Going Green at Your Vacation Home

    environmentaly friendly tips for vacation rentalsLeslie Garrett, author of The Virtuous Consumer and The Virtuous Traveler columns shares some great money-saving and environmentally helpful tips.

    This advice is not only useful for maintaining your vacation property but can also be applied to daily chores at your primary residence. Read on to learn how to be environmentally conscious when driving to and cleaning your vacation property and ideas for encouraging your renters to be environmentally friendly at your home.

    Driving to Your Property

    Many homeowners probably don't realize the ways they can save money and help the environment on the way to their vacation home or cottage.

    In 2007, according to the National Association of Realtors, 64% of second homeowners purchased more than 100 miles away from their primary residences. As owners get more comfortable with the idea of purchasing second homes farther and farther away, it is important to keep these tips in mind for those that are still able to drive to visit their property.

    • Increase tire pressure. This alone will help to improve gas mileage by 3%.
    • Keep a well running engine. Taking care of your car can increase fuel efficiency by 4%.
    • Replace air filters to cool the engine. This quick and inexpensive task can increase fuel efficiency by 10%.
    • Don't load up the car. When we add more weight to your vehicle, the fuel efficiency decreases. Keep plenty of extras in your owner's closet to avoid packing the same things over and over on visits to your vacation home.
    • Keep your speed steady. If you're in a traffic jam where you're at a dead stop for more than 10 seconds, simply turn off your car. This is more fuel-efficient than sitting idle with the car on.

    Cleaning Your Vacation Home

    Most vacation rental owners have a cleaning service or housekeeper, but you might want to consider the products they are using to clean your home. Did you know that on cleaning day the air pollution at your home could be up to 10 times worse than in busy cities? You can talk with your housekeeper about using eco-products or even make some of your own.

    Typical household cleaners are petroleum based, which contain toxins. With all the major brands rushing to the shelves with their own environmentally-friendly labeled products, make sure that what you're buying is truly “eco” and not just a marketing tactic. You can quickly determine the recycled content and scan the packaging for a seal from a third party certification organization like Green Seal. If you can't use rags for cleaning, try to purchase 100% recycled paper towels. Also, double-check products with vague terms or sweeping claims like “natural” or “environmentally safe.”

    Or, using a few simple and cheap ingredients, you can create your own products for your housekeeper to use (or for you to use while visiting.)

    • Window cleaner: 1:1 ratio of white vinegar and water. Add a drop of dish detergent to remove residue from previous glass cleaners.
    • All-purpose cleaner: Castile soap (soap made from olive or vegetable oil) and water.
    • Disinfectant: 1 tsp of tea tree oil to 2 cups of water.
    • Oven cleaner: Baking soda mixed with water. (Because it needs to sit overnight, this would be more useful when you are visiting your own home.)

    Directions and Rules

    It might be a good idea to send some general environmental guidelines to your guests with your directions. Or simply post them with other information at your home. For example, you could provide instructions for recycling or where to throw out organic trash that can be used for composting. You might want to talk about ways to keep the wildlife healthy in your area, like reminding renters not to go near dolphins if you are on the beach. Without going overboard and micro-managing your guests' stay, you can gently suggest ways to help the environment while they are on vacation.

    Grilling and Eating

    A favorite pastime of vacation property renters is grilling out on the deck or patio. To be more environmentally conscious, keep natural gas or propane at your home for a cleaner burn. Also, ask renters to avoid lighter fluid and charcoal.

    It would also be a nice touch to tell renters how they can eat healthier and more environmentally friendly during their stay. Consider adding some information on the four main factors to consider when purchasing food to eat: seasonal, sustainable, organic, and local.

    • Seasonal: Not only do seasonal products taste better when they are in season, but it is actually healthier for you and the environment. A typical meal travels 1500 miles from farm to fork, emitting a lot of greenhouse gases along the way. Eating “seasonally” will also help to keep local farmers in business. Fortunately many vacation properties are located in areas that have accessible farmstands and markets. Highlight these farmstands in your guest handbook or directions so the renters can easily find them.
    • Sustainable: Our salmon and shrimp supply, for example, is depleting. Suggest recommended fish in your area.
    • Organic: This has become a popular buzz word, but some people are confused by the definition. This means that what you're eating is simply food grown without chemical pesticides. Again, this is better for us and for the planet and can be supplied by some local farmers. Point your renters to local grocery stores and food stands that carry organic food and products.
    • Local: Help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing locally. Chances are the renters will also like the authentic experience of purchasing local foods from the towns they are visiting.

    Enjoying the Water

    Renters might want to experience all that their vacation home and destination have to offer. However, being unfamiliar with the area, they might not be aware of how their actions could affect the environment. Here are a few more tips to offer if you own on or near a lake.

    • Sunscreen: Sunscreens have parabens that are absorbed into the skin and can be hormone-altering. When we go into lakes with these products on our skin, the marine life can be affected (scientists have seen evidence of gender bending.) Garrett recommends zinc products because these sit on the skin and repel water. Plus they have clear products nowadays — no more white strip down your nose!
    • Soaps and shampoos: Some people might want to get back to nature by bathing in a nearby lake. However, using soaps and shampoos in the water is not healthy for our planet. They need soil to be truly biodegradable, so it is best to ask guests to stick to the showers. You can even provide eco-friendly soaps and shampoos for your guests to use as an added touch.

    Remember to suggest these tips gently, though, so as not to be overbearing. If the renter sees your concern and care for the environment without taking control of their vacation, they should be happy to comply.

    For more information on Leslie Garrett and how to become a more environmentally savvy consumer, traveler and homeowner, visit www.virtuousconsumer.com .

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