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A Road Map to Your Environmentally Sustainable Business

Is there a business, in any sector, that would not want to continue to grow and yet be greener and have a lighter impact on the environment? particularly if it can do so with no/low impact on costs. Add into the mix that a business could actually see benefits in terms of:
additional customers, improved bottom line, enhanced reputation, strengthened customer approval, improved branding, differentiation from competitors etc. not to mention being recognised as socially responsible. Seems like a no brainer doesn’t it? So why don't more businesses take action?

Maybe the topic never quite gets to the top of the to-do list or maybe you don’t know where to start.

I strongly believe that building environmentally sustainable into how you operate is a no-lose part of your business plan. Increasingly you will be encouraged to be more sustainable by your guests, by the market and ultimately when looking at what others are doing in your region.

So over the coming weeks I intend to give you a road map, introducing you to some small easy steps that you can take to make your business more environmentally sustainable. Along the way I will also flag up some of the trends/commentary/surveys in our industry that signal why environmental sustainability equals business success.

Each week I am going to post one single action that you can take and explain why it is important. The suggestions are not rocket science and probably you will have heard of most of them before. They are usually easy and they will all make business sense.

Finally before we get started I don’t claim to be an expert by any means so please jump in with your perspectives, ideas and challenges.

Step One - Green Energy Tariff

Most of us don’t review our power supplier often or our tariff with that supplier. Historically most energy comes from fossil fuels which damage our environment and heats up our atmosphere. Switching to a green tariff is easy, often cheaper, great for the planet and makes your business more environmentally sustainable.

Action: Switch to a different energy tariff based on renewable sources.
  • Check your energy bill and see what it says about how the energy was created. There will often be a breakdown explaining the mix of sources of the power e.g. carbon, wind, solar etc
  • If you are not on a fully green tariff contact your supplier and ask about a renewable energy tariff. Remember they are used to these questions and should be able explain your options.
  • If they don’t have an effective green tariff, look for an alternative supplier in your region. In the majority of places there is competition and other companies want your business.
  • Search for ‘green energy’ adding your city, state or country to find suitable suppliers or check out organisations that make comparisons for you
  • Don’t be put off by warnings of the difficulty of changing suppliers. Suppliers rely on you being lazy or scared of change. Inertia in the market hinders innovation and allows suppliers to be unresponsive to changing market forces.
  • Ask around via friends or on social media. People are usually very open to sharing their success stories in finding great green deals.
  • Make the switch and be public about it, it is something to be proud of.
  • Start a list of what makes your business green. Once you have a few steps under your belt you might want to promote your efforts and reap the benefits of being environmentally sustainable. Your guests and clients will love what you are doing. Why wouldn’t they?
This article explains the different levels of green tariffs (some are better than others) and why choosing one sends a powerful message to the energy industry.

If anybody wants my help, just ask.
 
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H

Henrietta

This is an absolute blast!
I value the IC precisely for the type of help, mentoring and thorough info you are just offering Bob.
I am committed to build a sustainable and socially responsible business, and can't wait to go through the step-by-step guide weekly!
I am starting a list about what makes our business green, and it is a challenge with the high end properties.
Energy is a crucial part, I'm curious if in Rome there's anything available to go greener.
I'd also love to hear experience /best practices of urban destination VRs for going green(er)!
 

BobG

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@Henrietta here are some of the key green energy suppliers in Italy. I am NOT recommending them all but you can see there is good competition for your green euros.

Dolomiti Energia
È Nostra
Sorgenia
Energia-positiva
NWG
Weforgreen
E-On

Don’t forget to search for a local agency/charity who are set up to advise businesses and individuals go green.
 

BobG

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Are you wondering if making your VR business more environmentally sustainable is relevant to you? then take a look at these two statistics from Booking.com 2019 Sustainable Travel Report

73% of global travellers intending to stay at least once in an eco-friendly or green accommodation when looking at the year ahead.

70% of global travelers say they would be more likely to book an accommodation knowing it was eco-friendly, whether they were looking for a sustainable stay or not.


So why not tap into this market by taking some very simple steps to meet this growing demand?

Baking some sustainable actions into your business now doesn’t need to be complicated or costly and is forward thinking when considering the market changes coming down the line.

Step Two - Energy Efficient Lighting

This is such an easy step and really is a no-brainer of you want to save money, do the right thing for the environment and attract the increasing number of guests looking to make their holiday more sustainable.

