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New Green Tourism: Eco Friendly Airbnb

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By Chere Di Boscio

One company has been annoying the hotel and real estate industries greatly by allowing travellers to stay in private homes via its community-driven ‘hospitality company’ website: Airbnb. Founded in 2008 in California, Airbnb–and now, a plethora of similar companies such as Crashpadder, Fica la Em Casa and Wimdu–allow home owners and world travellers to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world – be it an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a custom luxury designed home for a month.

Whilst it’s easy to see why traditional hoteliers would be upset by the boom in the peer-to-peer rental business concept, when you consider all the wasted toiletries, daily sheet and towel washings and industrial decoration, food and energy use in hotels, there is a strong argument that staying in a private home is indeed more eco-friendly.

In fact, Airbnb recently released a study by Cleantech Group (CTG) quantifying the environmental benefits of home sharing for travellers. Apparently, this method of travel promotes a more efficient use of existing resources and is an environmentally sustainable way to travel. Traveling on Airbnb results in significant reduction in energy and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste, and encourages more sustainable practices among both hosts and guests.

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Sure, the Ritz is lovely…but is it green? Image: Wikicommons

“Resource sharing is rapidly growing across a number of sectors including hospitality, consumer goods, and transportation,” said Michael Ellis, EVP Advisory for CTG. “Cleantech Group’s initial analysis demonstrates some of the improvements in environmental resource efficiency that Airbnb’s platform delivers.”

“We have always believed that the Airbnb community supports environmental sustainability around the world, and it’s truly amazing to see that the impact is even bigger than we could have imagined,” said Joe Gebbia, Chief Product Officer and co-founder of Airbnb. “In North America alone, Airbnb guests use 63 percent less energy than hotel guests – that’s enough energy to power 19,000 homes for one year. With an impact that big, it’s clear that the Airbnb community is making a huge difference.”

While results varied from continent to continent, some of the North American highlights from the study include:

•    In one year alone, Airbnb guests in North America saved the equivalent of 270 Olympic-sized pools of water while avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 33,000 cars on North American roads.

•    Airbnb hosts also tend to engage in sustainable practices. Nearly 83 percent of Airbnb hosts in North America report owning at least one energy efficient appliance at their property.

•    Less than half of Airbnb hosts in both North America and Europe provide single-use toiletry products for their guests, also reducing waste per stay.

•    In North America, 95 percent of Airbnb hosts say they recycle at least one item type at their property; 94 percent of guests report that they recycle when possible.

•    When staying at an Airbnb, guests are 10-15 percent more likely to use public transportation, walk or bicycle as their primary mode of transportation than if they had stayed at a hotel.

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You could stay in a custom luxury design home like this–better than a hotel, and possibly greener, depending on the amount of guests. Image: www.taylormorrison.com

And European highlights from the study include:

•    In one year alone, Airbnb guests in Europe saved the equivalent of 1,100 Olympic-sized pools of water while avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 200,000 cars on European roads.

•    Airbnb hosts also tend to engage in sustainable practices. Nearly 79 percent of Airbnb hosts in Europe report owning at least one energy efficient appliance at their property.

•    Less than half of Airbnb hosts in both North America and Europe provide single-use toiletry products for their guests, also reducing waste per stay.

•    In Europe, 89 percent of Airbnb hosts say they recycle at least one item type at their property; 94 percent of guests report that they recycle when possible.

•    When staying at an Airbnb, guests are 10-15 percent more likely to use public transportation, walk or bicycle as their primary mode of transportation than if they had stayed at a hotel.

The release of this report has put further pressure on hotels to go green: “These findings suggest that Airbnb, by the very nature of its business, has raised the bar in sustainable tourism to a level that the conventional travel industry will find hard to beat,” said Jonathan Tourtellot, Founding Director of the National Geographic Centre for Sustainable Destinations.

Whether more people start using Airbnb for their holidays or not, we’re just glad that paying attention to the ecology is becoming an essential part of travel.

 Main image: Wikicommons



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