The Sharing Economy is a favorite talking point in many travel circles, especially as sharing homes, cars, and meals through companies like HomeExchange.com, Uber, and EatWith grows in popularity and reach. The Climate Change Conference in Paris is a helpful reminder that this “collaborative consumption” movement, which helps find more productive uses for underutilized assets, is having a transformative effect on travelers’ wallets and minds, as well as the environment. This movement is a key and growing component of sustainable tourism. Here’s how:
According to a study conducted by the Cleantech Group, trips that rely on home sharing companies such as HomeExchange and Airbnb, or even bed-and-breakfasts, produce 66 percent less CO2 emissions than trips using hotels, including hotels that have earned five-star efficiency ratings.
With more travelers lodging in existing homes during their trips, hotel companies won’t need to build as many new high-rises or add new wings, leaving historic streets intact and natural resources untouched.
Travelers who choose home exchanges or bed-and-breakfasts have funds to spare by not coughing up $100 to $300 a night at a hotel. These extra funds are often spent at local businesses such as restaurants, entertainment venues, tour companies, parks, and more.
With their extra funds, travelers are also more likely to spend money at a broader variety of shops and businesses, including local attractions. An entire community can benefit from a single individual’s vacation, not just one hotel and a handful of businesses.
American and European travelers that share homes are 10 to 15 percent more likely to walk, bike, or take public transportation than to drive their own vehicles.
Vehicle sharing is often part of home sharing. That can provide big savings for travelers. If a vehicle isn’t available with a home share, numerous other options like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and Rideshare make it easier, less expensive and more ecological to get around than renting a car. According to a shared-use vehicle survey conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley, for every one car made widely available for sharing, more than 10 are taken off of cities’ congested freeways.
With a full kitchen right at hand, individuals and families are more likely to purchase fresh local produce and prepare their own meals. Eating at home is often more energy and resource efficient than eating out or ordering room service. And it can be just as fun, if not more so. Companies like EatWith facilitate arranging a dinner, at home, with local chefs so you can experience the best of all worlds. There’s no better way to discover a region than to shop and eat like locals, and even with locals.
While the Sharing Economy helps travelers use existing resources, it also inspires travelers to recycle more while vacationing. Eighty-nine percent of Europeans and 95 percent of Americans recycled at least one item during their trips in the last year.
In one year alone, American guests staying at shared homes saved 270 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of water. European guests saved 1,100 pools worth of water. Most of the water used by hotels is for cleaning, laundry, cooking, and other related activities.
More and more shared homes come with energy-efficient appliances. Eighty-three percent of American hosts and 79 percent of European hosts reported that they had installed at least one energy-efficient appliance.
Many of the statistics mentioned in this article were sourced from Cleantech Group’s recent study on the home sharing economy’s impact on the environment. See full study results here.
Jim Pickell is President of HomeExchange.com, an advisor, angel investor, and frequent guest lecturer. Previously, Pickell founded several companies including OpenEnglish.com, Latin America’s leading online language school, and served as Senior Vice President of SONY Connect in L.A., where he led the digital distribution of films, music, and eBooks. His later quest to collaborate with like-minded thinkers and create ideas that influence positive change led him to HomeExchange.com, first as a member and now as a core part of what he calls “a 23-year-old startup.” Pickell holds a degree in economics from UC Berkeley, a law degree from Loyola Law School, and an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA.