From global leadership conferences to classroom efforts, preserving the environment is all the talk nowadays. Many governments and organizations are realizing the importance of going green and taking the steps to reduce emissions and limit environmentally harmful activities.
If businesses are taking the pledge to move towards being more eco-friendly, then so should you. Depending on your area, there might already be restrictions on the amount of electricity or gas you can consume during certain seasons. The environment is fragile, so we should try to do our part in reducing ecological changes.
Whether you want to help the environment or save a bit on gas and electricity, having a green vacation rental is always a good idea. Here are some easy steps you can take to make your home an eco-friendly vacation rental.
How to transform your vacation rental into an eco-friendly home
Going green doesn’t have to be a giant project or cost you a fortune. Even the smallest changes can do a lot to help, and you’ll for sure notice a difference when you get the utility bills at the end of the month. Let’s look at some simple ways you can start making the shift towards an eco-friendly home.
1. Install energy-efficient lighting and appliances
Replacing the lightbulbs in your house with energy-efficient LED or CFL bulbs and using ENERGY STAR appliances are great ways to cut down on your home’s carbon footprint. These items also have a long lifespan, so you won’t have to worry about doing difficult maneuvers to change your lightbulbs as often.
They can also be easily found in most electricity stores, so along with growing demand, they shouldn’t be a problem to find and install yourself. It’s a simple gesture that will benefit you in the long run and be sure to save you ample money on your electric bill as well.
2. Install honeycomb or roller blinds
Heating and cooling are some of the biggest contributors to your monthly energy bills, with some estimates suggesting your heating and/or cooling system accounts for around 30%-50% of your total energy use.
You probably already know this, but if your windows are not properly installed or insulated, then they pose a huge threat to heating/cooling leakage. This means that your heater or AC unit has to run for longer periods of time in order to keep the desired temperature throughout the house; a total waste of energy!
An easy fix to this problem is installing honeycomb or roller blinds on your windows to act as a sort of insulation. These blinds trap air and create a barrier between the room and the window surface, keeping your summers cool and your winters warm.
Besides offering insulation, honeycomb blinds provide more privacy than an average window furnishing and help guests control the amount of light they want filtering into their room.
3. Provide recycling options
One of the best-known ways to help the environment is recycling. Every eco-friendly home should provide clearly marked separate bins for each type of waste your area processes. Make sure to have a trash bin, recycling bin and compost bin available, and if you want to take it a step further, you can separate your recycling into paper, plastic, and glass.
Not all cities and towns have a compost system in place, but it would be a bonus point for your rental if you set up your own compost box in the garden if you have the space. This extra fertilizer can also be used to feed your plants and garden.
To make sure your guests uphold the recycling etiquette, you should post written or visual instructions of what type of waste goes in which bin along with a little note asking them kindly to adhere to the recycling policy. Your environmentally conscious guests are guaranteed to be impressed.
4. Equip faucets with water aerators
Aerators are a cheap and effortless way to add a green touch to your sinks and showers in your kitchen and bathrooms. This small metal filter inserts air into your water stream, which tremendously reduces water usage and prevents splashing.
Your guests will still be able to wash dishes, take showers, and wash their hands as normal, but less water will be used. And if you purchase a good one, your guests won’t even be able to tell the difference between an aerated and a nonaerated water source. It’s helping the planet, conserving water, and saving your money all at the same time, so it’s a no-brainer to install aerators in your rental home.
5. Collect and reuse rainwater
Another simple yet highly effective way to minimize water consumption is using a rain barrel to collect rainwater that can later be used to fill a pool, water the garden or flush toilets. Rainwater can be used as a running water replacement for anything. Just make sure to not use it if you will be consuming it in any way, like with washing your fruits and vegetables or your dirty dishes.
This is an extremely useful way to conserve water and also make the most of your rainfall, especially if you are situated in a particularly wet climate. If it doesn’t rain a lot in your area, then you can still do your part by reusing the water used to cook pasta as a rainwater substitute.
6. Add solar panels to your roof
This one isn’t as cheap and straightforward as the previous ones, but if you want to completely reduce your electricity bills to $0, then you can install solar panels on your rooftop. Solar is a renewable energy source, so if you live in a sunny place, then you can be independent of traditional energy infrastructures.
Buying and installing solar panels has a sizeable upfront cost, but it is sure to pay off in the long run. You only have to pay for the installation one time for a lifetime of unlimited electricity. Running partially or even entirely on solar energy will for sure make your rental stand out to potential guests.
7. Have an organic garden filled with local fruit, vegetables and plants
Gardening doesn’t have to just be a hobby, it also helps the local environment while providing a fun activity for your guests. However, if you decide to try out your green thumb, make sure that you only plant flora that is native or local to the area.
Growing non-native plants requires more water, fertilizer and effort than the local alternatives. Native plants are perfectly suited to flourish within your exact environment, and they will also help to revive and upkeep the soil and wildlife of the area. It will also look amazing in your listing photos, which will encourage your guests to enjoy the outdoor area.
8. Provide reusable shopping and grocery bags
Keep a stash of reusable grocery bags, recycled or canvas, in the kitchen or laundry room. Many times, guests will need a bag to go grocery shopping or carry some of their items to wherever their plans are on that day.
