Going Green With Airbnb: Travel More, Waste Less


Homesharing is a fun, exciting, easy and innovative way to travel. Airbnb exemplifies this growing form of tourism, aided by its savvy business model, good reputation and approachable campaign — not to mention a behemoth valuation of $25 billion. But if you need any other reason to respect the company and their place in the short-term vacation rental industry, here’s one: they’re environmentally friendly, too.

Historically and even presently, the environmental impacts of tourism have been nothing to brag about. From travel emissions to facility construction and resource depletion, travelers put stress on the environment by staying in hotels that may erode soil, pollute land, and pressure natural ecosystems. Airbnb rentals aren’t completely without carbon footprints, but research suggests they are more eco-friendly than even the greenest of hotels.

An Airbnb survey of 8,000 guests and hosts, prepared with the help of Cleantech Group, found that North American Airbnb renters use 63 percent less energy than hotel goers, while European ones use 78 percent less. In a year, North Americans saved about 270 Olympic-sized pools of water with Airbnb, and avoided the greenhouse emissions of 33,000 cars. Europeans saved the equivalent of 1,000 pools and avoided 200,000 cars worth of emissions.

Airbnb stays also avoided the energy use of 19,000 homes in North America, and 68,000 in Europe. Airbnb properties also avoid much more waste than hotels, as over half do not provide single-use toiletries. Both hosts and guests, the report found, are generally more environmentally conscious, using more public transportation, recycling almost always, and owning sustainable products.

Considering the basic model of the sharing economy, the results are far from surprising. By staying in pre-existing spaces, where everything from food to water is shared by inhabitants, travelers have a much lighter impact overall. It also makes sense that both Airbnb hosts and guests are already environmentally conscious, as early adopters of new services, startups, and technologies tend to be forward-thinking individuals that lean into socially conscious trends. Travelers in general have an appreciation for the wonders of the planet — why wouldn’t they want to preserve it?

There is still much more to the idea of sustainable tourism than staying in someone else’s house. And because environmental consciousness is becoming less a trend than it is a way of life, there is more those in the industry can do to emphasize the value of treading lightly and wasting less. Airbnb and other companies in the share economy have the right idea in beginning to spread awareness on these factors, so long as they remain honest and committed to the cause beyond just appearances.

Photo: Thomas Huang via Flickr.