Why reducing consumption in vacation rentals in the USA matters

Shifting guest expectations, overconsumption and the need to be more budget efficient are pushing vacation rental companies in the US to make changes


This summer has seen a whole host of extreme weather events across the globe, and the United States has been massively affected. In 2023 so far, there have been 23 natural disasters in America from severe flooding in the south-west states, to wildfires in Hawaii and devastating hurricanes in Florida. These events are a result of the increasing effects of climate change, together with this year’s El Niño effect. This has exacerbated the severity of natural disasters, but also given us an insight into what the future could hold as the new normal.

Communities have been affected in so many states, and this will include vacation rental properties which may have been severely damaged or experienced power outages. Climate scientists warn that this type of extreme weather is only predicted to get worse.

So how can vacation rental professionals be part of combatting climate change and future-proofing our industry and the destinations we promote?


1. Vacation rentals can lower carbon emissions by reducing consumption and waste


The biggest driver of climate change is rising global temperatures caused by carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Vacation rentals are unwittingly contributing to the increase in carbon emissions through the energy consumption and waste produced by their properties. You will quickly realise that reducing consumption in your vacation rentals makes business sense. 

Think about your energy bills and the unintentional behaviour of guests in your short-term rentals. Guests are on their well-earned vacation, and so they often behave differently when they are away from home.

  • They leave air conditioning and lights on when they are out
  • They buy plastic water bottles
  • They waste water by taking extra-long showers
  • They buy more food than they need
  • They do not separate waste for recycling

As well as creating carbon emissions, these actions are all costing you money in wasted energy and resources, as well as staff time to clear out unwanted food and plastic waste.

The good news is that you can be part of lowering carbon emissions and saving money. A winning combination.



2. Sustonica, the world’s first sustainability validation for vacation rentals


Sustonica was created to recognise property owners and managers for their sustainability efforts and to give them support as they progress on their journey. There is no other sustainability validation specifically designed for vacation rentals.

Founded by industry professional, Vanessa de Souza Lage, Sustonica aims to unite the vacation rental industry under a common banner and inspire guests to adopt sustainable practices on their return home.

We make it simple and affordable for property owners to be validated for their commitment to reducing consumption and waste, as well as having a positive impact in the host community. We help you make it easy for guests to do the right thing when they are on vacation and continue those habits at home. The Sustonica criteria have been developed for different types of properties to help you take actions in the following key areas:

  • energy conservation
  • promoting destination and community
  • waste reduction
  • water conservation
  • swimming pool / hot tub environmental impact (if applicable)

Just read on and see the simple sustainable actions you could adopt right now and be on your way to getting your Sustonica badge.

As a united industry, we can have a massive positive impact on the fight against climate change, and you can come and meet us at the VRMA Conference in Orlando in October!


3. Reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions

This is a great place to start on your sustainability journey as it is a quick win and very easy to do. Investment is minimal or low in most cases, and you will start to save energy and lower your bills immediately.

The Facts

As we have mentioned, the rising levels of carbon emissions in our atmosphere are largely due to energy consumption. The USA is one of the world’s top emitters of carbon emissions and is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels (petroleum and natural gas).

The good news is that reducing the consumption of electricity in your vacation rentals is a no-brainer. You save money, you do not affect the guest experience, and you are reducing your carbon footprint. Plus, you are showing guests that you are playing your part in saving the planet for future generations.


The Solutions

The Sustonica criteria for energy conservation have been designed to highlight the most effective ways for reducing consumption and your reliance on fossil fuels. Here are a few of the easiest places to start.

• Move to a green energy tariff or provider

• Install smart indoor thermostats and occupancy sensors

• Switch to LED lightbulbs

As a result of the Inflation Reduction Act in the USA, there is a comprehensive list of rebates for purchasing emissions-reducing products and services. These will, of course, help you reduce your energy consumption as well.

Just implementing some of the actions above, could set you well on your way to achieving your Sustonica badge.


