Holiday Rental

5 ways to encourage more sustainable guest behavior at your vacation rental

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Vanessa de Souza Lage is Co-Founder and CEO of Sustonica, the first sustainability certification for vacation rentals. She shares her advice on ways to encourage your guests to behave more sustainably during their stays.

More people are taking steps to make their homes sustainable. As a result, they want and expect the option to continue doing so while they’re away. If you can make sustainable options the default in your vacation rental, you’ll please your guests, make them feel relaxed, and possibly inspire them to implement even more everyday actions when they return home.

1. Make more sustainable practices the default

In a previous article, I shared some simple, inexpensive actions you can take to make your vacation rental more sustainable for guests, including:

  • Adding a “flow reducer/restrictor” to your shower head is inexpensive and can save 40% of water per shower, on average
  • Switching to recyclable toilet paper, napkins, and paper towels helps reduce deforestation and waste
  • LED light bulbs use 75% less energy than regular ones, and last up to 25 times longer. Using them will lower your energy bill and help protect the planet.

By taking these actions at your property, you’re already helping your guests act more sustainably without preaching, and without them having to do much themselves.

Top tip: Showcase the steps you're taking to become more sustainable on your property page with the Travel Sustainable program.

 2. Get children on board with recycling

One area where your guests do need to get involved is dealing with waste. This can be a challenge. To adapt a well-known saying, “You can lead a guest to a bin, but you can’t make them recycle.” The best way around this problem is to appeal to children rather than adults, and make recycling easy and fun. When children are encouraged to adopt sustainable habits, they can become role models within their own households. That’s why we created some fun stickers for glass, plastic, paper, and food waste bins, with messages like “I’m Glassy the giant. Only feed me glass bottles and jars” and “I’m Leaf, the wise elf, I love reading! Please give me paper and cardboard”. 

Top tip: You can download Sustonica’s stickers and put them on your bins to encourage children to show their parents and siblings.

Holiday Rental Mountains


3. Show them the way with a digital guidebook

Creating a digital guidebook that promotes sustainability, supports local businesses, and encourages community engagement is an excellent way to enhance the guest experience and positively impact the destinations guests visit. Here are some examples of tips to include in your guidebook:

  • Locally Sourced Food Stores: Provide a comprehensive list of nearby farmers' markets, organic grocery stores, and local co-ops where guests can purchase fresh, locally grown produce and products.
  • Local Volunteering Opportunities: Provide info on local charities, community centers, or environmental organizations that welcome volunteers. Guests can engage in activities like beach clean-ups, tree planting, or assisting with local events to give back to communities during their stays.
  • Promoting Local Heritage Sites: List historical landmarks, museums, and cultural centers that educate visitors about the region's history, traditions, and heritage. Encourage guests to visit these sites to support their preservation and upkeep.

Top tip: Include maps to highlight more sustainable local amenities, like electric vehicle charging points or water refill stations.

4. Make it clear how sustainable choices benefit your guests

There are other practical steps that can encourage guests to adopt sustainable behaviors. For example, provide a basket or tote bags guests can take to the supermarket to make shopping convenient and prevent them from having to pay for plastic bags. Similarly, you can offer guests a water filter or refill station so they don’t have to buy plastic single-use water bottles. 

The success of these measures often depends on how you communicate these more sustainable choices. If you position these practices as focusing on the benefits for guests, they’re far more likely to respond positively and use what you offer. 

Top tip: Make sure your guests know you’re providing tote bags and water filters by including information about them in your digital guidebook.

5. Keep the message visible with a sustainability chart 

One of the most important things we ask owners and property managers to do is to hang up a “sustainability chart.” This is a framed poster that explains all the measures you’ve taken at the property to reduce its environmental impact, and how you’ve helped guests reduce their impact as they travel. This has already proved a very effective method of influencing guest behavior because it’s so visible (rather than being included in an email or newsletter), and many travelers have already mentioned these charts positively in reviews. The hope is that when travelers go home, they’ll implement these small changes and start to improve the impact on their own households.

 Top tip: Consider taking the Sustonica test to see if you qualify for Sustonica’s vacation rental sustainability certification.

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What do you think of this page?

  • Implement small changes in your property that help guests reduce their environmental impact, and make them aware of these by posting a sustainability chart
  • Aim your communication about recycling at children in a fun way – they’ll take action and encourage family members to do the same
  • Outline how your more sustainable actions will benefit your guests – this will make them more likely to join in
  • Encourage guests to support your community by recommending locally sourced food stores and restaurants, local artists, and volunteering opportunities