“The marketplace is changing and travelers are looking for places now that are trying to make a difference. Even if it is a small difference.“
Traveling is undoubtedly a wonderful experience. It connects us with different cultures, opens our mind to new things, and allows us to discover the beauty of the world. But unfortunately, travel also comes with environmental impacts.
The interest in sustainable tourism is rising and travelers are becoming more environmentally conscious. People are now actively looking for green vacation rentals and according to Booking.com’s 2019 sustainable travel report, over 70% of travelers are more likely to book an accommodation knowing it was eco-friendly.
15 years ago, Bob Garner and his husband Ian left corporate life in London to move to Marche in Italy. In this beautiful region, they bought an old farmhouse and converted it into 6 apartments, and so Casal dei Fichi was born. Since the beginning, they have focused on integrating environmentally sustainable solutions into their business without compromising luxury. They aim to provide an excellent holiday experience while also educating guests through their actions. With a 60% guest repeat rate, they have won many awards for sustainability and outstanding guest experience and have also enjoyed a lot of press coverage.
“We feel that we’re doing some things right, and a lot of that is connected to our environmental sustainability actions”, Bob tells us.
In conversation with Bob, we discussed 6 tips to help homeowners take the first steps to make their vacation rental more eco-friendly.
Tipp 1: Use Energy-efficient Lighting
Switch to energy-efficient lighting by replacing your regular light bulbs with LED lighting. LED light bulbs are a quick and cost-efficient solution and are a lot more durable. Installing energy-efficient lighting will benefit you in the long run and you’re guaranteed to save a lot of money on your annual electricity bill.
“LED lights are the newest technology. They consume a lot less power and they last a lot longer, so you don’t have to keep changing the light bulbs. This is a quick and easy way to save money.”
Tipp 2: Buy Eco-friendly Products
Nowadays, you can find a wide variety of environmentally friendly products to offer your guests. To avoid leaving a huge amount of plastic waste, try to buy products with reusable packaging. Don’t throw away shampoo or other bottles but instead reuse them over and over. You could also consider purchasing from companies that offer free refills on their products, such as Splosh.
Invest in natural cleaning products like those from Everdrop or Greenscents. Although they may cost a little more, they are better for the environment and your guests. If you’re on a tight budget, why not make your own with vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice.
Furthermore, buy from companies who support environmental sustainability and give back to the community. For example, you could purchase 100% recycled toilet paper from the company Who Gives a Crap that gives 50% of their profits to build water and toilet facilities in the developing world. By doing this, you are multiplying your impact while also educating your guests.
“It’s great when our guests write to us to thank us for the holiday and also say they’ve gone on to buy one of our eco-friendly products. It’s nice to know we have educated them in a very small way and helped them become more sustainable. This is an important part of what we do.”
Tipp 3: Provide a Filter Jug and Reusable Bottles
Support your guests in reducing their use of plastic by providing a filter jug in your accommodation. This encourages them to drink from the tap instead of buying plastic water bottles. Give your guests a reusable bottle to take with them while they are out and maybe even some high-quality Tupperware, so they are prepared for a picnic.
“We communicate in advance that people should avoid buying water in plastic bottles because they can have water on tap – still or sparkling – in their apartment.”
Tipp 4: Have an Organic Vegetable Garden
Fill your garden with local organic fruits and vegetables. Growing local produce requires less water and fertilizer and also cuts out transportation. This automatically reduces your carbon footprint. Having an organic garden also allows your guests to try the local flora while enjoying some time outside.
“Our guests know the produce is organic, that it’s good for them and it’s environmentally sustainable. And so, we try through different ways to educate them.”
Tipp 5: Use Green Energy
Take the step and switch to a more sustainable energy source. In most contracts, the energy comes from non-renewable sources such as oil, gas or coal. Contact your supplier and ask to be moved to a green tariff where the power is generated by renewable sources such as wind, water and solar. If your company does not offer a green tariff, switch to a green energy supplier.
“Switching is really easy and it doesn’t take very long. You just call your supplier or email them. By doing this, you’re helping the planet and also saving money – a win-win situation!”
Or go a step further and become energy independent by installing solar panels in your property. While the initial costs for installing these may be high, these will be outweighed by the long-term benefits. This one-time investment could reduce your energy costs to practically €0.
Tipp 6: Plant Trees on Your Property
Planting trees on your property is an excellent way to help the planet. Trees are known as the “lungs of the earth” and clean the air for us by absorbing harmful carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. If you don’t have the extra space and this isn’t an option for you, you can also give money to an organization that plants sponsored trees in different regions all over the world. Encourage your guests to also take part in these initiatives.
“We wanted to do something with our guests and with the local community, so we teamed up with some local restaurants to plant trees. When our guests visit one of these restaurants, they get a discount. They pass this discount on to us at the end of their stay, we add our contribution and we give it to an organization called Treedom that plants trees all over the world. And so the guests go home knowing that they have made a difference just by going out to eat.”
Lastly, we know the most challenging part is getting started. Bob recommends first making some small changes that will save you money as this inspires you to get going. So pick one of our expert tips and start taking steps towards a more sustainable vacation rental today.
If you would like to learn more about Bob’s work and his sustainable vacation rentals, you can check out his website here.