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Eco-friendly travel: how home swapping promotes sustainable tourism

Eco-friendly travel: how home swapping promotes sustainable tourism

Ellena Morgan
By Ellena Morgan - 26 minute read

Many of us are mak­ing a con­scious effort to act more sus­tain­ably in our day-to-day lives, and this extends to tak­ing eco-friend­ly hol­i­days! Tourism thrives off the nat­ur­al won­ders of our world and the incred­i­ble peo­ple and diverse cul­tures that shape it. How­ev­er, as great as trav­el is for the econ­o­my, it does have an envi­ron­men­tal impact, with glob­al tourism mak­ing up 5% of the world’s green­house gas emis­sions. So what can we do to help mit­i­gate this impact — and how can we embrace sus­tain­able tourism? We’ve tak­en the guess­work out of eco-trav­el, with a few help­ful sug­ges­tions on how to enjoy vaca­tions in a more envi­ron­men­tal­ly-friend­ly way.

Home swap­ping is root­ed in the sus­tain­abil­i­ty mind­set. Instead of cre­at­ing new resorts and hotels, our mem­bers share what they already own with one anoth­er, whilst cel­e­brat­ing local cus­toms and tra­di­tions. Just as impor­tant­ly, they put their mon­ey into the local econ­o­my of the res­i­dents that live in these incred­i­ble trav­el des­ti­na­tions. So whether you’re plan­ning a week­end away, or look­ing for a far­away escape, there’s lots of things you can do to act more sus­tain­ably when travelling.

What is sustainable tourism?

The World Tourism Orga­ni­za­tion (UNWTO) defines sus­tain­able trav­el as, devel­op­ment [which] meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while pro­tect­ing and enhanc­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for the future… and man­age­ment of all resources in such a way that eco­nom­ic, social, and aes­thet­ic needs can be ful­filled while main­tain­ing cul­tur­al integri­ty, essen­tial eco­log­i­cal process­es, bio­log­i­cal diver­si­ty, and life sup­port system.”

In oth­er words, sus­tain­able tourism can be achieved by:

- Pro­tect­ing nat­ur­al envi­ron­ments, wildlife and nat­ur­al resources when devel­op­ing and man­ag­ing tourism activ­i­ties.
- Pro­vid­ing authen­tic tourist expe­ri­ences that cel­e­brate and con­serve her­itage and cul­ture.
- Cre­at­ing socio-eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits for com­mu­ni­ties through employ­ment and income-earn­ing opportunities.

Love home swap home swapping sustainable and eco friendly way to travel

Every­one can play their part in embrac­ing eco-friend­ly travel!

Ways to travel more sustainably

Choose a nation that val­ues sustainability

Pick your hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion wise­ly peo­ple! Accord­ing to the Envi­ron­men­tal Per­for­mance Index, Den­mark, Lux­em­bourg, Switzer­land, The Unit­ed King­dom and France are the top 5 most sus­tain­able nations in the world. Japan ranks first in Asia, while The Sey­chelles are top of the list in Africa. And hap­pi­ly, we’ve got lots of home swap options in the major­i­ty of those coun­tries (and we’re grow­ing rapid­ly world­wide, so keep your peep­ers peeped for new homes pop­ping up all the time!)

How to trav­el sustainability:

Activ­i­ties and tours
Local com­mu­ni­ty


Eco travel Love Home Swap Travel

Fly econ­o­my

Get­ting to your hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion is a key fac­tor in the envi­ron­men­tal impact of your trip. The avi­a­tion indus­try pro­duces around 2% of the world’s human-induced CO2 emis­sions. Of this num­ber, 80% of these trips are long-dis­tance with no oth­er trans­port alter­na­tive. In cas­es where a flight is nec­es­sary, fly­ing econ­o­my is not only eas­i­er on your wal­let, but also a more eco-friend­ly way to fly.

Opt-out of flights

If you’re part of that remain­ing 20% trav­el­ling a short­er dis­tance, do con­sid­er oth­er modes of trans­port such as trains, fer­ries and bus­es to reach your destination.

Use pub­lic transport

Once you arrive at your des­ti­na­tion, try to ditch your car and make the most of the pub­lic trans­port ser­vices to explore the area. Not much local trans­port? Why not cycle or take a long walk to your des­ti­na­tion? You nev­er know what you’ll dis­cov­er on the way — and many of our mem­bers are keen to share their bicycles!

