By The Hospitable Team
“There is a very big niche audience out there that wants to stay in sustainable properties. If you make your property environmentally friendly, you can appeal to this niche and get more business.”
So says Deborah Labi on The Green Path Podcast, a series that explores how short-term rentals can become greener without breaking the bank. And we couldn’t agree more.
Making your property more environmentally friendly allows you to future-proof your business. Beyond labeled recycling boxes and cute reusable shampoo bottles, guests see an ethical brand, and a place they feel good about staying at.
For this article, we spoke to Deborah about a number of ways that you can make your short-term rental more eco-friendly. Also, be sure to see our list of certifications, accreditations, and groups—a quick and easy way to show off your efforts to go green.
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Two reasons to create eco-friendly properties and stays
Guest expectations are changing. Research from Booking Holdings shows that 81% of people would prefer to stay in sustainable accommodation over non-sustainable accommodation.
Promoting sustainable tourism also makes operational sense. As Willy Legrand, Professor of Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management, recently described when we spoke to him, “significant financial savings can be achieved via the efficient sourcing and use of resources.”
So, in short, making your stays more sustainable will make them more attractive to guests and help you save on costs.
The journey so far: Showcasing your drive toward sustainability
It’s possible that as a business, you’re already making steps towards sustainability and your guests just don’t know it yet. Those energy-saving light bulbs? Your recycling system? Get everything up on a dedicated page on your site and in your listings.
Casal Dei Fichi’s environmental page provides a great example of how compelling this can be—information is easy to understand and clearly categorized. It’s also accessible from the homepage as well as from the owner’s social media accounts.
By describing what you’ve done so far and what you’ll do next, you create transparency. You can also involve your guests and show how their actions are making a difference, too.
For example, Deborah speaks about putting up information at your property to show your guests how they’re contributing towards net zero. If you’re using rainwater in your toilet, talk about it in the bathroom!
Certifications, accreditations, groups, and communities to know
Official badges and accreditations that provide at-a-glance evidence of your commitment to sustainable practices help you win the confidence of your prospective guests.
But, as Deborah rightly points out, “99% of businesses out there are small. They don’t have time to be investigating eco-friendly practices.” This quick list of resources (below) should help.
Where to find it
What does it do?
Offers the perfect place to list your environmentally friendly property.
Plants trees for businesses. Guests can also choose to plant trees as part of the check-out process.
ENERGY STAR Certification
Allows STRs to show they’re saving energy on appliances such as light bulbs and fridges.
Go Green Sustainability
Provides certification for STRs to showcase green credentials.
Green Lodging News
Provides the latest news about sustainable stays.
Small 99 Resources
Offers practical advice to small businesses looking to reach net zero.
Sustainable Hospitality Alliance
Brings hotel and STR owners together to strategize about collective action.
Provides a space for accountability. Think quick tips, helpful resources, and a community who are on the same eco-journey
Note: Also look for and join local Facebook groups and communities to get and share ideas on how to be more sustainable within your neighborhood.
Top tips for environmentally friendly STR stays
Don’t feel like you have to implement ALL of these tips at once. Start small and you might find, like Deborah Labi, that “once you start it gets a little bit addictive.”
Here are some great initial steps towards creating an environmentally friendly stay.
Use renewable energy
Choose green energy suppliers and use renewable energy sources where possible. Try to move away from using gas. A set of solar panels can generate between 250 and 400 watts per hour—enough to power a coffee machine or radio.
Active solar heating is also a fantastic option that minimizes energy spending and impresses guests.
Reduce energy consumption
Saving energy in your vacation rental property can involve making structural changes, like replacing old boilers and improving insulation. You can also invest in motion sensor LED lights that conserve energy automatically when people are away.
Create strong recycling policies
Make the process of recycling easy for your guests with bins for newspaper, paper, glass, aluminum, cardboard, and metal. As Deborah highlights, you should also “double-check that the companies taking your rubbish are doing the right thing.” According to the OECD, 22% of recycling is mismanaged by waste management companies.
Cut single-use plastics
From soap containers to spray bottles, vacation rentals can be full of single-use plastics. Cutting this out means buying in bulk—getting wholesale cleaning products, for example. It also means using refillables wherever possible, like toiletries and pantry items that you can top up. You’ll save money here too.
Deborah says, “there’s no point in buying a nice shower gel in a big liter bottle if it’s made in China and flown over.” Investigate the products you use, and their own carbon footprints, and switch out for more locally sourced options where you can.
