Help us save energy so that we can help you save your $.
February 20, 2011 6:27 AM   Subscribe

I run a medium sized (70 room) hotel with my family. The cost of our utilities is a continuing concern for the hotel. Guests routinely check-out of their rooms and leave all of the lights on, heater/air-conditioning on, television and radio playing. There are also incidents where the tap water is left running. We realize that there is a mentality that once the cost of the room has been determined, the guest assumes that they may "use" as much of the room/utility as they can. My question: is there a way for the hotel to place a small sign by the light-switch or the door that advises guests to help us conserve energy without being perceived as rude or cheap? Additionally, how would the wording on the sign read?

Some signage that I have seen at various work-places:

"Stop Energy: Turn off the lights when you leave the room."
"To help our environment, turn off the light when appropriate."
"Do your part, turn it off."

These signs ususally have trees or light-bulbs or other eco-friendly images.
posted by Fizz to Work & Money (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
As you wrote yourself: "Help us conserve energy" sounds good. That, and a clean and classic line-art drawing of a finger turning a light switch off. It's respectful and a tiny little bit mysterious. Mystery is good - gets attention, snags people's thoughts.
posted by krilli at 6:32 AM on February 20, 2011


Please help us conserve energy.
Turn off lights and TV when you leave.


I'd suggest a light mention of this at check in. Just ask for their cooperation.
posted by JayRwv at 6:33 AM on February 20, 2011


Discussion with other workers here is split, some think it rude, others think it is appropriate.
posted by Fizz at 6:33 AM on February 20, 2011


I think you could put a small sign in the room. Say, "This hotel is dedicated to green technology and energy conservation. We do x, y, and z. You could help us by doing your part. Turn off the water and AC when you leave."

I would not be offended by that at all in a hotel room. In fact, if you told me some of the other green things you do, it might endear me to the hotel even more.
posted by Flood at 6:41 AM on February 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


Bear in mind that the sort of people that leave everything on are often aware that it isn't very polite to the hotel (and, as you say, don't care through "I paid for the room, so who cares) or are completely oblivious anyway and don't notice things being on or off.

I'm sure you know this, but consider that (as the major offenders) how likely are they to be swayed by any sort of sign, graphic or request? Maybe 10% at most? At which point whether it is polite or not becomes pretty much moot. If you offend anyone, it's possibly a net loss as it's upsetting people that most likely don't need to be told to turn things off anyway.

A lot of hotels have those keycard slots that need a key in it to retain power to the major elements of the room. Maybe consider how much a system like this would cost versus utilities over the next major period - ie on utilities alone, how long would it take for the system to pay for itself?

I think you will have minimal effect on people with a sign, personally.
posted by Brockles at 6:42 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


A simple sign is fine. I would not be offended. In this day and age of increasing energy costs, I would appreciate attempts by my hotel to keep the cost of the room low by encouraging me to remember to turn off lights when I leave.

I would suggest that you probably don't want as customers anyone who would find that "rude", they are probably a larger liability than just the cost of the light they turn on.

Put up a sign, and put a "thank you!" at the bottom.
posted by tomswift at 6:45 AM on February 20, 2011


Just a a final derail on this:

http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/hotel-power-card-switch.html

The switches are really lots cheaper than I expected, too. $5-10 each. There's be some rewiring costs, but maybe this is an option you hadn't considered? I'm shocked how cheap they are, actually.
posted by Brockles at 6:46 AM on February 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Have you investigated technological fixes? I've been to hotels where the power to the room wouldn't go on unless you had your key card in a slot by the door. So you enter the room and put your key card in the power slot and the lights and power go on in the room. When you leave, you take your key card and the power is cut.
posted by j03 at 6:51 AM on February 20, 2011


Have you investigated technological fixes? I've been to hotels where the power to the room wouldn't go on unless you had your key card in a slot by the door. So you enter the room and put your key card in the power slot and the lights and power go on in the room. When you leave, you take your key card and the power is cut.