Trav­el less, for longer

Lessen your envi­ron­men­tal impact by choos­ing to trav­el less fre­quent­ly each year. By opt­ing for one long-haul flight a year instead of mul­ti­ple, you’ll low­er your car­bon foot­print and also give your­self more time to explore your cho­sen des­ti­na­tion. Home swap­ping means that slow­er trav­el is more afford­able for many, as you’re not pay­ing an expen­sive night­ly fee.


Eco travel Love Home Swap Accomodation

Stay local

For a tru­ly eco-friend­ly hol­i­day, instead of stay­ing in large, out-of-town resorts, opt to stay local! Not only will you save a for­tune on taxi fares each night, you’ll also have more time to explore your imme­di­ate neigh­bour­hood and immerse your­self in the local hotspots. Don’t for­get to ask your home swap host for their top tips on the hid­den gems that you might oth­er­wise overlook.

Avoid all-inclu­sive resorts

Often with all-inclu­sive hol­i­days, you’re not only pay­ing for your accom­mo­da­tion, you’ll also have your food and activ­i­ties includ­ed as well. Although it can be con­ve­nient to have every­thing in one place, it also means that all your hard-earned cash is going into one company’s pock­et instead of being shared out more even­ly across local busi­ness­es. And it breaks our heart to not share the love with the local econ­o­my! If you’re after con­ve­nience, why not stay in a hotel, rental (or bet­ter still a home swap!), that includes break­fast as part of the deal, and then explore local restau­rants in the evenings and when you’re out dur­ing the day?

Avoid large hotels

The main envi­ron­men­tal impact of hotels and larg­er resorts is the ener­gy they con­sume, as they often change and wash tow­els and bed linen dai­ly – which has a huge impact on ener­gy and water usage. So con­sid­er request­ing to keep your tow­els and bed­sheets instead of chang­ing them dai­ly. Alter­na­tive­ly, home swaps are a great way to save on ener­gy as it’s just like being at home (and would you real­ly wash and change your sheets every sin­gle day?!)

Embrace the out­doors and camp

If you enjoy being immersed in nature and wildlife, camp­ing is a great option for sus­tain­able trav­el. By bring­ing your own resources and being fair­ly self-reliant, it’s a nice way to not over-con­sume the planet’s resources. Just be care­ful when choos­ing where to pitch your tent – pitch in a safe place that’s legal and won’t harm the local wildlife, and be sure to leave no trace of your stay. The Wood­land Trust has a great guide to safe­ly and sus­tain­ably camp­ing. Believe it or not, Love Home Swap has a range of camp­ing options that are avail­able to swap! Our per­son­al favourite is this yurt in York­shire, go check it out!

Choose a home swap over a rental

We can’t dis­cuss sus­tain­able trav­el accom­mo­da­tion with­out men­tion­ing home swap­ping. Home swap­ping, also known as home exchang­ing’ or home swop­ping’, is where you trade homes with some­one else, often in a dif­fer­ent coun­try. Not only is it a great way to trav­el and expe­ri­ence a new place, it also has con­sid­er­able envi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits. By home swap­ping, you’re mak­ing the most of some­thing that would nor­mal­ly sit emp­ty and dor­mant whilst home­own­ers trav­el. It’s also not push­ing locals out of cer­tain neigh­bor­hoods as there’s no mon­e­tary val­ue exchanged, and it encour­ages tourists to spend mon­ey and time in less touristy spots to help boost local economies.

Read more: 5 rea­sons why your next hol­i­day needs to be a home swap

Activities and tours

Eco travel Love Home Swap Tours and activities

Ask the locals

If you’re home swap­ping, why not ask your host what local activ­i­ties they rec­om­mend? Not only will you be get­ting insid­er knowl­edge from a local (cru­cial­ly avoid­ing any tourist traps or over­rat­ed sites!) you’ll pump mon­ey into local busi­ness­es. Plus, is there any­thing more sat­is­fy­ing than find­ing a hid­den gem that’s not in the trav­el guides?!

Local community

Eco travel Love Home Swap Markets

Buy goods from local traders

If you’re real­ly pas­sion­ate about eco-trav­el, then your shop­ping habits should reflect that too. If you’re buy­ing a sou­venir for your­self and loved-ones, then con­sid­er opt­ing for some­thing made local­ly by a crafts­man or artist. Ditch the tat (that’s like­ly been made in a fac­to­ry over­seas) and buy gifts designed to stand the test of time that won’t end up in a char­i­ty shop. If you want to take it a step fur­ther, be sure to buy some­thing that relates to the local envi­ron­ment, either in theme or in the resources used.