Install an EV charging point
There are now over 2.4 million electric vehicles in the US alone. Installing an EV charging point will attract electric car owners and help you do your bit for the planet, too. Though the cost of EV chargers isn’t cheap (usually ranging from $700 to $1,000), having one could help you fill empty slots in your calendar.
Instill your green values in your team
Instilling an eco-friendly drive into your team can really help the cause and makes sure everyone holds up your brand values.
Give your cleaners and maintenance workers clear guidelines on how to minimize energy consumption and maximize recycling. Help them to avoid unnecessary waste by showing them where and how things can be reused. Then ask them to report back about what else they think you could be doing.
Avoiding the common green pitfalls
While any effort towards making your short-term rental more eco-friendly is a good effort, there are a few common mistakes to avoid.
Greenwashing is the process of presenting your company or your actions as more environmentally friendly than they are. For example, consumer goods company Unilever was recently called out for advertising a range of products as being “kinder on the planet” when they were made of 50% plastic and were not, in fact, so kind on the planet.
In the short-term rental space, greenwashing might come in the form of over-emphasizing recycling practices when a lot of single-use plastic is still being used.
In the words of Deborah, you should be careful not to say, “I’ve got LED light bulbs and now I’m environmentally friendly.” Acknowledge what you’re trying to do and be transparent about not being able to do it all.
A lack of planning
When you’re starting out on your journey to making your STR more eco-friendly, it can be tempting to try to do everything at once. However, jumping from one issue to the next without planning can limit your progress.
The best approach, as Professor Legrand explains, is to start by taking a step back to assess “the company’s impacts on the biodiversity or climate through its operations.” For example, you should look in depth at the building’s energy consumption profile before putting steps in place to reduce energy use.
Buying the product rather than the company
In order to really consider the footprint of the products you’re using in your STR, you need to look at the companies they come from, too. Choosing a product that’s good for the environment is never as good as buying from a company that’s eco-friendly overall.
Truly green companies will look to use sustainable manufacturing methods and renewable materials and offset their carbon footprint where possible. You can find a list of green companies in the National Green Pages.
Examples of environmentally-friendly vacation rentals
Across the vacation rental space, there are already people leading the way. These properties will serve as a great source of inspiration as you create your environmentally friendly stays.
Room2 is “the world’s first hometel brand,” providing “the comfort and flexibility of home whilst offering the best bits of a hotel.” As well as sourcing renewable energy, using circular materials, and reducing waste where possible, it’s committed to whole-life net zero by 2030.
This means no embodied carbon throughout the life cycle of the building, from construction through to demolition.
Room2’s website includes a section dedicated to their sustainable practices, where you can read about its approach to:
- The workplace
- Air quality
- Helping the community
- Energy use
- Water use
Casal Dei Fichi
Based in Italy, Casal Dei Fichi goes above and beyond to minimize their impact on the environment. Think solar panels heating the house, a well to collect rainwater, an organic veggie plot, and on-site tree planting.
The Casal Dei Fichi website includes a breakdown of its initiatives as well as an impressive list of awards for its environmentally friendly practices.
Click Book Stay
Click Book Stay provides a property management service that is centered around supporting responsible tourism across Scotland. They take extra steps like questioning every supplier they work with and having a green website host.
Speaking on The Green Path podcast, owner Tara Scott noted that they “are having a lot of people saying that they booked with us because of sustainability credentials.”
Green for go
“We’re right at the beginning of this big boom that’s going to happen because we’re going to have to do something. If you jump on now, you’re going to be the early adopter that’s ahead of the crowd,” says Deborah Labi.
And there are things you can do right away. Consider:
- Installing alternative energy systems
- Reducing energy consumption by implementing best practices across your team
- Creating strong recycling processes
- Cutting single-use plastic
- Buying local products
- Installing an EV charging point
As Deborah says, any step is progress in the right direction. The key is to make sure your team and guests are on board. Instilling your green values across your properties and internal processes allows you to align yourself with a growing market and protect your STR business for the future.
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While it’s generally thought to be financially advantageous, investing in sustainable practices can be costly, and there’s no guaranteed return on investment, which can make implementing a sustainable strategy complex. See how making your STR more sustainable, environmentally conscious, and socially aware can impact your vacation rental business.
Brian Seelos initially started his career as a financial planner, before transitioning to a property manager and former short-term rental (STR) host. He now works here at Hospitable.com. We’ll hear from Brian about his journey and learn more about what it’s like working for a company that understands the firsthand struggles and pain points of hosts.
Quynh Vu went from being a full-time pharmacist to a short-term rental host managing six properties across three states with her husband Tri in just two years. Quynh and Tri switched to automation with Hospitable.com, which was a complete game-changer.