Westin St. John: When a Hotel’s Claim to Be Green Maybe Isn’t So True

Hotels pitch ‘Going Green’ for two reasons.

  1. It appeals to an upscale demographic. Guests like the narrative they can tell themselves that their travel is also good for the environment. Environmentally-friendly travel earns a revenue premium from a subset of customers.

  2. It saves money. Not washing towels and changing sheets is a money saver, and reducing the time it takes to clean a room reduces housekeeping staffing costs.

That’s all well and good and I don’t mind one bit when Starwood offers points in exchange for ‘making a green choice’ to reduce hotel housekeeping expenses by letting them skip over your room for the night. At least there the hotel is compensating you a portion of the savings, and we can all happily go forward with this fiction that we’re doing something good for the world.

Make no mistake, it’s a fiction — seemingly even at the most eco-friendly of resorts.

On the Westin St. John’s website they say that “conservation is a top priority” and “[e]ven small actions can make a huge difference.”

    Credit: Westin St. John

The Westin St. John is closed for renovations after Hurricane Irma. So when guests aren’t there looking, what’s happening? The hotel has been public advocating for green policies, against burning and in favor of composting and mulching.

However I’ve learned on good authority that the hotel has been disposing of their green and brown debris in landfills. In fact the hotel’s General Manager has offered his resignation from the board of the Island Green Living Association as a result, and places blame on ‘contractors’.

    Credit: Westin St. John

The hotel doesn’t deny they’ve been hauling debris off to landfills, or that the General Manager has resigned from his position with the Island’s Green Living Association as a result. Instead they offer,

The Westin St. John has a long history of being good stewards of the environment such as composting more than 20 tons of kitchen trash in a program with Gift Hill School, operating their own waste water treatment plant to use the reclaimed water for landscape irrigation, recycling of metals, batteries, oils and other materials, changing all lights on property to LED, along with numerous other efforts and will continue to do everything possible to meet its high standards of respecting the environment. Given the amount of debris that the islands are facing as a result of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the resort continues to chip and use the green and brown waste first as mulch on the resort property, with the understandable excess going to the landfill on St. Thomas. Our understanding is that in addition to condensing the debris mass, it will also provide the landfill with organic fill and cover. The general manager hopes to rejoin the IGL board once his resort returns to operations.

It’s what you do when you think nobody’s looking that’s most revealing.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Happened to be in the room when maid emptied trash which was divided into recycle/non recycle by a divider
    Step one – remove divider
    Step two – dump all trash into a SMALL PLASTIC BAG
    Step three – replace divider
    Hotel is in SE asia – what’s the point of trying to fool guests? And SE Asia stopped giving points for MAGC a while ago (maybe b/c the whole thing was a farce anyway?)

  2. What has the green movement provided for guests?
    A farce
    Yes lowered operating costs for hoteliers but higher liabilities for the hotels and guests
    Dirtier sheets if they change them at all between guests
    More likelihood of scabies and bed bugs
    Most of the movement is what it is a giant scam much like resort fees

  3. I don’t want to start some sort of negative comment string on this issue but the way hotels try to support “saving the planet” or “saving polar bears” or “Being Green” is reflective of the larger issue. For example telling us that it “saves water” to not wash towels. Sure it saves the water meter from turning at the hotel. It’s not like when you use water it goes down the drain and we never get to use it again. The best farce is buying carbon credits or offsets.

  4. This article really isn’t fair. St. John took a direct hit from a Cat5 hurricane. Not a glancing blow, mind you, but a direct eye-wall hit. Houses were splintered, roofs ripped off, most of the window glass on the island shattered, trees uprooted and broken, and every leaf ripped off the foliage. Go take a look at the pictures from the first days after the hurricane. The main Westin hotel was not destroyed, but roofs were ripped off the villas, outbuildings splintered, and glass shattered. All of this was whipped into a tangled mess by the mini-tornadoes that spin off the eye of a hurricane. Does anyone seriously think this kind of devastation could be cleaned up by running it through the hotel’s regular restaurant composting program?

    I share your cynical take on the “go green by stiffing the housekeeping staff” business, but post-hurricane recovery is a very different situation.

  5. Strongly agree with SharonK. I’m generally a fan of yours, but this is a ridiculous article. A hotel in a major disaster zone that suffered major damage to the point it isn’t operational isn’t strictly adhering to its “green” pledges during disaster recovery? Who cares, this isn’t evidence of anything. What’s your next article “sure, they put out the fire, but the water wasn’t recycled…”

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