Westin’s sustainability effort spins linens into pajamas

BETHESDA, MD—For children, a successful night’s sleep includes the three Bs: bathtime, books and bed. This nightly routine can have a positive impact on their well-being and overall development.

Adequate sleep on a regular basis has been proven to improve attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

But, what happens when children don’t have access to the basics?

Aligned with Westin Hotels & Resorts’ six pillars of well-being—sleep well, eat well, move well, feel well, work well, play well—the brand’s team resolved to create a better night’s rest, while supporting sustainability goals and children in need. Called Project Rise: ThreadForward, the project was born out of a call-to-action to associates to identify and present ideas that could make a difference on-property and in the community.

“About a year-and-a-half ago, we launched a new brand position, Let’s Rise, and it builds upon Westin being the leader in hospitality and pursuing well-being on the road with programs throughout,” said Brian Povinelli, SVP, global brand leader, Westin Hotels & Resorts. “We were really looking to add a complement to it. How do we turn this idea of Let’s Rise into giving back? That was the impetus for the Project Rise: ThreadForward initiative. We wanted it to be driven by associates at the hotels and the community. We went out with a challenge to associates and asked what initiatives were happening in their properties and what opportunities did they see.” 

There was strong feedback from Westin’s properties and more than 300 ideas were presented. “It was extremely rewarding to see what our hotels were already doing, get all that content back and then announcing the winner,” said Povinelli. 

The victor was an associate in housekeeping at The Westin Trillium House, Blue Mountain in Ontario. The seed of an idea was planted: a need to address the abundance of hotel linens that have completed their lifecycle. The brand’s corporate team took the idea a step further, adding mission-focused nuances and expanding it into a program that would seek to upcycle the linens into sleepwear for underprivileged children. 

It was a lofty goal. 

“We didn’t know if we could pull it off: How do we collect linens and then execute the logistics behind the scenes to make it work?” said Povinelli. “Once we got the ins and outs of the manufacturing process and passed the strict codes around children’s sleepwear, we knew we wanted to do it.” 

Westin partnered with the World Sleep Society for the fact-based impact this effort could have in communities; Delivering Good for the distribution of the pajamas; and Clean the World, a social enterprise with deep roots in the hospitality sector and, more significantly, dedicated experience in the recycling and repurposing of used materials for hotels. 

“When it came to finding a partner, we wanted somebody who had experience in hospitality and a shared mission for what we were looking to do. We felt Clean the World’s leadership and programming around recycling and upcycling the amenities collected from hotels would align with our values,” said Povinelli. “We kick-started a new business platform to see if we could apply the principles of recycling hotel bath amenities to linens. It’s been great; Clean the World was able to apply their learning and figured out how to change the model.”

It wasn’t enough to meet Westin’s corporate social responsibility goals; the team wanted to do one better and ladder up to Marriott International’s Serve 360 program, which strives to make a sustainable impact wherever the company does business.

“We wanted to be sure it followed a broader corporate mission. The thought process was around how we quantify the impact we can have with the upcycling of the linens and the proof of concept we are launching,” he said. “It will take 30,000 pounds of linens—50% will be repurposed into pajamas, and 23% will be used to create used cloth products such as bags or socks. Ultimately, 97% of what we’re creating is being diverted from landfills. The measurable benefits will prove out once we have the pajamas distributed. Our hope is that it will be giving them an opportunity to improve their ‘sleep hygiene.’ Underprivileged children don’t have that and we can give them a better chance to succeed on a different level.”

Guests also will have an opportunity to participate in the program by purchasing the pajamas at Westin.com starting on April 16, which is National Pajama Day. A portion of the proceeds from the sales will go toward continuing to support the service project.

As for the associates who helped spark a movement, Povinelli noted that it’s been gratifying to see the brand’s culture in action.

“Our associates are living a well-being philosophy, and it’s not just programming for guests,” he said. “The woman who won was so thrilled and surprised that she broke down with emotion. She never thought her idea could turn into something bigger than she envisioned and become systemized across the portfolio. To have it blossom into a bigger idea around helping children was so exciting for her to see.”

Povinelli noted that the brand is firmly committed to the program’s success, focusing on raising its visibility, strengthening the retail component and fueling further investment in the initiative. 

“Project Rise is now a foundational pillar of the Westin brand, and we continue to find ways to engage associates and build on their ideas,” the executive explained. “We now have a seventh pillar of giving back and our long-term vision is to perpetuate this, depending on scale, feasibility and logistics. We’ll continue to find a way to bring it to life and make an impact in the communities around our hotels.” HB