Action: Switch out your light bulbs to LED.
  • LED (Light Emitting Diode) light bulbs are the latest technology in bulbs replacing tungsten, fluorescent and halogen incandescent bulbs.
  • Research shows that in a typical home, lighting accounts for 15% of all energy use
  • LED bulbs are the most efficient - lasting up to 20 times longer than a halogen bulb and up to 50 times longer than a incandescent light bulb
  • LED bulbs use only a fraction of the power consumed by other light bulbs - saving you money and causing less damage to the environment
  • Using LED bulbs means less maintenance - they don’t give out so often and so don’t need to be replaced by your staff
  • In Europe and other regions old style light bulbs are being phased out by law in favour of LED
  • The average home in the US has 40 light bulbs. Replacing them with LED could save up to $300 a year in energy costs
  • Start a list of what makes your business green. Once you have a few steps under your belt you might want to promote your efforts and reap the benefits of being environmentally sustainable. Your guests and clients will love what you are doing. Why wouldn’t they?
This article explains everything you will need to know about selecting low energy lighting, the costs, comparisons and the science
 
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JPrugh

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Found this website: http://competitiveenergy.org for USA. Click on your state and find out if electricity or gas can be sourced from outside your local utility. There may be other websites too.

All my properties have LED lighting, many buildings have solar PV systems, beaucoup insulation, EV charging, etc. My "burr under the saddle" with green advocacy groups is that they never think of fixing up an existing building as "green." National Trust for Historic Preservation has long maintained that the greenest building is the one that has already been built.
 

RGozdziak

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Have you checked your home power factor? Inductive load could knock you down to 50-60% effective power. This means you would pay for 2x what you use. Most power companies can set a meter and do a study.
 

BobG

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Have you checked your home power factor? Inductive load could knock you down to 50-60% effective power. This means you would pay for 2x what you use. Most power companies can set a meter and do a study.
As I understand it, I am not an electrical engineer, modern LED lightbulbs are designed to have a low inductive load and so this should not be an issue in a non commercial building i.e. a residential home or VR. Of course your power company or electrician can advise you if you are concerned. Remember if your lightbulbs are giving out heat that is energy wasted in converting power to light!

@JPrugh thanks for the useful link. Absolutely, existing properties made greener are usually the best use of resources - spot on.

@Sherry - wow that is a huge electricity bill and where you are based you have the sun to make solar well worthwhile. Is the conversion in your plan?
 

Sherry

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@Bob, yes going solar is/was on my list of things to do this year but with COVID I've not been able to go to Jamaica and interview the possible vendors myself. Have to be careful with people who claim they are experts. Once travel opens up that's on my list of things to do. Kind of difficult because when things open up I really need to be taking bookings as opposed to being closed to put in a solar system. So much to think about.

We did put in 2 solar water heaters last Summer and that did help. I have changed out some of the older AC units to newer more energy efficient models and have maybe 3 or so more to go. I do need some solar outdoor lights.

A big part of the problem is that the power company has a monopoly. The solar option that I am looking into will allow me to put any extra power back onto the grid. Over time, I want to add more batteries to be able to largely get off the grid. I need to learn more of course.
 

BobG

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Plastic is such an insidious if useful product. Can there be anybody left in our industry, or any other, who is not aware of the wastefulness of this product and the damage it is doing to the environment?

Each week there is something in the serious press talking about what the tourist can do in choosing a greener holiday. Of course there are many aspects to an environmentally sustainable holiday but one of the key factors is the accommodation.

More and more travellers are expecting you to be taking some steps to be greener and a significant minority include sustainability in their search criteria.

Here are three facts about plastics:
  • Between 1950 and 2017 we created 9.2 billion tons of plastic.
  • Of that, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste. Of that waste, a staggering 6.3 billion tons never made it to a recycling bin.
  • Once discarded plastic eventually breaks down into micro-plastic which takes centuries to fully disintegrate
Plastic pollution is perhaps the poster child of environment sustainability. Its negative impact is very widely understood by the public and increasingly vacation rentals hosts will be judged on what they are doing to make a difference on this subject.

Countries, regions and states are introducing bans or limits on single use plastic. Do you know what is coming down the line in your area?

Step Three - Reduce Your Plastic Consumption

Plastic is everywhere and it is extremely difficult to live in the modern world without it. But that does not mean that you can’t be highly selective about when and why you use it.

