By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
BETHESDA, M.D. — “Every year in our hotels we turn over large quantities of our heavenly bed linens and while the material is often donated or recycled, currently there is neither a centralized recycling system nor support.”
So said Carolyn Thoroski, housekeeping supervisor at Westin Trillium House at Blue Mountain Resort near Collingwood, Ont., when asked to submit an idea for ways in which Westin hotels could work as a brand to help extend the company's wellness focus into local communities.
Her idea was chosen from about 325 responses from Westin employees, and the brand team looked for a way to implement a centralized system and find a use for the recycled linens.
One of Westin's six wellness pillars is a good night's sleep, including promotion of healthy sleeping habits, Brian Povenelli, SVP & Global Brand Leader of Marriott’s Premium Distinctive Brands, told Canadian Lodging News. “The World Sleep Society says that about one third of adults and more than half of children are sleep deprived,” he said. “In lower income families, this is more prevalent because they don't practice 'sleep hygiene' [routines like] brushing their teeth, reading a book or putting on pyjamas.”
Hence the idea of making pyjamas from the recycled linens, given the name of Project Rise: ThreadForward.
“I thought we could take the sheets and cut them up and make pyjamas,” said Povinelli, “but it's not that simple. For one thing there is a code for children's sleepwear.”
Divergent Energy was hired to work on ways to manufacture the pyjamas. They developed a proprietary process that cut the sheets into small cotton balls, similar to those used for fill in sofas. Then Divergent Energy took the process one step further, extracting small fibres to make new threads that could be woven into pyjamas, then dyed and treated with fire retardant. Westin underwrote the setting up of this process.
A big part of the project was developing a process to collect the linens. Westin turned to Clean the World, the company that already collects bath amenities, repurposes them and distributes them to shelters, drawing on their expertise to develop a collection plan.
Then came the pilot project to prove the concept, involving 50 hotels that provided 30,000 pounds of linens over a six-month period ending March 16.
“So far, we have made 2,000 pairs of pyjamas,” said Povinelli. “Under the pilot, they will continue to make pyjamas until they use up the current collection of linens. Then, on April 16, National Pyjama Day, we will start distributing the pyjamas.”
The pyjamas are also for sale for $25 a pair on Westin's online store. Fifty per cent of the proceeds will go back to Delivering Good, which distributes all kinds of kids items, including toiletries and clothing. They will help identify organizations in various cities and distribute them on Westin's behalf. The first distribution will be in Toronto, New York City, Mexico City, and Cape Town, South Africa.
As Project Rise: ThreadForward grows its distribution and inventory, Povinelli says it will roll out to all cities where Westin's 225 global hotels are located. “Our goal is to roll it out to the Westin portfolio; then the Marriott portfolio and even the whole industry — that's fine with us.”
And then they can work on implementing the other 324 employee ideas!