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In less than two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that we travel and the way we consume. Whereas mass tourism was once the norm, these challenging times have taught us the beauty of slowing down and reconnecting with nature. 

The rise in sustainable responsible tourism can be seen in many aspects of the global tourism industry today. From globetrotters yearning for off-grid eco-friendly accommodations to vacation rental property managers investing in energy-saving technology, there has been a significant shift in mindset that was long overdue. 

As demand for accomodations adapted to the norms of sustainable responsible tourism grows and travelers become more environmentally conscious, property managers are finding new ways for their properties to exceed the expectations of their clients. Whether that means taking actionable steps towards improvement or advising homeowners on the best way to go green, every effort counts. 

In this article, we’ll go over eight ways that you can create eco-friendly vacation rentals to both protect the planet and increase the profitability of your business.

Distributing your listings is a strategy, not a task. Take our free 5-day email course for property managers who want new, creative strategies for distributing their vacation rentals. 

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Sustainability & Profitability

What most homeowners and professional property managers don’t know is that sustainability and vacation rental profitability go hand in hand. Although the main motive for switching to sustainable responsible tourism should be to fight the escalating climate change, businesses should also be aware of the role that these changes play in increasing their bookings and cutting down on energy costs. 

The money and effort invested into sustainable responsible tourism can help your business grow by attracting conscious travelers and meeting their needs. Through powerful social media marketing and keyword usage, you can adapt your direct booking strategies and boost profitability over time. 

8 ways to make a vacation rental more sustainable 

Ready to take action and make some positive changes for the environment and your vacation rental business? Let’s get started with eight tips to make properties compliant with standards of sustainable responsible tourism!  

1. Use energy-efficient appliances 

One of the best ways to go green is to put money into energy-saving lighting, appliances, and systems. Use LED light bulbs, install a solar power system, and systematically choose larger appliances like refrigerators, air conditioners, heaters, washing machines, and dishwashers. 

If you’re managing vacation rentals with old appliances, be sure to replace them with newer and more efficient models. These switches can drastically cut down on utility fees and greenhouse gas emissions. When buying new appliances, look for ENERGY STAR certified products that are known to use less energy than standard appliances. 

Remember to include clear and concise instructions for every device. For example, a laundry machine might have a specific eco-setting that requires less water consumption but if your guests are unaware of it, it’s very unlikely that they’ll use it. To avoid this, include instructions in a digital welcome book or a check-in email to encourage visitors to make good decisions.

Pro tip: if you’re looking to go all-in, consider hiring a professional energy auditor to pinpoint inefficiencies within the rental. 

01_preview of child using laundry machine

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2. Invest in smart home technology 

Smart home technology allows rental managers to remotely monitor and control the energy usage in a property, all from the comfort of their personal devices. Its benefits include being able to customize appliances for maximum efficiency, protecting your home from damage, and reducing energy bills. 

Considering all of the perks that come with this technology, paying a higher price upfront is definitely worth it. Because your investment will lead to improved efficiency, you’ll eventually save more than you spent. 

Smart cooling and heating systems

With smart thermostats, property managers can adjust their cooling or heating settings with ease. Instead of leaving it to guests to manage this chunk of energy consumption, your thermostat can analyze energy usage patterns and optimize them consistently.

Smart thermostats are also a wonderful way to surprise guests. Here’s an example: let’s say it’s winter and your clients have just spent an hour on public transportation. By the time they arrive at the property, they are shivering cold. Thanks to smart technology, you can program your thermostat to start warming the rental before their arrival so by the time they step foot through the door, they are welcomed into a cozy haven. 

Avantio integrates with tools like Operto to help monitor occupancy as well—when there isn’t anyone in the property, you can automatically shut off heat or cooling until the afternoon.

Smart locks

Especially during the pandemic, incorporating self-check-in for vacation rentals is a must. Aside from being safer and more convenient for guests and property managers, smart locks also minimize the number of car journeys you have to make to let clients into the rental.

As reported by the EPA, “​Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation account for about 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor of U.S. GHG emissions”. A whopping 58% of these emissions come from light-duty vehicles, meaning that even the smallest adjustments (like using smart locks for self-check-in) are helpful for the environment. 

Smart lighting

How often do guests forget the lights on while they’re out exploring the city? A smart lighting system detects when someone is in the room and adjusts the lights accordingly. 

Smart light bulbs have a positive impact on your wallet as well as the environment. According to ENERGY STAR, their certified smart bulbs “use 90% less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs and have 15 times the life expectancy than that of incandescent bulbs.” 

