First It Was Plastic Straws. Then Single Sized Toiletries. Next Up? Hotel Slippers

by SharonKurheg

The concept of saving the planet got its strongest foothold in the 1970s. Since then, and especially in the last decade or so, people have begun to realize that there may be better options than single-use bags, cutlery, bottles, etc., along with items that can’t be recycled.

Hotels take a stand

Hotels have picked up on that trend and have been doing their own “trimming of stuff in the name of the environment” over the years.

For decades already, hotels have suggested guests reuse their towels, instead of getting fresh ones every day, in a bid to save on the water needed to wash them (I’m sure their laundry bills being lower might have been in the back of their minds, as well).

Then, in the late 2010s, hotel brands around the world began banning the use of plastic straws in their respective establishments, to reduce their contribution of unrecyclable plastics.

This was followed by hotel brand after hotel brand (and sometimes state after state) banning the distribution of single-sized toiletries in an effort to decrease plastics in landfills.

In more recent years, more and more hotels have stopped giving plastic bottles of water in guests’ rooms and installed hydration stations in various areas of the property (and if someone didn’t bring a reusable water bottle with them, BONUS!, the hotel could sell them one!).

So what’s potentially next on the guillotine? Hotel slippers.

a pair of white slippers next to a basket of towels

PC: The Ritz-Carlton Shops

What’s wrong with hotel slippers?

Environmental groups say they’re a single-use item.

“Anything single-use is problematic,” Willy Legrand, a sustainable hospitality expert and a professor at the IU International University of Applied Sciences in Germany, recently told the New York Times in an interview.

“Waste from hotel slippers may seem minor when compared to larger issues like energy consumption, food waste or water usage,” Legrand continued. “However, at the end of the day, every bit of waste adds up and increasing attention is being paid to these aspects as part of a broader sustainable industry approach.”

However, slippers might not be as easy to ban, for a couple of reasons.

Cultural implications

Slippers are a big deal in Asia. And a hotel – especially a higher-end one – offering slippers for the room (similar to what’s done in Asian homes; for sanitation reasons, regular shoes are left at the door and people wear slippers in the house. They may also wear a different pair of slippers in the bathroom) is also a big deal.

“As hotels started to cater to international guests, particularly those from Asia, the provision of slippers became a way to accommodate and respect these cultural norms,” sustainability expert Verde Nieto told the New York Times.

Status implications

Suggesting people bring their own slippers might be seen as gauche. Even if you wash a pair of slippers, who’d want to wear ones that other people have worn, as is often done with bathrobes?

“Our guests are very demanding and expect everything brand new,”said Ivan Bauza, the director of sales and marketing at the Setai, a luxury hotel in Miami Beach.

Even in the U.S., slippers are a way to show that a hotel is higher end. They’re even part of how AAA awards their diamond to a hotel or resort. From AAA’s Lodging Approval Requirements & Diamond Rating Guidelines (PDF, pg. 28)
a white text with black text

What will the future hold?

The fight against hotel slippers is pretty new, so it’s hard to say where exactly it will go. Right now, some hoteliers are looking at more eco-friendly slippers made from Jute, bamboo or recycled plastic. Others are encouraging guests to bring their own slippers. Still others offer higher-end slippers “on demand,” and then guests are encouraged to bring them home and continue to reuse them.

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David May 8, 2024 - 2:14 pm

Does anyone over the age of ten use a straw? If you drink from a plastic water bottle then you’re getting a dose of microplastics with every sip. And I can’t imagine using hotel slippers and robes (who hangs out in their hotel room in a robe, anyway?). They seem like a gauche attempt to make a place feel classier than it is. People, you can easily bring your own alternatives (and healthier alternatives) to all those times.

SharonKurheg May 8, 2024 - 2:16 pm

Ask any adult who’s ever had a cocktail, or a boozy milkshake, if they still use straws. They do.

David May 8, 2024 - 10:09 pm

“all those items,” not “all those times.” Yes, there are some situations where an adult might use a straw. Perhaps make straws one of those items that needs to be asked for, rather than handed out by default. Plastic is killing the planet, so if one wants/needs a straw then one of the many non-plastic straw options available out there should be used.

dee May 8, 2024 - 6:09 pm

Straws make it easier for Adults or children with certain disabilities to drink from a cup without lifting it!!!Esp good in nursing homes as clients have a hard time with hand-motor control.

robbo May 9, 2024 - 6:22 am

You mean the big containers of shampoo, conditioner and body wash that they don’t refill 9 times out of 10 because housekeepers cannot see the level of the chemicals inside and when it happens to me more often than not I scream like a stuffed pig to make them come and refill the b*****ds…. and then after that, I go down to breakfast and see polystyrene plates, bowls, I see plastic knives and forks and spoons all wrapped in plastic. The whole damn thing is a friggin’ joke, nothing more than attempt to save money except if you deliberately use a full bottle of shampoo or body wash LOL. The hotels are bloody frauds and need to be called out for it. They s**t me up the wall
(comment edited by YMMV to edit NSFW language and remove rude commentary)


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