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Traveling is undeniably great, it connects us with cultures, opens eyes to new ways of thinking, and puts folks in the path of beauty. But unfortunately, tourism is not an industry without its impacts. Energy consumption and carbon emission outputs that are directly correlated to tourism are a serious concern. And, as the number of international travelers is expected to eclipse 1.5 billion in 2020, these impacts are not decreasing. Now more than ever, it is important to consider environmental responsibility while traveling. As the market grows we explore why vacation rentals are eco-friendly and why they may be a good option for the planet.
Contrast with Hotels
Perhaps the biggest reason vacation rentals are environmentally-friendly is that they are not hotels. As sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway quickly grow, the competition between hotels and the top VR sites continues to intensify. While there are cool eco-lodges and green hotels popping up around the world, the necessary parameters to be considered “eco-friendly” are way easier to achieve as a vacation rental.
Hotels have a huge carbon footprint in part because of their size. For hotel chains or hotels with a high number of rooms, energy consumption is a massive problem and a 24-hour occurrence. Vacation rentals are less impactful because they have less to maintain. Homes don’t have giant flowerbeds to water, usually only one refrigerator to power, and lights for only a few rooms rather than hundreds.
Even instituting green methods of saving energy won’t greatly cut down a hotel’s environmental impact. For example, a couple of solar panels will reduce a hotel’s energy consumption by a minuscule amount but could generate enough power for a single-family home.
Also, in a vacation rental, it is much easier to pass some responsibility onto the guests. In a home environment, guests are much more likely to do things like turn off lights, not just out of environmental thinking but because this is normal behavior in a house and is more convenient. Hotels on the other hand, regardless of who is staying there or how many guests there are, can’t cut their energy use completely at any time during a day. Even in the middle of the night, hallway lights are on, industrial-sized laundry machines are running, and pools are being heated — not great for the environment.
Things to Add to a Vacation Rental to Make it Eco-Friendly
There are many advantages for a host to make changes to their homes and rentals to make them more environmentally-friendly. Not only will these go towards helping the planet but hosts will also be able to advertise their properties as “green” or eco-friendly. According to studies, upwards of 80% of consumers pick environmentally-conscious businesses every time over normal ones. This increases revenue and the amount a host can charge per night.
Eco-Friendly Shower Heads – Eco-friendly showerheads greatly reduce water use while still maintaining a comfortable pressure.
Solar Panels — While the startup cost for this method is going to be high, the long-term payoffs are often too tempting to ignore.
Smart Thermostats — Cranking the heat and AC is very wasteful, smart thermostats help by monitoring temperature and only using energy when necessary.
Make Windows More Efficient — This may not be the sexiest way to improve a house’s efficiency but it is one of the more effective. From tinting windows to properly sealing them to swapping out single-pane windows, there are many ways to help.
Gardening Methods — There are varying degrees of making a garden space more efficient. It can range from using only local plants and natural water from the rain or planting an organic garden to source your own veggies.
Saltwater Pools — Pools are expensive and oftentimes hard on the environment. If a property has one, consider replacing the freshwater with saltwater. This won’t cause a monumental shift but saltwater pools require fewer chemicals, which helps.
Best Places to Rent an Eco-Friendly Vacation Rental
As a host, it is important to market your property as “green” or “eco-friendly”. As a guest, however, it can be difficult to know exactly just how low a carbon footprint a vacation rental might have. Aside from that, it can also be tough to go through large vacation rentals sites like Airbnb and source only green properties.
For those looking specifically for environmentally-friendly vacation rentals, check out sites where large percentages of the properties are green. The Glamping Hub site has a huge selection of rentals made from recycled materials, spots with no carbon footprint, and more places that adhere to green methodologies.
Another up-and-coming rental site is Green Pearls. Currently, they are much more focused on hotels and eco-lodges but also have a few homes listed as well.