Newly verified Partner, Momento Stays in California, quickly achieved the Sustonica badge for its flagship property, “The Grape Escape” by switching to a 100% renewable energy supplier and installing an electric vehicle charger.



4. Cutting down on food waste and encouraging recycling

Food waste is a huge problem all over the world, and the U.S. discards more food waste than any other country. Food left by guests is wasteful, but it also creates more work for your cleaning staff, creating extra pressure on changeover days.


The Facts

According to this New York Times article (which quotes our CEO, Vanessa, near the end!), the food waste figure could be even higher among travellers. In America, a large proportion of food waste still ends up in landfill. However, several states are planning to bring in regulation to reduce this figure. This will encourage the practice of recycling as well to ensure that different types of wastes are separated out.


The Solutions

The best way to encourage guests is to make things easy for them. If you actually offer the most sustainable choice to them, they will usually follow it. For example, if you recommend local grocery shops, farm shops and speciality stores, they are less likely to go to the supermarket and buy in large quantities as if they were at home. Providing a list of locally sourced food stores is one of the Sustonica criteria.

Also, think about making it easy for your guests to recycle by providing clearly marked bins and instructions. At Sustonica we have created these fun and colourful signs for your recycling bins. They are free for you to print out and use!


5. Reduce plastic waste and protect our oceans

Most of us are aware that plastic waste is a big problem, particularly for our oceans. The U.S. has a large coastal population and features many popular destinations which rely on clean oceans and beaches.


The Facts

A staggering 70% of the earth is ocean, and a truckload of plastic enters it every 60 seconds. That’s not surprising when you consider that every second 160,000 plastic bags are purchased and 20,000 plastic bottles. Unfortunately, the United States is by far the world’s largest generator of plastic waste and so it makes real sense for property owners in the U.S. to be part of the effort to reduce single-use plastic. Your guests will thank you for this, particularly if you make it easy for them to join you.


The Solutions

There are so many ways you can start reducing consumption of single-use plastic in your vacation rental. Here are some of the steps you can take which will get you points for achieving your Sustonica badge.

• Offer reusable shopping bags or baskets so that guests do not need to use plastic bags

• Encourage guests to avoid buying water in plastic bottles

• Provide refillable shampoo and soap dispensers or toiletries in biodegradable plastic

These solutions are so easy to do and can actually save you money too. Check out the full criteria for your type of property for more ideas.


6. Introducing water-saving measures

This is another area where reducing consumption will save you money, but will also help to protect destinations all over the States.


The Facts

As of September 5, 2023, 30.20% of the U.S. and Puerto Rico and 36.02% of the lower 48 states are in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This situation is affecting 77.2 million Americans and 289.9 million acres of crops.

If you do not have apps and devices in place to reduce and manage your water consumption, your vacation rental guests are literally flushing your profits down the drain.


The Solutions

Reducing your consumption of water is an area where there are so many devices and apps to make it easy. The Sustonica criteria include a whole list of ways to help you and your guests use less water.

• Install inexpensive low-flow shower heads or add in a flow-restrictor

• Install a leak detection system

• Introduce water-efficient toilets

Adopting these practices can achieve significant savings. You will probably be surprised at how much water you could save and how many points of the Sustonica criteria you will gain.


7. Come and meet our CEO at the VRMA Conference in Orlando

So hopefully now you are starting to believe it is worth making some sustainable changes in your vacation rental properties. You will be saving yourself money as well as being part of a global effort to reduce carbon emissions.

You may also have been noticing that increasing numbers of guest surveys by large OTAs like Booking.com are reporting that guests are actively looking for more sustainable places to stay. Make sure that you are among those properties who are responding to those growing guest demands. The best way to demonstrate your sustainability credentials to guests is to be verified by a third party like Sustonica.

The good news is that you can come and meet our CEO, Vanessa, in the U.S. at the VRMA Conference in Orlando from 22-25 October. You can hear her speak as well as meet her on Booth 206 and receive 1-on-1 advice for your business. You can even try the Sustonica Test to see how close you are to achieving your Sustonica badge.


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