By Laura Zilverberg
Writer, editor, and volunteer with MN350's Communications Team

We’ll say it again: Personal choices alone can’t get us out of the climate crisis, and an overemphasis on personal choice can actually be exclusive to those we need most in this movement. But for the most part, taking individual action can be a good thing. It can be a gateway to collective change, it can push companies to clean up their act, and it can help us feel like we’re really doing what we can to make a difference – even at breakfast.

But what happens when the supposed “Green Choice” has some dark consequences? If you travel and stay in hotels, you’ve probably been greeted by a small sign that encourages you to hang up your towels, forgo housekeeping and earn some rewards points all for the environment. Win-win, right?

Not quite.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic upended everything, I was on the road for business when I came across an article from the Sierra Club detailing the dark side of these hotel green programs, particularly Marriott’s “Make a Green Choice” program. You can read the full article here, but the main point is that when hotels implement these programs, they’re able to cut housekeeping hours, thereby bringing down their labor costs, cutting benefits for housekeepers while actually making only a minimal positive impact on the environment, if at all. It’s not so much a green program as a greenwashing program that hurts workers.

MN350, along with our partners the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists, is backing up housekeepers, and we’ve signed a pledge with Fair Hotel to opt out of Marriott’s program.

Even before skipping housekeeping became the green option, I enjoyed leaving my room untouched, but no more. From now on, I’ll happily sign up for housekeeping everywhere I go.

Justice and good jobs must be part of the climate movement. It’s a key tenet of the Green New Deal and a core part of the work we do at MN350. Here locally, we’ve supported the Amazon strikes in Shakopee, and our team supported SEIU Local 26 janitorial workers in their negotiations for green jobs, fair wages, and health.

Saving the planet doesn’t have to come at the expense of people, and together we can create a better and more just world.

Laura Zilverberg is a public relations professional, volunteer with MN350, and mother of two. She used to be an avid runner and plans to be again once her kids sleep through the night. She enjoys reading and channeling her dread about climate change into baked goods, gardening, and blog posts.