13 ways to create a sustainable vacation rental

Go green and attract today’s eco-conscious guests


Today’s vacation rental guests care about more than just having a great vacation. They want to make a positive impact and protect the planet as well.

Just take a look at the numbers. According to Booking.com’s 2023 Sustainable Travel Report:

  • 70% of U.S. travelers say they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months
  • 56% would feel better about booking accommodations with a sustainable certification or label
  • 67% want travel companies to offer more sustainable travel choices
  • 38% actively look for information about the sustainability efforts of a property before they book

The good news: There’s lots you can do at your vacation rental to be a good steward for the environment yourself—while also attracting these environmentally conscious guests and helping them vacation more sustainably.

Why go eco-friendly

Going green at your vacation home does so much more than help save the planet’s future. You’ll also likely see lower energy costs. Plus—if you market your eco-friendly efforts widely—you could have a leg up on your competition and bring in more bookings. We call this a win-win-win—for you, your guests, and the planet.

Most importantly, you don’t have to make any grand, expensive gestures (like investing in solar panels) to be part of the solution. Even small swaps (like replacing fluorescent bulbs for LED ones) can have a major impact in the long run.

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How to make your vacation rental sustainable

Committed to being part of the solution? Here are ways to turn your vacation rental into a sustainable stay.

1. Save water and go for low-flow

Your guests could be wasting water (hello, high water bills) without realizing it or meaning to. Your faucets, toilets, and showerheads could be at fault. Opt for low-flow options instead to both save water and money.

  • Low-flow toilets typical use 1.6 gallons per flush (versus the 7 gallons used by standard toilets)
  • Low-flow faucets can save your sink’s water flow by up to 30%
  • Low-flow shower heads can help reduce water consumption by 40%

2. Install smart home tech

We’ve all hosted guests who leave the lights on and the heater running throughout the day. Vacation rental smart home technology can be your best friend (and give you a sense of control) when combatting this wasted energy and water.

  • Smart leak sensors can notify you of any leaks around washing machines, behind toilets and under sinks.
  • Smart thermostats allow you to set a specific range of temperatures, block guests from fiddling with temperature settings, and sense when your vacation home is unoccupied and adjust the heating and cooling accordingly.
  • Smart lighting can detect when a room is empty and automatically turn off.
  • Smart light bulbs use 90% less energy and last 15 times longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs.
  • Smart fans (or smart fan controllers) can be paired with smart thermostats and include motion sensors so they run only when someone is in the room.

3. Install solar panels

Drastically reduce your use of fossil fuels (and the release of nasty nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere) by sourcing pure, clean energy directly from the sun instead. However, installing solar panels can be pricey. While solar panels are considered one of the most proven ways to save on electricity, on average it can take up to 8 years to break even.

4. Replace old appliances with energy-efficient models

Older washers, dryers, furnaces, and refrigerators are notorious for draining energy. Replace them with energy-efficient options, such as those with the Energy Star label. For instance, installing one of their certified dishwashers can mean saving 5,000 gallons of water annually.

An elegant dining area at a vacation rental in Winter Park, CO.

5. Grow a garden and plant trees

Lush gardens and yards are more than beautiful to look at, they’re champions for healthy air. They naturally clean the air by sucking carbon out of the atmosphere. Consider low-maintenance landscaping for your vacation rental. This means planting only what’s native to the area, a move which means less watering.

6. Use natural cleaning solutions

Purchase—or ask your housekeepers to use—cleaning products without ammonia, dyes, chlorine bleach and other harsh chemicals. Natural solutions aren’t just better for your guests, but also help to keep the local water supply clean.

7. Upgrade your plugs and power strips

Some gadgets continuously suck energy, even when they’re not being used, such as TVs, microwaves, coffeemakers, and video game consoles. This is known as phantom or vampire energy—basically wasted energy going down the drain. Smart plugs and power strips will automatically cut power completely when the item isn’t in use.

8. Look for eco-friendly linens

Even sleep and showers can be greener. When buying towels, linens, and bedding, look for sustainable materials that don’t harm animals or the environment. This includes organic cotton which is cultivated without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Or, choose alternatives to goose down for your duvets and comforters.

9. Buy energy-efficient air conditioners

Air conditioners can be your home’s biggest electricity suck. Especially if left on throughout the day in the summer or in warm destinations. So look for a more efficient, modern model. Today’s most efficient air conditioners now consume about 30% less energy than standard units. That means lower electricity bills and less carbon emissions.

Other ways to save: Use window awnings to block direct sunlight and install ceiling fans.

The living room of a vacation rental in Rockaway Beach, Oregon.
The exterior of a vacation rental in Rockaway Beach, Oregon
The kitchen of a vacation rental in Rockaway Beach, Oregon

10. Make it easy for guests to recycle or compost

Recycling is one of the most standard ways to make the planet greener. So, make it effortless for your guests. Place your recycle bin next to the trash can in the kitchen, so it will serve as a simple reminder to guests to separate their recyclables. Have a garden or yard? Create a compost pile for guests to add to.

11. Offer bicycles for guests to borrow

Encourage guests to go car-less during their stay. Bikes aren’t the only option. You can provide electric scooters or even kayaks as means to get around. Guests will likely appreciate both the adventure and the sustainable transportation options. Bikes not in your budget? Encourage guests to use local public transportation.

12. Buy local

Seek out locally made items for your vacation rental, from detergents, to soaps, to coffee beans. Not only will this help cut carbon emissions and air pollution, you’re financially supporting your own community.

13. Market all of your eco-friendly efforts

Now it’s time to tell the world what you’re doing through your vacation rental marketing. Don’t expect guests to discover your green efforts on their own. Whether through your social media channels, emails, vacation rental listing, SEO, or blog (or preferably all of these places). Cast a wide (marketing) net to attract the growing number of travelers looking for sustainable stays.

The planet is getting hotter. And, so is the demand for sustainable vacation rentals and eco-friendly stays. More and more travelers are aware of their impact on the planet and are expecting more out of the places they book. Make these changes listed above—however small—to go green and meet the demand.

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