Sustainable procurement for vacation rentals

Green up your properties and enhance the guest experience when purchasing cleaning products, guest body washes and other consumables

Travellers are adopting more sustainable behaviour whilst they are at home, but also when they are staying away. Consequently, they are acting responsibly by recycling, shopping with reusable bags and carrying their water in a reusable water bottle. Furthermore, they are voting with their wallet and choosing to spend with local businesses who offer sustainable products or services.

When they are travelling, they are still keen to follow these same principles and lifestyle. So, they are expecting to be able to act in the same way they do at home. They will be impressed to see eco-friendly toiletries in refillable bottles and everything set up to help them recycle easily in the host destination.

This approach fulfils guest expectations, reduces costs and waste for you as the property owner or manager, and also creates a healthier environment inside the accommodation.



1. Why adopting sustainable procurement for vacation rentals makes sense

Purchasing the right products is an important business decision both from a financial point of view but also for the guest experience. There are many ways that sustainable procurement will save you money and, importantly, reduce your carbon footprint. You might be surprised to know that the two usually go hand in hand.

The products and services that you buy from others are part of what is called your ‘Scope 3 emissions’ when it comes to greenhouse gases and your environmental impact. Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions are those directly within your control, such as your purchased electricity and emissions from business travel. However, your Scope 3 emissions are those which are generated by the companies you buy products from, as well as from your guests whilst they are in your property. The Sustonica criteria deals with both of these elements of Scope 3. Although this article focuses on procurement, your sustainable purchases will still have an impact on your guests’ carbon emissions when they in your property.

All the Sustonica criteria are linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the advice in this article is particularly relevant to Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.


2. How to set up sustainable procurement for vacation rentals

There are some important factors to consider when setting up a sustainable procurement policy for your vacation rentals. These actions will ensure a reliable supply chain which meets the expectations of your guests whilst reducing your waste and carbon emissions.

Here are the things you need to consider if you want to purchase sustainable products and services.

A) Does the supplier have a sustainability policy?

All professional businesses these days should have a sustainability policy, which is clearly found on their website and in their sales materials. The sales staff should also be well-versed in the policy. If you cannot find anything, then this should ring alarm bells. In addition, you need to have evidence that their claims are actually true and validated.


B) What type of packaging do they use?

Packaging is a huge driver of waste and in the past there has been a tendency to overpackage and overprotect. Ask your supplier what their products are delivered in. Is any packaging used made from recycled materials or reusable containers that you can return? Is the packaging itself recyclable?


C) What ingredients does the supplier use?

Guests increasingly expect properties to use eco-friendly products, particularly as they are probably using them in their own homes. So, it is important that you understand what ingredients are in the products you are putting into your properties. And you may need to ask. For example, manufacturers of cleaning products do not need to list all their ingredients. This can make it very difficult to know if they include toxic chemicals, which could be polluting waterways and affecting marine life. Many companies offer eco ranges, but it still makes sense to ask for the ingredients list. Certifications can help make this process easier (see further on).


D) Are they part of the circular economy?

This is a phrase which is increasingly being used and is an important part of sustainable procurement for vacation rentals. The circular economy means thinking about the full lifecycle of a product and ensuring that the end of life of a product has been considered. In fact, being part of the circular economy means that product never ends up in landfill. Take the example of refills for shampoos and body washes. If you buy in bulk to fill up reusable small containers, the large containers could be returned to the supplier for reuse. Consequently, that is being part of the circular economy.


E) How are the goods transported to you?

As we all know, vehicles create a large proportion of the carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Ask your supplier about their transportation policy. Do they avoid air freight? Have they got their own electric vehicles or are partnered with a courier service with an electric fleet? Do they use rail with electric or alternative transport for the last leg of the journey? Ideally, you should buy from a local supplier so that the transport distance to you is as short as possible.


F) Certifications and apps can help you make decisions

Understanding ingredients lists can be hard. We have already mentioned cleaning products. For cosmetic products, the ingredients are usually listed using scientific names and do not contain information about hazards like microplastics. Finding suppliers with certifications such as organic, vegan and cruelty-free can be helpful. There are also apps such as Beat the Microbead to identify microplastics and EWG Skin Deep which ranks cosmetic products based on the safety of their ingredients.


Now we will look more specifically at how to choose different types of products and how they form part of the Sustonica criteria.


3. Body washes and shampoos

These are very important for the guest experience. You want them to feel good quality and also not to be an irritant. There are reports that 30% of the global population suffers from at least one allergy, and you do not want to ruin a guest’s holiday by causing them a skin or respiratory irritation.

Good quality eco-friendly ingredients should always be free of microplastics. These are microscopic pieces of plastic which end up in waterways, ultimately reaching marine life and human stomachs. They are often used as a slightly abrasive ingredient and are found in a wide range of beauty products.


DID YOU KNOW? – Offering toiletries that do not contain microplastics can get you up to 3.5% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? Microplastics are a major contributor to the plastic pollution of our oceans and their effect is irreversible.


Save  money and plastic waste by buying in large containers and refilling non-plastic dispensers or those made from bioplastics such as sugar cane waste.


DID YOU KNOW? – Having refillable dispensers or biodegradable plastic toiletries can get you up to 3.00% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? Up to 95% of the plastic used in a hotel bathroom ends up in landfill where they sit for hundreds of years.


4. Paper products

Although paper is seen as a natural ingredient, it can still be part of creating deforestation, leading to potential habitat loss and global warming. Therefore, it makes sense to choose recycled paper for items like napkins, toilet paper and kitchen roll.  Recycled paper should be processed without chlorine, with minimal packaging and be free from dyes and fragrances.


DID YOU KNOW? – Offering products made from recycled paper can get you up to 2.75% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? While paper products generally have a small carbon footprint, collectively they are contributing to deforestation, global warming, and an ever-increasing waste problem


5. Bed linen and towels

The fabrics you choose for bed linen and towels are an important part of the guest experience, but they can also be having a negative impact on the environment. Cotton is one of the most sprayed crops in the world. This involves pesticides which are harmful to wildlife and cultivation requires vast volumes of water. Furthermore, there are often human rights abuses within cotton supply chains. The best solution is to choose organic cotton which uses much less water, linen or bamboo. These fabrics are better for the environment and feel comfortable on the skin too.


DID YOU KNOW? – Having eco-friendly bed linen and/or towels can get you up to 3.5% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? The bedding and towel industry is heavily reliant on cotton as part of its materials, and when it isn’t sourced sustainably it can wreak havoc on the environment & local communities.



6. Cleaning products

As with beauty products, cleaning products can often include toxic ingredients, which are irritants to people, affect indoor air quality and get into waterways where they can affect wildlife. In addition, they often contain synthetic fragrance, which is a known skin and respiratory irritant. So, choosing green cleaning products will be better for your guests but also for your cleaning staff.


DID YOU KNOW? – Having green cleaning products can get you up to 3.5% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? Non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products can help lessen both water and air pollution, and effectively fight climate change and ozone depletion.



Adopting sustainable procurement for vacation rentals will impress your eco-conscious guests, save you money, reduce waste and make life healthier for your staff



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