I very much like this idea but we unfortunately do not have the budget for such an expensive install at this time. We're struggling to break-even as is. So we're attempting to find smaller fixes. Whenever a guest checks out of a room we immediately walk down to the room and make sure everything is shut off, but ideally we'd like people to live a bit more ecologically and environmentally sound.
posted by Fizz at 6:53 AM on February 20, 2011


I'd think people would be more put off by the suggestion that they reuse towels than at a reminder to turn off the lights/thermostat when they leave - and the towel thing is near-universal now, it seems to me. As in the wording suggestions above, something along the lines of "please help us conserve our natural resources" seems to be standard.

(Totally mystified by why/how anyone would leave a faucet running after leaving the room.)
posted by lakeroon at 6:53 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think Brockles has a good idea. Judging from your past posts, you're approaching sign-overload. You might walk though as a customer would, and see how many signs are shouting for their attention and study.

We'll be right back! Don't touch! Only take one! Order a pizza! No towels in the pool area! Not responsible for lost items! No parking! Help us conserve! No smoking! Check out by 10!

At a certain point, it is easier to read none of the signs (and it's a little annoying to see to many). An automated system eliminates at least one sign.
posted by Houstonian at 6:54 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I stayed at The Hoxton Hotel in East London last year, they had a really witty sign in the bathroom about towels, power, water etc - I can't google it but it was like 'yeah, yeah, smashing hotels like ours asking punters to turn off lights n water n stuff sounds like we just want to save money - and of course, we love to save money! But we also care about karma, being good global citizens, yadda yadda. Help us do our bit while you do your bit. Turn stuff off when you leave your room, save the polar bears, leave some coal for the future. Thanks!"

Or this is quite a cute idea.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:57 AM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think Brockles has a good idea. Judging from your past posts, you're approaching sign-overload. You might walk though as a customer would, and see how many signs are shouting for their attention and study.

I know in the past I have asked about other signage issues. We did in fact refrain from putting up a sign in the breakfast area as it seemed rude, we've just bought the bullet on that bit of cost.

Inside of the rooms there is actually very little signage. There has been discussion about signage for towel reusage but my father (owner) thinks that it is rude.

I agree Houstonian that too many signs is also not a good thing (cost of replacing signs, tacky clutter).

We just lack the money to do massive installs of the type that have been suggested. We're constantly playing a game where we try to save as much as we can without damaging the guest's overall experience, a delicate balance.
posted by Fizz at 6:59 AM on February 20, 2011


"To assist us in conserving energy and keeping your room rates low, please turn off the lights as you leave the room."
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:02 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think "Help Us Conserve Energy: Please turn off the lights when you leave the room" is a good sign and not rude. Also, I'll counter your impression that everyone who leaves the lights on has the mentality that you describe with the fact that travel is really stressful these days. When I'm hurrying to get to an airport, I sometimes forget to turn things off. It's not that I feel entitled to abuse the room, it's that I'm very stressed and make mistakes. I would appreciate a sign reminding me to check on my surroundings before leaving the room. I also like the whole towel thing, as I often felt it was wasteful to wash towels everyday.
posted by bluefly at 7:05 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like the idea of the mysterious finger flipping off the light switch along with a slogan that's not overly sexy but sorta subtle, like:

"Embrace Being Green"
"Luxuriously Green"
"Green never goes out of style"
"Bringing green back."



If it weren't more risque, I'd recommend something like:
"Burn Calories, Not Oil"
"Take care of the earth. She'll take care of you."
etc.
posted by DisreputableDog at 7:07 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just about every hotel room I've been in lately has signage in the bathrooms informing people about their efforts to save resources and that hint that they would rather not replace the towels every day. I'm certainly not offended by that, and I appreciate their efforts. If there was a similar sign regarding conserving energy (i.e. turn off the lights/TV), I'd not think anything untoward about it.

