Promoting sustainable food to attract guests

Locally sourced food and culinary heritage are magnets for guests

Trying different types of cuisine is a highlight of any trip away. One of the benefits of choosing to stay in a vacation rental is the provision of a kitchen. Your guests can cook with local ingredients as well as exploring your destination’s culinary heritage.

In this article, we share some ways that you can showcase the local foodie scene, whilst encouraging your guests to choose sustainable food.


1. Buy local, sustainable food

One of the best sustainable food choices you can make as a property operator is to support local food producers. Some studies have cited that “food miles”, as they are referred to, make up nearly 20% of all carbon emissions generated. This total will include food production and land use change. However, the most carbon-intense foods are those which are transported by air. These include certain perishable foods like fruit and vegetables which cannot be kept fresh for long periods of time.  However, most food products are transported by sea or road.

Based on this data, the most sustainable food option is to buy fresh produce like fruit and vegetables locally. This approach avoids imported foods and supports local growers in your destination. Furthermore, getting to know your local producers provides engaging storytelling opportunities which your guests will appreciate. For example, you may recommend a local bakery to your guests. They will be even more keen to shop there if you do a feature on the baker and share it in your blog and social media channels.


DID YOU KNOW? – Providing a list of locally sourced food stores can get you up to 3.13% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? Supporting local retailers and growers contributes to lower transport carbon emissions as well as contributing to the local economy.


2. Lean into the healthy eating trend

One of the big trends to remember is the interest in healthy eating amongst consumers. This is particularly prevalent in countries like the United States that have high levels of obesity and other modern chronic illnesses. The White House even developed a policy in 2022 called Food is Medicine.

This consumer behaviour is reflected in the shift towards more sustainable foods like organic and vegetarian. Organic food is focused on the health of the soil and wildlife. As such, certain chemicals are banned from use and growers tend to work in harmony with nature and the seasons. More and more people are cutting down on meat products for health reasons as well as for the environment. Over the past 50 years meat production has more than tripled with over 350 million tonnes produced each year. In the Sustonica criteria you will receive points if you list organic and vegetarian restaurants in your digital guidebook.


3. Promote culinary heritage

One of the many joys of travel is experiencing different flavours, textures and fragrances. This is why recommending local restaurants who showcase the local foodie scene will allow you to contribute to local businesses. In this way, you are promoting sustainable food to your guests. These restaurants will introduce your guests to the cuisine and culinary heritage of the region.

Every destination has a particular food speciality, often rooted in local tradition. Also, it may be part of a certain food etiquette which your guests will want to respect. For example, you should eat Japanese with your fingers not, as you might expect, chopsticks. In Italy, there are so many different types of pasta but the sauces that complement them are carefully chosen. The sauces are designed to adhere to the pasta and if you ask for a different combination, you may be surprised by the response!

As a vacation rental operator, you have the opportunity to introduce your guests to the whole foodie scene, from casual eateries to fine dining restaurants. Not to mention, the variety of food retailers who can share their knowledge and ingredients with guests.


4. Offer immersive sustainable food experiences

However, the modern traveller is not just interested in eating local cuisine, whether in a restaurant or enjoyed in their rental. Food tourism as it is often called has seen an exponential rise in recent years and is part of the “experience economy”. As such, your guests will be keen explore the cuisine of your destination in various ways.

There are so many opportunities to immerse your guests in these inherently sustainable food experiences. Here are some ideas that you will probably have researched already:


Specific cookery courses, like different styles of bread, using grains for pasta or tortilla making, patisserie, vegetarian dishes

Visits to vineyards and breweries

Accompanied trips to the local market or local producers

Cultural experiences like tea ceremonies or afternoon tea, morning coffee


In addition, do remember to think about activities for children. They are probably studying sustainable food production at school and most of them love to learn through “doing”. Also it’s often the kids who are educating their parents or carers these days! Consequently, consider ideas like picking herbs or collecting fruits and vegetables ready to be cooked in the short-term rental.


5. Rental kitchens showcasing sustainable food

As already mentioned, one of the great advantages of a vacation rental is the kitchen. Consequently, you have the perfect opportunity to create a more eco-friendly kitchen and help your guests choose sustainable food.

If you provide the basics like tea, coffee, sugar, herbs and spices, you could choose organic options. Yes, it will cost slightly more but not a huge amount when compared to the message you are giving that you care about the environment. Also organic food is usually seen as the optimum quality and your guests will feel they are special.

The other excellent way to showcase sustainable food is your welcome pack. It should be easy to include locally produced food which is typical of your area. You could even set up partnerships with local producers who could offer a discount to your guests. Alternatively, they may offer a food experience which can be highlighted in the welcome pack. For example, you could offer a bottle of wine from a local vineyard and your guests can visit them to enjoy a wine tasting.

Lastly, remember to add those extra touches in the kitchen to remind guests that you respect the environment. These include providing eco-friendly washing-up products as well as a reusable bag for all those shopping trips for tasty food!


6. Managing food waste

Of course, a byproduct of delicious food will be waste. Waste in a vacation rental costs time and money for your team. An interesting study in the USA showed that 70% of rubbish in vacation rentals was recoverable. So, it makes sense to do everything you can do to reduce it.

Start by thinking about the products you put in your welcome pack and monitor what is not used. This might lead you to only offer non-perishable items which could be taken home as well.

When it comes to food waste, make it easy for your guests to recycle. At Sustonica, we have created some colourful labels for your recycling bins which will appeal to children as well as adults. Also ensure that you include very clear instructions in your digital guidebook. If you encourage your guests to shop with independent shops, this should cut down on food packaging waste.


DID YOU KNOW? – Offering at least 4 recycling bins can get you up to 2.75% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? Recycling glass, paper, plastic and organic waste means that these items do not end up in landfill and may be recycled for future use.


Undoubtedly, there will be some food left by guests although you can provide some fun recipes for leftovers! For the food that cannot be put into the compost, you can consider a few different options. Maybe allow your cleaning staff to take food which is edible and safe. Alternatively, you could donate to a local food bank or charity for families in need. There are even restaurants in certain locations who are creating menus using food which has been viewed as waste.

Culinary experiences are such a guest attraction and you are probably doing many things already to promote sustainable food. Why not add a few more?!


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