Joco Diversions

Hope in a bottle takes on a new meaning

No more wasteful tiny bottles at the Holiday Inn Express in Altoona, Iowa.
No more wasteful tiny bottles at the Holiday Inn Express in Altoona, Iowa. Special to The Star

A hotel’s soap and shampoo supply gave me a glimmer of hope. It had nothing to do with a promise of shinier hair, or feeling like my skin was pelted by a refreshing green tea-infused rain shower.

Nope. I was heartened to finally witness a large hospitality chain combating the wastefulness of tiny plastic toiletry bottles.

I’ve frequently agitated over the millions and millions of single-use shampoo containers supplied to travelers around the world. The ratio of plastic to a lousy ounce of liquid you can barely access has always flummoxed me. How many of us have let gallons of hot water down the drain while standing in the shower trying to coax that lousy dollop of conditioner into the palms of our hands? Who hasn’t tossed these stingy vials into the trash?

Already this summer I’ve taken two short trips requiring a hotel stay. The first property had the typical plastic-encased micro-drops of toiletries, and the second one embraced what I hope is a new trend.

When I stepped into the latter hotel’s bathroom, I immediately spotted large shampoo and soap dispensers bolted onto the shower tiles. At last! Even if the housekeeping departments don’t refill the containers — I hope they do — at least each separate ounce of liquid isn’t encased in relatively thick plastic. This concept can only help lower waste and the demand for more plastic.

Curiously, it seems shepherding our earth continues to resemble a klutzy tango. I’m tired of it. Taking care of the environment should be a no-brainer, but apparently it’s not.

Pollution and climate change can be traced to greed. And also failure to observe. Sometimes we don’t fully pay attention to the cumulative harm that creeps into our lives. Much like the little bottles lined up on a bathroom countertop at our hotels, it all adds up.

Oddly enough, even the latest Netflix series “Stranger Things” got me thinking more about how single-use plastics just seem to suddenly appear.

I’ll try not to toss out a plot spoiler, but last week my husband and I were binging on the fictional show with our youngest millennial. For those of you who are unfamiliar, “Stranger Things” is a thriller with many sweet and fun character-centric moments. It’s also like a road trip to the middle of the country in the middle of the 1980s.

A quick, throwaway moment caught our attention. In one scene, several characters were on the run and somewhat lost in a heavily wooded area. When they finally emerged exhausted and very, very thirsty, they spotted a 7-ll. The characters ran straight to the store’s beverage section and desperately guzzled sugary soft drinks out of aluminum cans. My husband quipped, sarcastically, “Well that looks refreshing.”

And I added, “Yep, the days before bottled water.”

Then our son replied, “Whaaaat? What do you mean?” Understandably, our ‘90s baby assumed 24 packs of Aquafina have been around forever-ish.

We told him that before he was born, and even the first few years of his life, plastic bottled water was not really a thing. He was astounded to learn that H2O-wise, our lives were like the lives of the kids in fictional Hawkins, Indiana in 1985 B.D. (Before Dasani.)

We drank tap water. We bowed to water fountains. We hydrated without unscrewing crinkly, single-use plastic bottles. And we survived!

I have a hunch the writers behind “Stranger Things” threw in that high fructose guzzling scene on purpose, maybe to start a conversation. If so, it worked in our household. Of course, aluminum soda cans need to be recycled as well, but the unnecessary bottled water craze on top of everything else has made pollution much worse for our fragile planet.

Can we go back to being less wasteful? Smarter than Smartwater? I think so. And the Holiday Inn Express in Altoona, Iowa does, too.

Reach Denise Snodell at or on Twitter @DeniseSnodell