As for what the signs should say, check here and here for energy conservation posters and signs. The examples they include are straightforward and, IMHO, inoffensive.
posted by jenny76 at 7:22 AM on February 20, 2011


If there must be a sign I would prefer something along the lines of 'You can help us keep rates low by turning off the lights when you leave' in lieu of a greenwash. The dishonesty in the blither about "to help our environment," when both parties are very much aware that it is about money, would rankle -- not the request or the signage.
posted by kmennie at 7:26 AM on February 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


There's been specific research about what kinds of message are most effective at altering people's conservation behaviour - in hotel rooms! The most effective signs were room-specific and referenced previous guests' behaviour. I think the details are in either in Influence or Yes! (and maybe both, but they're both great books).
posted by clicking the 'Post Comment' button at 7:30 AM on February 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Add a line reminding folks to check for chargers they may have left plugged in. That's useful enough that I'd comply with the rest of the sign in thanks.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:55 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


To add to what "post comment" mentioned, my first thought when reading the "please save energy" sign suggestion was not that it was rude, but that it might result in guests doing to exact opposite behavior, subconsciously or not.

I was thinking that a graphical representation of how other guests behave, along the lines of this energy reduction program, would work great. The article also mentions that, "simply telling hotel guests that a majority of other guests reused their towels boosted reuse rates by 34 percent more than telling them to do it for the sake of the environment."
posted by lesli212 at 8:01 AM on February 20, 2011


Don't worry about seeming rude! Every hotel I've stayed at in the past few years (hilton, Marriott, etc) have had signs urging water and energy conservation. I do think that phrasing it as being "green" is better than as "saving money." Unless you give your guests a way to share in the savings, you're not really appealing to them in a way that would change behavior.
posted by yarly at 8:17 AM on February 20, 2011


After giving this much thought I have a suggestion as to wording, although this may play out as a bit risque for your establishment, you'll need to be the judge of that.

The sign, by the light switch, looks like a flirting/winking eye, and says "You turned me on with that finger when you came. Turn me off as you leave so I have the energy to do it again when you return."
posted by tomswift at 8:25 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think a simple sign focusing on conservation is fine. I see that stuff all the time. Here in the Bay Area, some restaurants even have signs saying they won't bring water unless you ask them to - to save water (which is kind of silly).

Switching to compact fluorescent bulbs could bring you an enormous cost savings - if you haven't already. It will also put some meaning behind any environmental explanation you give the customers.
posted by serazin at 8:40 AM on February 20, 2011


I recall that at least one place we stayed in Paris had a system setup where you had to be in the room (mentioned here above regarding keycard access) for the electricity to work properly, but that's an expensive technological fix of course.

I've been in room, too, that have the entire room's electricity switched to one master switch when you come in the door, so when you leave the room and turn off that switch it kills every outlet in the room. You can imagine that they didn't have clocks in the rooms. :)

I agree that sign overload is an issue, though. It's similar to city planning and traffic signage that once you hit a certain saturation point you lose the signs ability to have any impact due to the signal to noise ratio. Too many signs and it's just noise. If the "Help us conserve energy." sign is the only signage around, then you're more likely to have people pay attention to it.

Too bad you can monitor per-room usage and offer discounts to those guests that do conserve.
posted by smallerdemon at 8:41 AM on February 20, 2011


Whenever a guest checks out of a room we immediately walk down to the room and make sure everything is shut off,

This is exactly the right solution, I think.

but ideally we'd like people to live a bit more ecologically and environmentally sound.

It is unrealistic of you to think you can cause this, and especially unrealistic to think you can do it with a sign.

I suggest concentrating on things you can actually do. Checking the room when someone leaves is exactly this kind of thing, and it will have a big effect on your bills.
posted by fritley at 8:49 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think you're experiencing an issue that is common to a lot of business owners. You are so consumed and focused on your little slice of the world that you are not seeing the larger landscape in which it sits. I have stayed in quite a few hotels in the last 10 years, from chic B&Bs to top-end chains to luxury grande dames. In every hotel I've stayed in, there has been a sign or card of some kind dealing with the lights and towel issue. Your father is incorrect. It is not rude; it is standard.

