We’ve all seen those signs in hotel rooms encouraging us to reuse our towels.
Here’s one from the Marriott.
The cynic in me thinks, of course it would save the hotel time, and money if I reuse my towel. But fundamentally reusing towels does provide a strong benefit to the environment potentially saving 273,000 litres of water, 6200 litres of oil, and preventing nearly 200 litres of detergent from being released into the environment per hotel, per year in just the USA. So that’s really beneficial, if only we reused our towel.
Lets go back to our behaviour change model, introduced earlier.
Behaviour changes when you have motivation, ability and trigger. Lets use this idea on reusing towels.
People are generally motivated – through social acceptance and fear of the consequences – to care for the environment. So motivation is quite high…
And people certainly have the ability to hang their towels. The key barrier is lack of time, or your own behaviour conditioning to leave towels lying around. So should be easy really, everyone should reuse their towel once or twice like we do at home.
But hotel guests don’t automatically reuse towels. Part of the benefit of staying at a hotel is clean fluffy luxurious towels everyday, and to forgo that is a sacrifice, albeit small. (Its interesting to consider that to take up a new behaviour you have to drop a previous behaviour… more on this next week.
How to influence this behaviour- use a trigger. Hence signs like the one from Marriott have been appearing since the early 2000s. They work… just not so well.
A study in 2008 by Goldstein and Cialdini, though, suggests that all triggers are not created equally.
They compared the influence of a variety of hotel towel reuse signs over a three month period in a range of hotels, ending up in 1800 hotel rooms.
Here’s a summary
If the trigger focuses on a generic energy saving trigger, only 16% of guests reuse their towel. All the way through to focussing on guest behaviour in the exact room your in, reuse shoots to 49%, thats a 300% improvement.
Obviously, to us a simple sacrifice of reusing a towel in the US is maybe more of a sacrifice, and so Hotels maybe need to identify better triggers, maybe solicit guests more overtly in an environmental program around the hotel, to increase the level of motivation, which would indicate a simple trigger would be enough to prompt behaviour change.
Younger more affluent consumers do seem to be more motivated, as evidenced by the US based Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, which cultivate an edgier base of customers. About 85% of hotel guests participate in the chain’s towel and sheet reuse program, said Mike DeFrino, Kimpton’s executive vice president of hotel operations.
So I hope this example of how to use triggers and how to seek to improve triggers can assist you in your work environment.