Sustainable Tourism: 30+ Ways to Get Started as a Hotel or Vacation Rental

If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of many travel and hospitality businesses that are looking to adopt sustainable practices in order to minimise their impact on the environment and contribute toward shaping a net-positive industry.

Whether you’re ready to hit the ground running, or you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, a list is always a good place to start. So, we’ve put together some ideas and tips to help you start making your hotel or vacation rental property more eco-friendly. The list has some items that may require considerable investment on your behalf and so will need a bit more planning, but there are also tips that are just a matter of changing some settings or adjusting how you’ve done things so far. 

Energy Conservation

Energy conservation is a critical step toward lowering the carbon footprint of a hotel or vacation rental property and can also significantly reduce your electricity bills which, in this day and age, can make all the difference. The following ideas can help you save money and energy while making sure your guests stay comfortable during their visit.

  • Install energy-efficient technologies such as compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LED) lighting and heat recovery ventilation.
  • Set all screens, displays, and computer monitors to automatically go to standby when not in use.
  • Install occupancy sensors to turn off the lights when a room is not occupied.
  • Install motion detectors and light dimmers.
  • Use smart power strips to allow multiple devices to plug into one outlet while shutting down power to appliances that are on standby mode. 
  • Eliminate any unnecessary technology from guestrooms.
  • Choose a colder temperature setting on dishwashers and washing machines.
  • Conduct an audit of the energy efficiency of appliances like air conditioning units, fridges, and your heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting systems. Start budgeting for the replacement of those that have a low energy grade.
  • Invest in renewable energy sources like solar panels to provide hot water for your guests. Many governments offer relevant subsidies to businesses and homeowners.
  • Use a digital facility management system with smart meters to monitor your environmental impact while optimising your operating costs.

Water Conservation

A very important sustainability practice for hotels and vacation rental properties is water conservation as it can reduce the need for expensive municipal water supplies, a significant operational expense. It also helps to reduce the environmental impact associated with using large volumes of water and can cut down on the amount of waste going into storm drains and sewers. Below are some of the ways that you can help conserve water:

  • Cut down on your water consumption by using low-flow showerheads, and dual-flush (HET) toilets and reducing the tap flow rate. 
  • Put up signs encouraging guests to contribute to your sustainability efforts by reusing their towels. You can also have a policy of changing bed linen less frequently.
  • Make sure that cleaners and maintenan­ce staff are trained on how they can save water when cleaning and maintaining your property.
  • As kitchens usually account for the majority of a hotel’s water consumption,  adopt responsible cooking principles such as zero-kilometre cooking, reducing the number and size of dishes used, and washing produce and dishes in a sink or tub filled with water instead of using running water. 
  • Collect and recycle grey water and rainwater for irrigation.
  • Plan routine inspections to check for any possible leaks, thereby preventing water wastage.

Opt for drought-resistant plants or species that are native to your area to minimise the amount of watering required.

Waste Management

The importance of waste management in the hospitality industry has been recognized by many organizations, including the United Nations, the World Travel & Tourism Council, and the International Hotel Investment Alliance. This is because hotels and vacation rental properties generate significant amounts of waste every day, with the most common types of waste including food waste, cleaning supplies, paper, laundry, and recycling.

Here are a couple of ways you can really crack down on waste management at your property:

  • Use recycled and sustainable materials as well as upcycled furniture whenever possible.
  • Cut down on single-use plastic waste by limiting its use and availability, opting instead for reusable alternatives.
  • Installing drinking fountains can limit water wastage as well as reduce plastic waste by encouraging the use of reusable water bottles.
  • Make recycling as easy as possible for both staff and guests.
  • Limit food waste in your kitchen by adopting zero-waste cooking strategies, composting, and donating leftover food.
  • When buying new bed linen, towels, decorations, etc., choose ethically sourced products, from sustainable brands, that are made from recyclable or recycled materials.
  • Switch to biodegradable rubbish bags (they’re not all built the same, so do your research on this one).
  • Use a keyless entry system and contactless check-in to reduce waste. 

Eco-friendly partnerships 

One of the best things you can do is to join forces with other businesses that are equally driven to be more sustainable. By working together, you can share information about potential opportunities and collaborate on solutions to common problems. You can support other businesses’ sustainability efforts through your choice of products, services, and more. Building a network of partners who share the same values as you can also serve as motivation, inspiration, and guidance along the way. Some ideas for eco-friendly partnerships include:

  • Sourcing food locally and opting for seasonal produce whenever possible.
  • Partnering with companies that have strong eco-friendly strategies in place.
  • Choosing environmentally friendly products and services, such as biodegradable toiletries and energy-efficient cleaning services.
  • Support local green initiatives and community conservation groups. Work with them to find more ways to lower the carbon footprint of your business.
  • Educate your guests on the importance of sustainability in your community and show them how they can support local initiatives.
  •  You can even work toward protecting wildlife habitats in your area through land protection and habitat restoration projects.


No matter what you start with, or how small each step you take might be, remember that the age-old adage “every little counts” still holds true. So choose a couple of your favourite ideas to get started on and, as you make your way through the list, you can sleep a little bit better each night knowing that you are doing your part and you are on the path to sustainability!


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