Bringing some extra bags is usually at the bottom of their packing list for a trip, so if they need a bag, they will have to purchase a single-use plastic one from the store. Be sure to leave a note telling them where you keep your reusable bags, and they will definitely make full use of them.
9. Encourage guests to reuse towels and conserve water
Every guest loves having fresh and fluffy towels and linens during a stay, but washing them after every use leads to a waste of water. Realistically, you can reuse your towels for a couple of days without them getting dirty and your linens for about a week. Leave a sign or note telling your guests to reuse these items as much as possible before switching them out to avoid extra laundry cycles.
10. Promote the use of public transportation and shuttles
Provide your guests with information about the local area and their transportation options. You should include on your listing any closeby restaurants, points of interest and subway and bus stops to encourage your guests to navigate around the local area by either walking or taking public transportation. You can even let them know how to get to your rental from the nearest airport or train station.
At your home, you can leave a “things to do” guide offering information about public transportation and shuttles to beaches or to other popular places in town. You can even provide bicycles as an added amenity to round out this eco-friendly touch.
11. Use eco-friendly cleaning products
It’s important to clean your vacation rental between guests, and sometimes guests even have to tidy up a little during their stay. Eco-friendly and organic cleaning products are becoming more common in stores, so switching your cleaners and detergents to environmentally friendly versions helps reduce harmful water runoff and ground pollution.
Often times these alternatives are also less toxic than their counterparts, which makes your home safer for hosting children and chemical-sensitive individuals. Even you will benefit from this switch by not being exposed to cleaning product fumes between each stay.
12. Invest in smart home technologies
Smart home technologies allow vacation rental owners and managers to monitor and control their energy consumption from their mobile phones. You can install smart heating and cooling systems, smart locks and smart lighting.
A smart thermostat will analyze energy use patterns to consistently optimize the use of energy. You can also put a cap on the temperature in the summers and winters to avoid overheating or cooling and spiking of energy usage. There’s also the option to surprise your guests with a pre-warmed house when they arrive on a cold winter night.
Smart locks allow guests to enter the house without the host having to be there. Not only is this easier for everyone, but you also don’t have to take the trip to your rental to give and collect the key at the beginning and end of the stay, saving gas and emissions from extra transportation.
Smart lighting systems regulate brightness depending on the time of day and the amount of sunlight available. This way no extra energy is spent lighting an already bright room. This is especially helpful in promoting efficiency in places that get a lot of sunlight year-round
13. Sustainable furnishings
When furnishing your vacation rental, be mindful of what furniture and decorations you pick. Instead of buying new furniture from IKEA or Pottery Barn, try finding secondhand furniture or furniture made from locally sourced materials to help reduce transport emissions and wood waste. Some sustainable materials to look out for include pieces made from bamboo, cork, reclaimed wood and recycled glass.
In terms of decorations, try using real plants instead of plastic ones which clean the air and cut down on the amount of plastic used. Also try to find locally made vases, figures and pictures to both support local artists and reduce shipping and transportation emissions. You can also look for linens, carpets and other cloth items made out of organic cotton, hemp and soy silk, which are more environmentally friendly.
Where to list your eco-friendly vacation rental
You’ve gone through all the work to create your green vacation rental, so how do you connect with environmentally concerned guests?
Mention all of the eco-friendly modifications and perks you offer on your usual OTA listings to further help your rentals stand out from the crowd. It can even become one of the main selling points of your listing. If you continually show your commitment to being eco-friendly, the right audience will find their way.
Booking.com even has its own Travel Sustainable badge to recognize its partners who go the extra mile with their sustainability practices. Their system analyzes submitted properties against their validated model of sustainability to determine the eligibility for receiving this one-of-a-kind badge.
There are also various eco-focused OTAs who have their main focus of attracting guests who want to be environmentally aware while traveling, ensuring that you will reach your target audience on them. Some of these websites include EcoBnb, Green Pearls, Bookitgreen, Book Different and more.
Having an eco-friendly vacation rental not only benefits your wallet by saving money on utility bills, but it also helps play a part in the bigger picture of helping the environment a little bit at a time. A small change to your rental can go a long way.
One small step for owners, one giant leap for sustainable tourism
By completing some eco-friendly changes to your vacation rental, you are already taking part in sustainable tourism.
By going green, you’ve already committed to the environmental portion of sustainable tourism. If you want to also address the economic and social aspects, you can try using local supplies and encouraging guests to do the same or giving back to the local community.
Sustainable tourism is becoming increasingly popular among travelers who wish to go on vacation but also want to be mindful of the environment. By making your property less harmful to the natural area where it’s located and the earth, you too are promoting a change towards sustainability in tourism.
Environmental issues are a growing concern worldwide, and you may be wondering what you can do as a short term rental owner to help promote sustainability. An easy way to start playing your part is to make your vacation rental eco-friendly. Even the smallest changes go a long way.
Ryan Lewis is a director at Lovelight, an Australian family-owned company that designs made-to-measure window furnishings for beautiful residential and commercial spaces nationally.