'The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it' (Robert Swan)

Action:
Eliminate single use plastic in your home and business
  • Bottled water is one of the biggies. Use filter jugs, fitted filters and sparkling machines to remove the need for guests to buy bottled water
  • Support your initiatives with a branded long-life water bottle as a gift to your guests. There are so many companies but I like Jerry*
  • If the coffee culture is big in your area consider a branded cup as a gift for your guest. Half a trillion cups are thrown away each year!
  • Cleaning products usually come in single use dispensers and are incredibly wasteful. Find a supplier that sells in bulk so you can reuse the dispensers. Even better if the product comes dehydrated as it’s transport carbon footprint is much lower
  • Stop using toiletries in bottles and instead fix permanent dispensers in your bathrooms that are refillable
  • Look for other single use plastic items you provide like straws or single use non-compostable bags. Find alternatives or eliminate them
  • Where you use plastic, find out which types are actually recycled/composted in your area. Use that type and recycle it. Only 9% of plastic globally is recycled.
  • Educate your guests about the changes you have made and why. They will support you and appreciate your efforts
  • Start a list of what makes your business green. Once you have a few steps under your belt you might want to promote your efforts and reap the benefits of being environmentally sustainable. Your guests and clients will love what you are doing. Why wouldn’t they?
This article explains many of the issues around plastic and makes suggestions of changes that you could incorporate into your personal lifestyle and your business.

* If you are going to work with a company then why not choose one with a social conscious? Jerry gives 100% of their profits to fund water projects around the world.
 
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BobG

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This step has a triple win - it is one of the easiest actions you can take, it is one of the most beautiful and it also has an amazing benefit for the planet. Plant some trees.

Trees are superb at sucking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in the tree itself and in the ground (where it originally came from). Trees are the lungs of the planet and are essential for maintaining the healthy air that we breathe. They are a significant tool in mitigating the heating of the climate.

Here is a recent article by Rentals United explaining the growing trend for sustainable travel and vacation rentals. Planting trees is a superb way of making your business more environmentally sustainable.


Step Four - Plant Trees
By planting trees, you can help clean the air and fight climate change!

'The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now' (Chinese Proverb)

Action: Plant your own trees or subscribe to an organisation who will do it on your behalf
  • At your home or your business property plant some trees
  • There are over 60,000 varieties of tree. Choose trees not just by their beauty but ones best suited to your local environment
  • Where possible choose trees that grow quickly so that they can all the sooner suck up more carbon
  • Start to finance tree planting through one of the many organisations set up for this purpose. But choose wisely who you support
  • Introduce a carbon offset scheme for your guests. It is NOT a perfect solution that absolves you and your guests of all responsibility but it is a step in the right direction. Your guests will participate and will appreciate your efforts in helping to green their vacation.
  • Use a site like this to calculate your carbon use and plan how you can reduce it
  • Consider gifting a tree to someone. Most of the organisations working in this area can help you.
  • Start a list of what makes your business green. Once you have a few steps under your belt you might want to promote your efforts and reap the benefits of being environmentally sustainable. Your guests and clients will love what you are doing. Why wouldn’t they?
This article explains the science behind tree planting to combat the climate crisis.
 
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H

Henrietta

  • Introduce a carbon offset scheme for your guests. It is NOT a perfect solution that absolves you and your guests of all responsibility but it is a step in the right direction. Your guests will participate and will appreciate your efforts in helping to green their vacation.
  • Use a site like this to calculate your carbon use and plan how you can reduce it
absolutely on our list, working on a gif card / booking voucher system where the carbon offset of a flight would be covered by us. still elaborating, but I believe this is something also travellers will pay more attention in the future.
 

BobG

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'Save carbon, save money’ says Michael Driedger from Operto who won the 2019 VRTech Start Up competition at the Vacation Rental World Summit. A property management company using technology to help hosts and managers manage remotely.

This topic is about using technology wisely in your vacation rental business to operate more efficiently, communicate your ethos, lower your costs and reduce your impact on the environment.

  1. According to Airbnb, 88% of its hosts incorporate some form of green practice into their business. The company says it has seen an “overwhelming desire” from both hosts and guests to take steps to support sustainable travel.
  2. Vacasa, the booking platform has a policy of instigating green initiatives with hosts and plans to introduce property energy audits.
  3. A survey by Travel Technology Europe reveals that 53% of those polled put economic conditions at the top of the list of concerns followed by sustainable travel at 45% and climate change at 44%. The survey, which was completed by travel technology companies, tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers and travel management companies, also reveals that 47% say customers are asking for more "eco-friendly, sustainable travel options."

So there is increasing evidence from surveys and serious players in the market that there is a demand for VRs to be more environmentally sustainable.