"Kindly help us save energy; please turn off the lights when you leave the room." is what I want to see. I would prefer it over the main light switches and I do not want a picture of a tree or of a recycling symbol. I am aware that in engaging in this transaction is about saving money and not trees, but dear God we do not need to discuss the money. That is tacky.

As for the towels, as I said your father is wrong. It's standard across all classes of hotels. If you want towels changed, you put them on the floor.

And now, having read your previous posts, I see that you run a Comfort Inn. I am baffled that there is no support or guidance from your franchise on this. I am sure I have seen the issues you've posted dealt with at other Comfort Inns; haven't you?
posted by DarlingBri at 8:53 AM on February 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Another more long-term option is to look at what tax breaks and financial assistance are available from your state or from the federal government in converting your business to be more energy efficient. You might have to get a loan for the conversion, and it would put those rooms out of commission during conversion, but you might realize long term savings and have a marketing point that you have an energy efficient place for guests. That's definitely a long-term strategy, though, but if you are looking into the future of your business it might be a great option.
posted by smallerdemon at 8:53 AM on February 20, 2011


Interestingly, I was reading research on such signage. Some recent psych studies seem to indicate that making an appeal to social norms is by far the most effective way to encourage guests to turn the lights off, reuse towels, etcetera.

So, according to this line of thought, you may want to write up the signs to say: "Join your fellow guests in saving the environment: please turn off the lights."

Peer pressure. Works every time.
posted by vivid postcard at 9:00 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I definitely agree with kmennie, don't greenwash. It really irritates me when I see those 'be green, turn crap off' signs. I start to think things like . . . if you cared so much about the environment why did you tear down the perfectly good (hotel) building that was here before to build one that fits your stupid chain's design plan, etc etc. Maybe most people won't be bothered by it, but some people will be.

If I saw a sign that was honest and said, as kmennie suggests, 'please help keep our rates low: turn off crap when you leave', I would really respect that. I'm poor!
posted by imalaowai at 9:16 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, one cheaper tech solution I've seen for hotel bathrooms is changing the light switch to a timer switch.
posted by serazin at 9:29 AM on February 20, 2011


Personally, I think people who are leaving lights, TV, etc. on while they're not in the room, just for funsies or whatever, are the rude ones.

Do a sign if you think it will remind/encourage people. By all means.

Even if it "offends" some crank, well, that person is a crank and the whole world can't be catered to their delicate feelings.
posted by Sara C. at 9:32 AM on February 20, 2011


Have you replaced all of the lights in the room with compact florescent bulbs?
posted by JackFlash at 9:34 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Too bad you can monitor per-room usage and offer discounts to those guests that do conserve.

You could do a low tech version of that and have the housekeeping staff note which rooms had everything left on.

I'd worry about "discounts" or the converse "service charges", though - that's a situation where someone might really get pissed off and escalate things. Who's a sign going to hurt?
posted by Sara C. at 9:34 AM on February 20, 2011


I definitely respect appeals to saving money more than appeals to saving the planet in this kind of situation. I also think the signs will not absolve you of the need to go and check rooms right away, sorry. You're only going to affect your marginal cases, and I don't think many of the "leave the taps on" crowd are going to be swayed.
posted by SMPA at 9:36 AM on February 20, 2011


And now, having read your previous posts, I see that you run a Comfort Inn. I am baffled that there is no support or guidance from your franchise on this. I am sure I have seen the issues you've posted dealt with at other Comfort Inns; haven't you?


There is some documentation on the support sites that we have for our franchise but it's mostly a link towards business that sell decals and stickers of the type that have been linked above.

