NATIONAL REPORT—Eliminating single-use amenity waste is one of the hospitality industry’s biggest waste challenges. Amenity dispensers certainly do a good job reducing that waste although some dispensers come with cartridges that need to be recycled. At least two companies have developed dissolvable amenities—each requiring the addition of water by the guest. The first company, Hotel Emporium, offers compostable EcoPods that include powder in containers made from 60 percent bamboo fiber, 30 percent sugarcane fiber, and 10 percent wood fiber. The second company, Nohbo, encapsulates amenities in water-soluble film. The film biodegrades instantly when met with water—an on-site zero-waste solution.
No company’s amenity truly has zero environmental impact because of the energy consumed during manufacturing and shipping but the on-site and downstream impact of dissolvable amenities flirts with or nails zero waste.
It was in 2020 that Hotel Emporium released its EcoPods to the hotel market. Mixed with water in the guest’s hands, powder in the EcoPod becomes shampoo, conditioner, or body wash. The company says its compact product is lightweight and stackable for lighter transportation and a lower carbon footprint. Each EcoPod offers up to four uses per item.
Legislation Drove Innovation
Shea James, Executive Director of Sales of Hotel Emporium, says moves by two states to ban single-use plastic amenity bottles helped drive the innovation behind the EcoPod collection.
“The EcoPod is a great option for any independent hotel owner and property host in California, New York, and anywhere else in the U.S. that must adhere to sustainability state regulations, banning single-use plastic amenities, and for all those seeking to offer next-gen, experiential amenity products that are as kind on the planet as they are on the skin,” James says.
James says that since the introduction of the EcoPod, it has received very positive attention from the eco-tourist community. “The EcoPod is particularly popular with glampers, campers and Airbnb hosts who seek chic, innovative, and carbon-neutral amenities,” James adds.
Hotel Emporium offers purchasers of EcoPod products pod-holders and tent cards to help guests understand how to properly use the powder-based product.
“We also make marketing materials fitting tighter spaces, like RV showers, galley camper kitchens, and even yacht heads—where wall-mounts and mirror decals work more efficiently,” James says.
Liquid Wrapped in a Polymer
Wrapping amenities in water-soluble film was the idea of Ben Stern, Founder of Nohbo. As a teen he was inspired by his love of nature and his frustration at the state of the world—one where, according to Nohbo, 120 billion units of packaging are trashed annually in the personal care and beauty industry. Stern worked hard to raise money and ultimately was accepted onto Shark Tank in 2016. He successfully struck a $100,000 investment with billionaire maverick Mark Cuban on the show. In 2020, Nohbo embarked on its first institutional fundraising round, a $3.6 million dollar seed round led by a Boston-based VC fund, Material Impact.
Stern told Green Lodging News that the film is “a proprietary polymer that breaks down faster than a banana. It took years to develop.”
Nohbo says that on average, its solutions contain 95 percent less water, and 100 percent less preservatives than the average bottle of shampoo.
In August, Nohbo began selling its products to the commercial market, one month after bringing on Abiye Amha, Director of Hospitality.
Stern says the sweet spot for its products currently is boutique hotels, adding that Disney is piloting its encapsulated products.
Videos, Other Marketing Material Available
For hotels using Nohbo products, Amha says there is a bit of a learning curve. Nohbo works with its partners by providing videos and marketing information for the room. “We want to make sure guests are comfortable with them,” Amha says. “Guests’ first reaction is a positive one. Consumers want to choose eco-friendly products.”
Stern says his company will work with other brands to encapsulate their products.
Going forward, Nohbo is launching a new technology called Hydrofills—Multi-use Drops. When a 1-ounce Hydrofill Drop is mixed with 6 ounces of water, it forms a 7-ounce container of shampoo, creamy conditioner, or gel-like body washes.
Stern says the price point of his company’s Hydrofill Drop option will be more attractive to non-boutique hotels.
According to Nohbo, at least 121,000 particles of plastic are ingested by humans every year and experts say this is likely an underestimation. Companies like Hotel Emporium, Nohbo and others are revolutionizing how guest amenities are presented—making it easier to eliminate single-use plastics and meet the demands of state governments that are mandating such elimination.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.