Robert Fisk’s World: We're not taken in by luxury hotels' new green awareness

If you want clean towels, you’ve got to leave them on the floor like a peasant

Share
Related Topics

We journalists are collectors. Facts (preferably true), gossip (often untrue), predictions (always, of course, correct), old newspaper clippings, photos and press handouts and – in my case – propaganda leaflets (in hopelessly ungrammatical Arabic) dropped by Israeli planes over Lebanon.

Why, I still have my reporter's notebook covered in oil spots from Kuwait, after Saddam had set the oil fields afire in 1991. Then there's the small packet in which visitors to the Fisk Memorial Library will one day find a Havana cigar ring marked "The first cigar Mohamed Heikal gave me after 29 years of friendship!" I know Mohamed, Egypt's worthiest journalist and writer, reads this column – and will appreciate the above. Long life to him.

Recently, however, I've been collecting the most irritating load of old humbug I've come across in a long time, ever more frequently, alas, and doomed to be a constant part of our lives in this most hypocritical of ages. It's one thing to pick up the glossy advertising kits of arms manufacturers – "All for One and One for All" is the motto for the Boeing's Hellfire air-to-ground missile, without apologies to Dumas – or the codswallop from the oil conglomerates about how they are saving the earth. But the latest tomfoolery to come my way – all travelling readers will have come across the same nonsense – is the little card that lies upon my hotel pillow, exhorting me to spare the relevant spa, hostelry or caravanserai the cost and bother of cleaning my sheets, pillowcases or towels. This epidemic of cant comes in all colours and continents. I've got the message in Los Angeles, Cairo, Istanbul, Ottawa, Limerick, wherever hotel managements have started to think green – green as in dollars, I mean.

So let's kick off with the friendly old Hyatt. The very word "Conserve" is literally imprinted on their little card. And here goes the script: "As part of Hyatt's commitment to conserve the environment, we will change bed linens and towels as necessary or upon request. If you wish to have your linens and towels replaced daily, please contact the hotel operator." Note that wonderful word "commitment". Like "mission statement" (another piece of twaddle), it reeks of gravitas and seriousness of purpose. And what does "as necessary" mean? When the sheets or towels have reached such a deplorable, smelly state that even the room-maid cannot stand them? And note how you have to work to maintain daily cleanliness at the Hyatt... It is you who have to call the operator if you decline to accept this lovely "green" idea.

Across the channel now to that pinnacle of sixth arrondissement luxury, the Hotel Lutetia. "YOU DECIDE," it says at the top of the English-language pillow card. "Kindly be informed that only towels left in the bathtub or on the floor will be changed by your housekeeper. Thanking you for helping us to act for the environment." This really is great stuff. Firstly, there's the legalistic "kindly be informed" – it's not in the French version – which is a command that totally negates the "you decide" buffoonery at the top. Then there's the grubby suggestion that if you want to have clean towels, you've got to chuck them in the bath or leave them all over the floor like a peasant. And all this, please note, so that the Lutetia can "act for the environment". Like, er, was it actually given a special mandate to act on behalf of the world, a master (or mistress) of morality and honour?

So down to Cairo for some more flummery in a country where three words are always better than one – or, in the case of the Marriott Hotel on Gezira Island – where 108 are better than none. There's the usual stuff about commitment to "practices that preserve our natural resources"; it's followed by the weird suggestion that "while it is our practice (sic again) to change your bed linens (sic) every day, we are supportive of our guests' desire to help protect the environment and accordingly to change your bed linens after every third night of your stay." This is imperishable. The Marriott wants to clean our bed linen every day, yet it knows that we – the paying guests – want it to stay dirty. And so they will, unless you request otherwise. Then – and remember that Cairo is one of the dirtiest, most polluted, garbage-soaked cities in the world – there is this fantastical ending: "Working together, we can conserve millions of litres of water ... and minimise the release of detergents into the environment." Even in smog-filled LA, the Hilton thanked me for "helping us to conserve the earth's vital resources".

Off to tough-minded Turkey then, where the best airport hotel in Istanbul informs me: "You surely know that tons of detergent and water are being consumed day by day to wash towels that have been used for a short period only." Like the Marriott in Cairo, I have to leave the stuff on the floor if I want clean towels. "Thanks,' the Turkish pillow card concludes "for your contruibution (sic) to the (sic) nature." All "sics" go, you surely know!

But what a glow seizes the heart of Lord Fisk when shown to his suite at the Castletroy Park Hotel in Limerick. "Future generations will be thankful to you" – I kid thee not, O Reader – "for helping them to have a greener environment." Future generations, ye gods. And they're actually going to be grateful to little ol' me if I leave the towels on the bathroom rail for reuse. But cross the Atlantic with me, to the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa which is, of course, "committed to conserving our natural resources", etc etc. So I have to put their itsy-bitsy card out if I want my bed clothes changed. Did Churchill do this when he stayed there? "Thank you for helping us to be environmentally conscious."

None of this, you understand, has anything to do with saving the costs of cleaning and detergents. Oh no, indeed. It is we – who pay the bills – who are helping them, the five-star hotels, to look after the environment. Of course, if they really cared about all that green stuff, they'd hang a notice above the bathroom saying "Use Less Bloody Water!" But then again, I suspect that water charges are a fixed price – and the environment can be thrown out with the bath water.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Lib Dem MPs have criticised David Cameron's decision to ask the retail tycoon Sir Philip Green (above) to lead a spending review when his Arcadia company is registered in the name of his Monaco-based wife  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
Crofter's cottages on Lewis. The island's low population density makes it a good candidate for a spaceport (Alamy)  

My Scottish awakening, helped by horizontal sleet

Simon Kelner
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat