When I was little, we used paper plates willy-nilly, went through cases of paper towels to sop up messes, and frequently left the lights on when we left a room… While my mom would yell at us for making Georgia Power rich, rarely, if ever, did we give a thought to how our wastefulness might be affecting our environment, too. Tsk, tsk, tsk…

Fortunately, these days most of us realize how our day-to-day lives affect the world we live in. Whether we’re home or out in the world, most of us at some point are thinking about – or at least are familiar with – the concept of our carbon footprint. (You can learn what is included in carbon footprints, and calculate your own, here.)

And it doesn’t stop just because we’re going on vacation!

But did you know that incorporating earth-friendly practices can not only help the environment but also enhance the appeal of your short-term rental properties to eco-conscious travelers?

Here are five ways to incorporate eco-friendly sustainability into your short-term rental units:

  1. Consider installing energy-efficient appliances:

You may not have the cash on hand to replace all your appliances right off the bat, but when it’s time (and there will come a time), consider replacing your appliances with Energy Star-rated ones (refrigerator, dishwasher, washer, dryer) to reduce electricity and water consumption. On a more practical note, LED bulbs, use at least 75% less energy and can last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. Use them wherever you can! (Lighting makes such a difference! (Here’s a video I did a while back on just that topic…) Finally, install a smart thermostat to optimize heating and cooling efficiency. You can even use the programmable ones that connect to an app on your phone. (This will minimize the chances of your cleaner discovering that your last guest set the a/c to 58* on the hottest day of the year!)

  1. Implement a Recycling Program:

Set out clearly labeled recycling bins for guests to easily sort plastics, metals, paper, and glass. And inform them ahead of time in your arrival instructions or guest book that you practice recycling.

Now this one may be a tougher sell, and you most definitely will want to have a conversation with your cleaning crew before implementing this, but consider having a small compost bin in the kitchen for organic waste, and educate guests on what can be composted. Ask them to empty it into the compost bin out back before they leave. (But prepare your cleaners that they may have to do so – hence that conversation beforehand.) Finally, ensure that your local waste management services can ensure proper disposal of recyclables and, if necessary, compost.

eco-friendly tips for your STR
  1. Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products and Supplies:

Ask your cleaners to use cleaning products that are biodegradable, phosphate-free, and made from plant-based ingredients. Be ready to provide them if requested. Or be proactive and volunteer to do so, as these types of products usually cost more.

Have reusable shopping bags on hand. If you pick up shopping bags from local grocers, it’s a subtle and sweet suggestion for them to shop in the neighborhood. In the bathroom, offer natural soaps, shampoo, and conditioner in refillable containers to minimize plastic waste. (You can usually source these affordably online.)

  1. Water conservation tips:

Another good item to include in your welcome book is to encourage guests to be mindful of their water usage. If you’ve already promoted that your space is “green” or eco-friendly, this request won’t come as a surprise. 

Outside, use native plants in landscaping to minimize water consumption for yard maintenance. Or consider using hardscape landscaping, which is even easier to maintain. Inside, install low-flow showerheads, faucets, and dual-flush toilets to reduce water usage. Again, if finances prohibit you from doing all these switch-outs at once, schedule them over time as money and time permits.

  1. Promote Sustainable Transportation and Activities:

Implementing this last tip can be lots of fun! Provide bicycles for guests to encourage low-carbon local travel. Make them simple to use and inexpensive – retro or “antique” bikes make for cute pictures as well!  If you hang them on a fence in the backyard or have room in your front entryway, they also serve as room decor.

For you extroverts, get out there and talk to owners of local eco-tourism companies! Arrange for coupons or reservations for guest experiences that have minimal environmental impact. Alternatively, if you have some experience or an activity to offer…consider promoting your own Airbnb Experience.

Finally, create a guidebook highlighting local farmers’ markets, sustainable restaurants, and green spaces to explore. If you’ve already created a house manual, this is an “easy add” – just create another section in the same welcome book and you’re good to go. Include brochures and maybe some coupons you’ve collected from those eco-tourism groups, and you’re good to go!

Now, I’m not suggesting or recommending that you do all of these at once. But by going through the list over time and doing what you can, you’re making a contribution to a healthier environment for us all – while encouraging your guests to “go green” with you.

None of us want to find footprints when we walk into the room while on vacation. Let’s try to minimize our carbon footprints, as well!

Pro-tip: Share your sustainability efforts in your marketing materials – it can further

enhance your property’s attractiveness!

Do you utilize any green practices in your short-term rental? Please leave your ideas and thoughts in the comments. We can all benefit from learning from each other!

Happy hosting! 🏡✨