room.

Maybe you could make an LCA study that will tell you that an electric rail-heating system is less energy hungry than having a towel washed. Or maybe not. But it is funny that how successful a plea for being environmentally friendly can be. And how meaningless, considering the amount of energy that the people staying in hotels must have used to get there.

So, in the end, asking you if you want your towel washed or not seems more than all a little propitiatory spell to make you feel good. Maybe you flew there all the way from the other side of the world, spwing untold amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. But, what the hell, you are a friend of the environment and you will keep your wet towels on that electrically heated rail!

Aren't humans a little weird?


  1. There is illiteracy, lately the term innumeracy has been coined for people without mathematical skills, and i'd like to coin a third term for people lacking the most basic physics capabilities, like a feeling for what action creates much entropy or not.
    Inphysiracy would be a proposition, but it's really not elegant! If we take it for the moment, it is safe to say, that the vast majority of people are inphysirate. What to do about it?

  2. There must be a training manual for hotel operators, with a chapter called "How to Appear Environmentally Conscious While Lowering Your Cost of Laundry By 25 Percent" or something along those lines.

    Probably written by the same genius who came up with Carbon Credits.

  3. It's called displacement. Watch Prof J Kroth on YouTube.

  4. Saving money and being environmentally frendly often match. Saving money requires for example to:
    - use less water
    - use less soap
    - use a soap with less perfume and less other chemicals that are not directly usefull
    - use less paper
    - use less energy
    - keep electronic devices, cars... as long as possible

    Examples of environmentally frendly saving has no end.

    Best regards,


  5. Ugo - a little anecdote that I hope won't depress you further. I work as a cleaner of holiday homes to earn a little cash - having taking the advice of 'collapse now and avoid the rush'. Three weeks ago a single 50-something man came to stay at one and he said he was interested in surfing. He had with him a wet suit. Over the holiday he went out surfing a couple of times a day and came back and put his wetsuit on an eclair contraption he had brought along that dries out wetsuits in a matter of minutes.

    During his stay a couple of his friends came to stay also (driving six hours from London "We do it every weekend!"), and they too brought their wetsuit drying heaters. They also insisted on all the bedding and towels changing every few days.

    Anyway, when he finally left and I went to get the place ready for the next guests I made a note of the electricity reading, which I am supposed to do for the owner. I was quite surprised by the numbers and calculated that the man had used an average of 49kWh each day of his stay!

    He also left lots of empty beer and wine bottles for me with a note asking if could drive them to the recycling bank for him. I guess he considers himself an eco kind of guy ...

    I do wonder what people are going to do when they can't waste so much energy.

  6. by never taking a holiday once in my entire adult life [i'm 48], i must have saved hotels a staggering amount on their laundry bill. i have also saved car makers a lot of effort by not buying their cars.

  7. When I was down in LA a couple of years ago, a waitress asked me if I wanted water with my meal. Many were foregoing water to "help with the drought".

    Thing is, I'd taken a good look out the plane on the way into Burbank, and had taken careful note of all the fully-filled backyard swimming pools. Not to mention the fact that I'm aware of the hundreds of gallons of water used to raise 1lb of Californian beef.

    "I'd like a glass of water, please".



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014)