Green Lifestyle

Published on March 2nd, 2016 | by Guest Contributor


8 Reasons Airbnb is more Sustainable than Hotels

As a traveler, I am so excited to make use of Airbnb accommodations around the country and around the world, but is Airbnb more sustainable than hotels?

For years now my partner and I have been able to travel on a budget and explore awesome cities and neighborhoods, meeting cool people and staying in gorgeous homes along the way. And now we have the opportunity to be Airbnb hosts in the city of San Francisco, hosting a world of fun, interesting, international guests.

airbnb logo

The best thing about Airbnb is that it’s decidedly less expensive than hotels. For travelers on a budget, this is great for bottom line savings. But it also allows us vote with our dollars for the type of world we wish to create: I would much rather give money to an individual that needs to pay their rent or mortgage than support a huge hotel chain and all the waste that goes along with running a hotel. No matter how cool the hotel is, I always feel better by ‘buying locally’ or ‘shopping small–’ which is just one person or a family in the case of Airbnb. If you have a spare room to host friends from around the world and need to make some spare cash, one of my favorite bloggers has a list of hosting tips for the new (and experienced) Airbnb host.

When we created the listings for our home, it was our goal to make sure it was as green as possible. We created our Airbnb rooms with care: organic sheets, vintage furniture, thrifted blankets and pillows, using all energy-efficient lights, water-efficient showerheads and sink aerators (because, hello California drought!). And we clean only with natural cleaners and offer organic body care products in the bathroom, so that travelers don’t have to buy small items while they are staying with us. This saves plastic and other waste products, and also introduces guests to how awesome organic body care can be.

Overall, research shows that traveling with Airbnb is much more sustainable than staying in hotels. As explained in this article on Clean Technica, Airbnb accommodations can reduce our overall impact in lots of ways:

1. Reduced energy use: Airbnb accommodations use anywhere from 63-78% less energy than a hotel (think about all those hallway lights, elevators, and the air conditioning that’s always left on. Not the case in individual homes!)

2. Lower greenhouse gas emissions: Lower greenhouse gas emissions are good for everyone; the infographic doesn’t specify what the reasons are for lowered emissions, but it’s most likely because of the reduced energy usage, reduced heating/cooling expenses, and overall water reductions.

3. Water savings: 12-48% less water is used in an Airbnb accommodation compared to hotels. Every time I have to stay in a hotel I’m shocked with how inefficient the water features are, and with all the towel and linen washing, it adds to a ton of water used (and wasted).

4. Waste avoidance: Travelers to hotels are encouraged to use single-use coffee filters, single-use shampoos and single-use soap, adding up to a big amount of waste per room. But in Airbnb accommodations, there is no need for single use items, and the room is made to be a home, complete with coffee maker and shared toiletries in some homes.

5. Sustainability Awareness: Airbnb hosts (and travelers, in my experience) support sustainability initiatives and take better care of their surroundings. Many hosts offer items to share with their guests, whether it’s reusable shopping bags, traveler mugs, water bottles, books, beach blankets and even surfboards!

6. Recycling: According to the research, almost all Airbnb hosts offer recycling to their guests, and the same cannot be said for most hotels, in my experience.

7. Chemical use: I’m adding this to the list, because I think it’s one of the more important ones. Most hotels use a bunch of nasty chemical cleaners to clean the rooms, exposing workers to dangerous levels of chemical exposure for workers, contaminated water/waste streams. Even if hosts are using regular cleaners (and not the natural stuff), my hunch is that the amount is a lot less, since they have to live and breathe there too! We use only natural cleaners throughout our home because it’s good for us, for our guests, and for the planet.

8. Public transport: Another personal addition! This is not listed on their infographic, but my experience shows that Airbnb travelers are much more likely to use public transport than relying on car travel. Sure, we get a few requests for parking information, but more often than not our travelers are arriving by subway or rideshares that help reduce their impact.

However, even though Airbnb listings are generally more sustainable, I would suggest that’s it more by accident rather than intention. Airbnb caters to a (increasingly large) subset of travelers and hosts that are predisposed to support sustainability initiatives.

But this presents Airbnb with a huge opportunity to create a totally green travel experience– there is a tremendous potential to work with individual hosts around the world and support them in greening options. Airbnb could subsidize the homeowners/renters with energy efficient lighting and water fixtures to dramatically improve their sustainability metrics, regardless of what type of home is being offered. With some initial investment, Airbnb could reduce at least 50% of the water used in Airbnb accommodations, and improve electricity efficiency by at least 50%, but up to 90%.

Robyn Purchia of the SF Examiner reported recently that while Airbnb has made a commitment to being green, she’s not convinced they are doing enough. “[If] the company really cared about the environment, it would do more than rely on users to make good choices. It would share water conservation tips with new California bookings. It would give San Francisco hosts resources to help guests comply with our compost law. It would make it easy to donate leftover food and toiletries to nonprofits.”

Here are some metrics presented by Airbnb to show how sustainable they are–  but let’s encourage them to support even greener initiatives in the future.


Infographic and image from Airbnb

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