We often hear that we have only eight, ten or twelve years to save the planet. While that may not be true per se – there’s no magical deadline for saving the planet – it highlights the urgency of taking action to mitigate the climate crisis, which has been threatening Earth for decades.

Governments, businesses and communities urgently need to make decisions to reduce emissions and curb global heating. Otherwise, the floods and forest fires ravaging our planet will only get worse.

As a growing industry, vacation rentals have a responsibility to take part in the fight and help save our planet by adopting environmentally-friendly practices. Furthermore, focusing on sustainability has proven business benefits and can help property managers distinguish themselves from the competition. 

But how can companies take the first steps towards becoming more sustainable? Experts predict that green technology will be one of the prominent trends that define property management in 2030. We couldn’t agree more.

In this blog post, we’ll cover all the ways that technologies such as home automation can help to reduce your carbon footprint, as well as other actions you can take. 

Jump to:

Why sustainability should be a priority for vacation rental property managers

How can home automation technology help increase sustainability in vacation rentals?

What else can property managers do to go green?

What will sustainability in the vacation rental industry look like 10 years from now?

Why sustainability should be a priority for vacation rental property managers

There are several reasons why vacation rental property managers can no longer ignore sustainability and should, instead, make it a part of their strategies. 

Firstly, the need to address the climate emergency is more pressing than ever. The past years have seen countless dangerous weather events caused by global warming that threaten people’s lives and livelihoods, our communities and the planet’s wildlife. 

While the solution to this requires immediate action from governments and global organizations, individuals and businesses also need to do their part – including vacation rental property managers. 

Secondly, guests are increasingly looking for vacation rentals that take a sustainability-forward approach. According to research conducted by Booking.com in 2020:

  • 82% of travellers think that sustainability is an important topic. 
  • 50% don’t think that there’s enough choice when it comes to finding sustainable places to stay.
  • 38% don’t even know where to look for sustainable accommodation. 

This means that, besides helping to protect the planet, putting sustainability first can also help property managers gain a competitive advantage and attract travellers who want to stay at environmentally-conscious accommodations. 

As a result, Incorporating sustainability into your vacation rental marketing strategy can help you attract more bookings and increase your revenue. 

And thirdly, introducing eco-friendly practices helps property managers to reduce their expenses. For example, becoming energy efficient has a double benefit: it’s light on the environment while also allowing property managers to save money on utility bills. 

How can home automation technology help increase sustainability in vacation rentals?

1. Eliminate energy waste

Vacation rentals have a serious energy waste problem. Guests often forget to turn the heating or air conditioning off when they leave the property, which leads to lots of unnecessary heating and cooling. 

They also tend to set the thermostat to unnecessarily high or low temperatures or leave the windows open. This results in a disproportionate increase in the property’s energy consumption.

To solve this problem, property managers are using smart thermostats that allow them to monitor and control the temperature remotely. 

Walter Colitti, CEO and Co-Founder of the home automation platform MODO explained to us how smart thermostats help to reduce a property’s carbon footprint by eliminating unnecessary heating and cooling. 

“By means of presence detection technology, home automation solutions such as MODO can automatically switch off or adapt the temperature when the guests are out of the property,” Walter said. 

“For a more reasonable use of heating and cooling, MODO also allows property managers to limit the temperature selected by the guests,” he added. 

A similar solution exists for properties with luxury amenities such as pools. For example, HeaterReader is the first cost-effective device that allows property managers to control their pool heater and pump from their phone.

According to HeaterReader’s General Manager Tanya Leshuk, “Having the ability to set schedules for the heater and pump, adjust them on the fly as needed and all from the convenience of the cell phone is a game-changer.” 

We all understand the benefits of incorporating smart thermostats such as the Nest or Ecobee, into our homes and offices,” she added. “Having a similar system to manage the pool can have an even greater impact on energy savings and carbon footprint.”

2. Reduce trips to the property 

The second way home automation can help vacation rental property managers increase sustainability is by preventing property managers from driving back and forth between their office and their properties.

MODO’s smart home solution, which allows PMs to control thermostats remotely, saves many unnecessary trips. 

“Thanks to a smartphone app, the management personnel don’t have to frequently drive to the properties to set the temperature before check-in or to make sure that heating and cooling are off after check-out. These functionalities can even be integrated into the PMS and have them automatically executed without any intervention of the property manager,” Walter explained. 

Automating check-ins with keyless entry and smart locks is another way to cut down on the property manager’s need to travel. 

As contactless check-in becomes the norm, guest expectations are starting to align with what’s best for the environment. Self-check-in is a great way to reduce a company’s carbon footprint and contribution to air pollution, so it should be a priority for property managers.

For a list of keyless entry providers, check out the Who’s Who of Vacation Rentals

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What else can property managers do to go green?

Besides implementing home automation technology in their rentals, property managers have several other options to promote sustainability. 

