How an Airport Coat Check Could Make My Trip Better, Too

I remember (from my Chicago days) the wonderful feeling of getting off a plane in a tropical destination, having departed just hours earlier from sub-zero temperatures. Except for one thing: It’s a drag to lug a winter coat in paradise. This week Harriet Baskas wrote a post on her Stuck at the Airport blog that caught my attention. A new service in JetBlue’s T5 at JFK offers a coat check kiosk—CoatChex–where you can check your coat and retrieve it days ($2 per) or weeks ($10 per) later.

I particularly love the ID concept for these kiosks: Just type in your phone number and initials, then pose for a photo with your coat before checking. No rumpled tickets or sticky keys to fish out from the bottom of your bag when you return.

We live in a sharing economy, now, though, so why not push this one step further and take a note from the playbook of FlightCar, which rents out your car when you’re gone. Because it’s also a drag to arrive in a cold city from a moderate climate (like the one I live in now) hauling a coat you use just a couple of times a year. Why not rent one of the coats in the kiosk? I’m only partly serious. But if someone can find a way to make money on this, make mine a size 8, Patagonia, any color available.

How hotel soap can change lives

I’m one to wonder how things work when I travel.  Shawn Seipler is, too. Four years ago, he had a simple question, as he hung out in his hotel room after a day of meetings: “What happens to my used soap?” He noticed that soap is hardly depleted after a stay, and to throw it away seemed a waste. From this germ of a thought was born the nonprofit he founded, Clean the World.

The Orlando-based organization has solved the hotel soap problem with a very simple program. Housekeeping disposes of used amenities in a special bin provided by Clean the World, which picks up the bin when full. Clean the World melts down the soap remnants and creates new bars of soap. These and other repackaged amenities become part of the hygiene kits the nonprofit creates: one-quart bags that contain soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor and washcloth. The kits are distributed to the homeless and displaced, those living in shelters and victims of natural disasters.

It’s a win on so many levels. Hotel amenity waste is diverted from landfill. Homeless individuals receive hygiene kits, which prevent disease. Hotels wear the halo of doing good. Since 2009, more than 15 million bars of soap have been distributed. Simply brilliant.

During your next hotel shower, take a look at the soap and wonder, “Will this go to Clean the World?” There’s a good chance it will (the organization has more than 1,700 hospitality partners). But you can help the cause by asking  your hotel’s management if they participate–and encouraging them to do so if not. Corporate travel managers and meeting planners can require Clean the World participation on RFPs. And assembling hygiene kits through the OneProject initiative is a valuable Corporate Social Responsibility project.

Much good came of Shawn Seipler’s very simple question in his hotel room. How many other problems can be solved with the simple act of wondering, during those idle nights in a hotel room?