I'm a control freak about two things in my life: I always pack my own grocery bags, and I never use hotel housekeeping. When it comes to the former, I've noticed that baggers always seem to underfill the bags, add unneeded packaging, and still manage to put frozen things next to my tomatoes — all of which drives me up the wall.
When it comes to housekeeping, I like to organize my room a certain way, and it annoys me when someone else re-organizes my things, uses smelly cleaning products or provides me with extra towels I don't need. One of the reasons I prefer to stay in AirBnBs is precisely because there is no housekeeping. It offers the perfect balance for me — I arrive to a clean place and don't have to clean up after myself when I leave. I'll happily take care of the in-between.
How the 'no housekeeping rule' helps the environment
Energy waste is a big one: it takes plenty of power to wash a set of sheets or towels. If they're washed once for a three-night stay instead of every night, that saves serious resources. And while those neat little signs suggesting that towels left to hang on racks will be left for reuse, only the greenest of the green hotels I've stayed in employ housekeepers who actually follow this rule — others just automatically set out new towels each night, no matter what.
There's also the waste of cleaning chemicals like detergents, and water to clean linens and tubs, countertops and toilets. Then there's being woken by hotel staff if you're not an early riser (I'm not) when they knock on your door at 8 a.m. yelling "housekeeping!"
Turns out I'm not the only one. While I've long just put the "Do Not Disturb" hanger on my door handle when I check in (and only remove it when I'm checking out), to avoid housekeeping, many hotels are making less service a regular feature for guests. Plenty of people don't see the benefit of someone making your bed for you as if you're a child.
Where it's offered now
Currently, Starwood Hotels offers guests a $5 voucher to use at the hotel, or 250-500 points in their guest rewards program (worth about $20) when they opt out of housekeeping. It's part of their "Make a Green Choice" program. By next year, Starwood Hotels — which include Sheraton, Westin, Four Points, Luxury Collection and the W — plan to offer the program worldwide. Starwood is reporting water and energy use reductions of 10 percent or more 2007-2016. It's not clear that's all linked to housekeeping, but some of that reduction probably is.
All kinds of smaller chains offer similar or better credits: According to research by The New York Times, " Miramonte Indian Wells Resort and Spa in Indian Wells, California, offers a $5 food and beverage credit, and Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum, Washington, offers guests a $5 resort credit per day that can be used at its coffee shop, spa or fitness center. The hotel Bardessono, in Yountville, California, will plant one herb a day per guest in an on-site organic garden. This month, the Ridgeline Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, is launching a free drink incentive for each night guests stay and decline housekeeping.
One hotel has gone even further — housekeeping is by request only: "This allows us to adhere to the guest’s schedule, offering a cleaning only when it’s convenient for them rather than convenient for the hotel," Debbie Pribly, general manager of The Moorings in Islamorada, Florida, told The New York Times. Sounds like my kind of place.
If you're the kind of person who enjoys housekeeping, it's fine to keep that "Please make up my room" sign swinging from your door handle. Meanwhile, I'll relax without worrying someone is going to walk in on me to replace my already-clean towels or to vacuum a perfectly clean floor.