1. Get listed on environmentally-friendly OTAs

A great way to showcase your environmentally-friendly properties is to advertise on niche OTAs that specialise in eco-friendly accommodations

Expanding your vacation rental distribution to these websites allows you to target travellers who value sustainability and are actively looking for eco-friendly accommodation options. 

Here are some eco booking sites to get listed on: 

  • Ecobnb has 10 sustainability criteria that accommodations need to meet in order to get listed. These include 100% renewable energy, organic or local food, car-free accessibility, ecological cleaning products and more than 80% waste recycling.
  • Green Pearls offers sustainable vacation rentals worldwide. Properties listed on the platform are assigned scores on factors like environmental protection, local/authentic experiences, giving back and cultural commitment. 
  • Fairbnb is committed to ethical travel and donates 50% of its revenue to fund local community projects. The platform has strict sustainability policies and allows property managers to participate in a more equitable tourism model. 

2. Offset your carbon emissions

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are released into the Earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. They are directly linked to global warming and must be drastically reduced to save our planet. 

Offsetting your carbon emissions can be a good way to reduce your carbon footprint and work towards becoming carbon neutral. This basically means compensating for your emissions by funding projects aimed at reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

More and more companies around the world – including airlines which are some of the worst offenders when it comes to carbon emissions – have started offsetting their carbon emissions in hopes of it having a positive impact on the environment. Property managers can do the same by purchasing carbon offset packages from a trusted provider. 

To find out more about how to calculate and offset your vacation rental carbon emissions, read this informative article by Hostfully. 

3. Switch to green energy

Energy generation is the leading cause of climate change and the production of CO2. Most of our electricity comes from coal, nuclear and other non-renewable power plants, which are taking a severe toll on our environment polluting our air, land and sea.  

But green energy is becoming more widely available to all, with many energy companies offering green energy alternatives, simply by switching your tariff, it is possible to use energy without producing any CO2.  

The environmental and economic benefits of using renewable energy include:

  • Generating energy that produces no greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and reduces some types of air pollution.
  • Diversifying energy supply and reducing dependence on imported fuels.
  • Creating economic development and jobs in manufacturing, installation and more.

For property managers, switching to green energy has business benefits, too. Firstly, it can help cut down on costs since green tariffs are often cheaper than regular ones. 

Secondly, advertising your home as running on green energy helps to attract an eco-conscious traveller segment. It can act as an important differentiator in today’s competitive market. 

4. Cut down on your use of plastic 

Plastic doesn’t just cause a terrifying pollution problem, but it also exacerbates climate change. As long as our decision-makers don’t compel manufacturers to cut down on plastic production, it’s up to us to minimise our use of it.

To combat the plastic problem, property managers should look into switching out all single-use plastic packaging to biodegradable, zero waste or recycled alternatives. This means seeking out eco-friendly suppliers of guest toiletries and cleaning products. 

There are plenty of small businesses with a sustainability focus out there. For example, aBundle offers eco-friendly amenities made out of recycled materials and manufactured using sustainable processes.

While switching to these types of products is an investment, it helps make your rentals more sustainable and provides an opportunity to impress guests. 

Encouraging recycling is also an excellent way to reduce plastic waste. However, it’s less efficient than eliminating single-use plastics altogether. 

5. Promote reforestation

Increasing our reforestation efforts is one of the best things that we can do for our planet. In fact, planting trees helps all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. New trees breathe life into our planet – quite literally. 

That’s why vacation rental property managers need to support reforestation projects. 

Such initiatives are not at all unheard of. For example, Casal dei Fichi regularly donates to Treedom, an organisation that plants trees in Kenya. In a similar vein, EnjoyApartments plants a tree for every review they receive.  

For more information on how property managers can support environmental, social and economic causes, read our article on responsible travel and vacation rentals

What will sustainability in the vacation rental industry look like 10 years from now?

Vacation rental technology will undoubtedly play a critical role in ensuring sustainability for vacation rentals. 

Walter from MODO believes that 10 years will be enough to develop and implement the technology necessary to make vacation rentals completely eco-friendly. 

“Smart home technology, in particular, will be key for reducing or totally eliminating the energy waste, which nowadays accounts for 60% of the carbon footprint,” he said. 

Shifting travellers behaviours and needs also call for an increased focus on technology.  

“The shift to balance work and vacation has never been more clear,” said Tanya from HeaterReader. “That also coincides with the need to stand out when marketing a property.”

Tanya also pointed out that providing additional benefits to the renter will become more important than ever. “WiFi access is critical, and remote access to key features such as a swimming pool will play an important role,” she said. 

At Rentals United, we’re all for sustainability, and we hope to see our property managers implement lots of innovative tech solutions to enhance sustainability over the next few years.

Are you ready to build a tech-based distribution strategy? Discover how our enterprise-level Channel Manager can get you more bookings.