Step Five - Which technologies will help your business and be environmentally sustainable
Action:
Seek out technologies to automate your business processes and communicate your ethos.
  • Smart thermostats allow you to control the heating or cooling remotely - reducing your power consumption
  • Voice Assistance Devices like Alexa or Google Assistant can control your smart locks, HVAC, camera, appliances, lights etc (as well as an interactive voice assistance on so many topics for your guests) @DanaY is one of the experts in this field with his company The Virtual Concierge
  • Use a digital guide like TouchStay to inspire your guest post booking and to communicate all your green initiatives. Explain what you are doing and why and seek guests' support during their stay. Highlight other business, activities or experiences that compliment your environmental sustainability. Of course it's digital so less paper used too!
  • Start a list of what makes your business green. Once you have a few steps under your belt you might want to promote your efforts and reap the benefits of being environmentally sustainable. Your guests and clients will love what you are doing. Why wouldn’t they?

This recent article by PhocusWire is entitled How technology and eco friendly practices are helping short-term rentals go green.
 
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JPrugh

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LEDs, smart thermostats, etc. are all fantastic! I'm going to suggest PM$, defined as preventive maintenance makes money. Here are a few examples.
  • All of our properties are heated and cooled with mini splits, which are very efficient heat pumps. A heat pump is exactly that; it pumps heat from the outside to the inside (during the colder seasons) and from the inside to outside (during the warmer season).
  • Some of you may have "swamp coolers" which are use water evaporation to draw heat from inside a building to outside.
  • Some may have window air conditioner, which are frankly "meh" - you can probably do better than that.
  • In every case, set up a maintenance schedule to ensure that your climate control system is working as efficiently as possible. Your maintenance staff should know how to check the level of refrigerant with a pressure gauge. And I hope to high heaven that none of you have Freon anymore as that refrigerant is particularly harmful to the environment - H134A is the standard now, but even that may change soon.
  • We also have the condenser coil which has a fan to blow the heat from the house into your surroundings. Keep in mind that the compressor is usually inside there. If the compressor goes out, you'll know right away when your guests call in a panic.
  • In our neck of the woods, cottonwood "cotton" (its seeds love to drift through the breezes and clog up the condenser fins, drastically reducing its efficiency, so the condensers are cleaned every six weeks or so during the "cotton" season. If you're tempted to flush the condenser with water, wash from the inside to the outside. If you flush from the outside to the inside, dirt particles will become lodged between the thin aluminum fins and permanently reduce efficiency.
For property managers, consider offering a system check for all of your properties. Charge enough to cover your cost and a little more to ensure that the heating/air conditioning systems are working well. This service should be done twice each year: in the cooling season and again for the heating season.

On a side note, if you heat water with electricity, look into those that include a heat pump. The heat pump pulls heat from the air to help heat the water and reduce your electricity usage.
 

Catherine

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I have a tip that I received from @Dawn when I was discussing moving from GoDaddy to another web site Host- she mentioned Green Geeks. They monitor their carbon footprint, and ( i can't remember the technical stuff), they are supposed to be more green than other Hosts.

Obviously I cannot explain it, but bottom- line, they're green. I went with them, but I was starting out, just building my site, so transition was easy.
 

BobG

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I have a tip that I received from @Dawn when I was discussing moving from GoDaddy to another web site Host- she mentioned Green Geeks. They monitor their carbon footprint, and ( i can't remember the technical stuff), they are supposed to be more green than other Hosts.

.
Thanks @Catherine ( and @Dawn ) I hadn’t heard of them. I timely reminder to check on any supplier and ask them about their green strategy. It’s all about holding everyone accountable and asking them to play their part. https://www.greengeeks.com/
 

BobG

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And I just listened to @Matt Landau 's latest unlocked interview with Chip Conley which is well worth a listen. I noted another key player in this market - Point Central. A company who specialise in Home automation which includes controlling utilities bills by limiting guests' ability to make extreme changes in temperature at the VR.
 

Catherine

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And I just listened to @Matt Landau 's latest unlocked interview with Chip Conley which is well worth a listen. I noted another key player in this market - Point Central. A company who specialise in Home automation which includes controlling utilities bills by limiting guests' ability to make extreme changes in temperature at the VR.

My Ecobee thermostat gives me remote access, has sensors for each room, allows you to set up a temperature- change schedule, etc. It generates reports, too, telling you what you've saved.
Oh, I can also set a max cool temp that guests cannot override.
I set a sleep temp, away temp, home temp, etc. It let's you control how long guests can set a temp change, too. Very smart.:geek:
 
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