And aside from a few labels and required logo amenities, it is up to the individual hotel to determine what other signs or information is supplied in the rooms. Other hotel managers I've talked to are also all over the place, some have signs, some do not and they offer up many of the reasons that have been mentioned above. I wanted to get some general feed back from people. Will think about this and discuss with the family. Thanks for all the feedback and support.
posted by Fizz at 9:39 AM on February 20, 2011


Make the sign positive: 'Don't' isn’t a nice word and most people get resentful being told not to do something. So when ever possible, make your signs positive. Words like “Thanks for turning your computers off at night,” is much more likely to be effective than “Don’t leave your computers on over night.” And because it’s a nicer message and makes people feel good about the actions they have undertaken, it increases the likelihood that the actions will be carried out in the future.

from: Sending the Right Signs (PDF)
posted by Lanark at 10:04 AM on February 20, 2011


Haven't read all the answers, but you should transfer the findings from a famous experiment about hotel towels to your situation. Basically that means: have a sign saying that almost every other guest turns it all off, to better the earth.
posted by oxit at 10:15 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree with kmennie's approach. Every time I stay in a hotel there's some card about how they're being "green" by giving you the option to reuse your towels, and it's irritatingly smug and disingenuous. Only bring the environmental angle into it if your business is already actually doing several things to reduce its environmental impact and can list them on the signs. Otherwise it just looks like you're lazily trying to cash in on the eco-friendly trend. But the good news is that these signs are standard, so you're not going to be ruder than any other hotel!

The "help keep our costs down" angle is better, especially since most people stay at chains like Comfort Inn because they're affordable. I'd go with something like "Conserving energy helps keep our rates low. Please turn off the lights, appliances, and AC when you leave." (I'd specifically mention the AC because, even though I'm conscientious about turning off lights, I don't think I've ever thought to turn off the AC when I check out of a hotel.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:45 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's been a long time since I've stayed in a hotel that doesn't have signs imploring me to reuse my towels and turn off the lights when I leave the room.

I'd have to ask to be sure, but I think that certain other large chains require such signage given that I've seen it in literally 100% of their rooms and it's always the same design.
posted by wierdo at 11:28 AM on February 20, 2011


People respond to incentives, and a sign, while helpful, isn't an incentive (at least not a direct one).

Solution? Give small discounts to rooms with below-mean energy use.
posted by downing street memo at 12:31 PM on February 20, 2011


Judging from your past posts, you're approaching sign-overload.

I spend a lot of time in hotels. I try not to be an asshole, and I try to turn off the lights and the TV when not in use.

But whenever I see "help us save the environment! we won't change the towels/sheet unless you turn this card over" I read "we're cheap, you have to do extra work to get what should be baseline service".

At some point, a plethora of signs telling me as a guest what to do or not do just builds resentment, and a perverse desire to act like the bad person you're assuming I am.

Maybe you need to more generally reevaluate your hotel's relationship with your guests.
posted by orthogonality at 1:11 PM on February 20, 2011


As people have said, it is common to see these signs in hotels. Which makes me wonder: do people think that guests react to the individual sign or lack thereof in each hotel? Will adding your sign really change the behavior if people who have seen many before and clearly ignored it?
posted by smackfu at 2:20 PM on February 20, 2011


Haven't seen anyone mention this yet so I might as well--when I am checking out of a hotel room, I always try to turn the lights off. But sometimes, I'm on my way out the door with my giant suitcase, overheated because I've got my coat on and I'm running late already...and I hit the switch by the door, only to realize there are still 2 or 3 lamps still shining on the opposite side of the room. Because of course they couldn't be controlled by a wall switch--they had to have those annoying individual twisty switches. Sometimes, yes, those get left on. I know you said you don't have the capital for electrical improvements, but seriously, if all of the lights could be controlled by switches at the door, it would make it easier for your guests to turn them off as they leave.
posted by Jemstar at 7:51 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm really surprised how few US hotels have embraced the key/electricity technology. Seems like a great solution. No power to anything in the room unless the key is inserted.
posted by wkearney99 at 5:48 AM on February 23, 2011


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