A luxury hotel chain is making it hip to ditch single use plastic

No plastic here.
No plastic here.
Image: EDITION Hotels/Nikolas Koenig
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A night in a hotel is, by definition, single-use. After each guest’s stay, the sheets are cleaned, the minibar restocked, a new keycard issued—with each individual amenity leaving its own impact on the environment.

Ian Schrager’s boutique luxury hotel chain EDITION Hotels, which is co-owned by Marriot, is trying to cut down on the most environmentally damaging of those resources: single-use plastic. In honor of Earth Day on April 22, they’ve pledged to eliminate single-use plastic from all their hotels by this time next year—and to serve as a leader in the hospitality industry for a plastic free moment-turned-movement.

The campaign has been spearheaded by EDITION’s vice president of brand experiences, Ben Pundole, who says he’s been inspired by the recent anti-plastic activism in the UK, spurred in part by Sir David Attenborough’s widely-viewed Blue Planet series.

“In the hospitably business, we don’t think about how many touch points there are, whether there’s a keycard, or a minibar, to-go food at the pool, or a toothbrush,” Pundole said, referring to places where the guest consumes something disposable. “And I realized I was in a position where I could effect some change.”

Pundole says EDITION’s four existing properties in London, New York, Miami, and Sanya, China have already seen radical reductions in plastic use; minibars, straws, toothbrushes, food containers, and coffee cup lids are just some of the swaps that have been made thus far. Pundole says there are a a few tricky hold-outs like keycards and bathroom amenities for which he’s still seeking—and intends to find—viable solutions. EDITION’s seven properties opening in the next 18 months, however, will be all plastic-free at launch.

While environmental campaigners have warned about the unsustainable nature of single-use plastic for years, Pundole says the current momentum around plastic feels different. Far from being seen as a frugal or inconvenient decision, he says ditching plastic is now seamlessly aligned with the new definition of luxury that EDITION’s guests expect. In other words, it’s less Nalgene water bottles and camping sporks and more S’well water bottles and bamboo tableware.

“Until very recently, this kind of initiative didn’t happen in the luxury space and it’s only just beginning,” Pundole said. “I think it really helps that luxury brands like Gucci have committed to being a lot more sustainable. There’s been a kind of conscious approach to next steps from companies that you never though you’d see doing this.”

In addition to plastic reductions throughout its properties, EDITION is leading a campaign committee of influential hoteliers—which Pundole hopes will include the likes of Design Hotels, Soho House, and Chiltern Firehouse—to look at industry-wide solutions to the plastic problem. He says the hurdles are not guests—”guests are really behind this kind of thing”—but rather making a business case to financiers that “it’s the right decision even though it’s not cost neutral.”

If Pundole gets his way, the future of luxury hospitality will be plastic free.