Some systems regulate their brightness depending on the time of day and sunlight availability. This is particularly useful in cities or countries that receive a lot of sunlight year-round as it can considerably affect energy efficiency. 

The variety of smart technologies is endless. From smart solar panels to irrigation systems, it’s worth spending some time doing research and finding what additions your properties could benefit most from.

3. Take advantage of home automation 

Thanks to the smart devices previously mentioned, automating processes in the vacation rental industry is now easier than ever. Instead of constantly checking your phone or setting reminders throughout the day, make use of automation features and ensure a low environmental impact by doing so. 

One great example is an automated self-check-in procedure. Instead of driving to and from properties for every new reservation, you can use smart locks and communication tools to reduce your fuel consumption while still providing a top-notch check-in experience that guests can access from their own mobile devices. 

02_preview of guest using mobile device

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4. Offer recycling options for guests and give clear instructions 

The EPA states that recycling “reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators, conserves natural resources, and prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials.” However, according to Blake Morgan from Forbes, most Americans don’t recycle because it’s confusing and inconvenient. 

Because recycling programs vary throughout the country, many people feel uninformed when it’s time to sort out their waste, especially if they’re on vacation. This presents an opportunity for professional property managers to:

  1. Offer recycling options if they aren’t already and
  2. Provide clear instructions with labeled bins
03_preview of glass recycling

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Along with recycling, you can also start a composting pile in the garden and turn it into a learning experience for children. Not only will this inspire your environmentally conscious guests but it’ll also lead to nutrient-rich soil that can be used for growing crops. 

5. Provide sustainable responsible tourism transport & activities 

Depending on your location, you can offer various sustainable transportation options and activities. These can include bicycles or electric scooters for getting around town, kayaks for lakeside or oceanfront rentals, routes for hiking trails, and a list of attractions, shops, and restaurants that are within walking distance of the property. 

To go the extra mile, provide sustainable responsible tourism supplies that guests can take with them on their outings such as recyclable trash bags and reusable water bottles.

What’s more, if you’re managing a luxury vacation rental, these additions are an effective way of elevating the overall guest experience and adding a special touch to the property. 

04_preview of sustainable transport

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6. Use locally sourced supplies 

Opting for locally sourced supplies allows you to cut down on shipping and transportation costs while also reducing your carbon footprint.

Instead of traveling out of town or ordering supplies online, research nearby providers and businesses to help support local communities. And better yet, always look for reusable alternatives such as kitchen towels instead of kitchen rolls and tote bags instead of plastic shopping bags. 

If your rental provides basic household items, cleaning products, and toiletries, be sure to let guests know so that they don’t buy single-use supplies for their green getaway. Encourage the use of eco-friendly goods and inspire guests to continue these practices in their daily lives. 

05_preview of locally sourced supplies

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7. Reconsider your interior design

While many of the properties you manage may already be fully furnished, it’s worth sitting down with homeowners to discuss future renovations and decorative additions. As mentioned before, try to source all materials locally and minimize your impact on the environment by using sustainable materials like: 

  • Bamboo
  • Cork
  • Reclaimed wood
  • Recycled glass
06_preview of sustainable bamboo furniture

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When furnishing a rental or replacing broken furniture, look for recycled or vintage pieces rather than heading to mass-producing conglomerates like IKEA. During the decorating process, you can make small but meaningful changes by using real plants instead of plastic ones and avoiding disposable designs. 

When investing in bedding, curtains, or carpets, go for eco-friendly textiles that require fewer chemical treatments. These include: 

  • Soy silk
  • Organic cotton
  • Hemp
  • Linen

8. Start a garden

Managing properties with substantial outdoor space? Speak to homeowners and suggest starting a garden to reduce your carbon footprint. 

Aside from naturally cleaning the air, replenishing the soil, and saving energy on grocery rounds, having a garden with vegetables and fruits is a sure way to impress guests. Depending on where you’re located, some of the easiest foods to cultivate are: 

  • Lettuce
  • Chives
  • Zucchini
  • Blackberries and raspberries
  • Garlic
  • Strawberries
  • Mint
07_preview of vacation rental garden

Credit: Kampus Production from Pexels

Surrounding a property with trees and shrubs also cuts down on cooling costs in the summer as nature efficiently blocks the sun from heating up a home. 

The most important thing to remember is that sustainable responsible tourism isn’t just a trend—it’s a new way of life and it’s here to stay. That said, we hope that these eight ideas will motivate you to make positive changes within your vacation rental business, whether big or small!  

Distributing your listings is a strategy, not a task. Take our free 5-day email course for property managers who want new, creative strategies for distributing their vacation rentals. 

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