Only buy what you need

Often it’s easy to get caught up in the excite­ment of mar­ket stalls and cheap ven­dors. So try to browse stores and stalls, and if you’re still think­ing about that gor­geous lit­tle gar­ment or sou­venir hours lat­er, then go back to pur­chase it.

Buy food and gro­ceries from local markets

Make the most of local pro­duce and mar­kets used by local res­i­dents. Before you trav­el, do a spot of research on the local mar­kets that are near your accom­mo­da­tion to find the best local pro­duce to pre­pare at home, or just to grab a cof­fee and sweet treat on a day out!

Opt for street ven­dors and local food out­lets over large chains

Some­times it can be tempt­ing to go for what is famil­iar when it comes to food, so why not push your­self out of your com­fort zone and try some local del­i­ca­cies from a street food ven­dor? This is a great way to test local cui­sine in an afford­able way and get rec­om­men­da­tions from those direct­ly mak­ing the food. Just remem­ber to be wary of any­where that looks unsan­i­tary! If you’re look­ing for some­thing sim­ple like your morn­ing cof­fee or you’re hunt­ing out a nice lunch spot, then vis­it shar­ing econ­o­my apps like Eatwith to find local cafes and restaurants. 


Eco travel Love Home Swap Packing

Don’t over­pack

Ready to real­ly embrace the eco hol­i­day vibe? Then pack less. The less you car­ry, the low­er your car­bon emis­sion. We’ve all been there where we end up pack­ing ten t‑shirts, three coats and 20 pairs of pants for a week-long trip. So to get your head into the sus­tain­able tourism mind­set, try lay­ing out your clothes before you pack them to cre­ate out­fits – and in the process, you’ll avoid pack­ing unnec­es­sary items! If you’re stay­ing in a home swap, one of the key ben­e­fits is hav­ing a wash­ing machine as part of your accom­mo­da­tion. So if you need to wash a few items dur­ing your trip you have the option with­out the need to pack for every occa­sion. Here’s a guide on how to pack light as a fam­i­ly.

Speak to your host to see what you can borrow

It’s not only clothes that we tend to over­pack. Activ­i­ties and equip­ment can be bulky and heavy, lead­ing to unnec­es­sary weight when trav­el­ling. And some­times when the trav­el buzz kicks in, we impulse-buy items to bring with us on our trip. Before pack­ing your bag or hit­ting the shops, speak to your host (or accom­mo­da­tion provider) to find out what comes with the space. Often home swaps will have games, toys, cribs, car seats, and even bikes, surf­boards, canoes and skis!

Pack eco-friend­ly essentials

There are some easy swaps you can make to make your trip more eco-friend­ly. Pack­ing a reusable water bot­tle, reusable uten­sils and a Tup­per­ware box will help make day trips bet­ter for the envi­ron­ment. (Remem­ber, your host may have many of these things in their home, so be sure to dou­ble-check to save pack­ing space!). Need a lit­tle more inspi­ra­tion? Then take a look at this great eco-trav­el pack­ing check­list.

Have we giv­en you the sus­tain­able tourism bug? Excel­lent news! Then make sure you read our top tips on how to trav­el more eco-con­scious­ly.

Our top picks of eco-friendly home swaps

Eco home with a coastal view in Mar­i­on, South Australia

Sur­round­ed by a canopy of trees, you might be for­tu­nate enough to be spot many native Aus­tralian birds and even koalas near­by. The beach is just 10 min­utes away, but if you’re after a night of relax­ing at home, you can open the French doors out onto the bal­cony to take in the sea breeze and stun­ning coastal views. The home comes fit­ted with solar pan­els, rain­wa­ter tanks (which sup­port the wild­fire res­cue reha­bil­i­ta­tion) and is in a peace­ful, seclud­ed plot hid­den down a 100m dri­ve­away. In terms of activ­i­ties, there’s no short­age, from kayak­ing to pad­dle­board­ing, and with cycle trails abound and nation­al parks on your doorstep, there’s a host of activ­i­ties to keep even the biggest thrill-seek­er entertained.

Eco travel love home swap Australia

Eco home in Suf­folk, UK

Built under the watch­ful eye of Chan­nel 4’s Grand Designs team in 2010, this eco-home is sit­u­at­ed in the love­ly vil­lage of Melton in Suf­folk. With an open plan liv­ing area, ful­ly equipped kitchen and large glass patio doors, sun­light streams through this airy home. If you fan­cy a real­ly eco-friend­ly break, then dump the car and stroll along the Riv­er Deben, which is only a five-minute walk away. A lit­tle fur­ther down the road is the heart of Wood­bridge, a charm­ing Suf­folk town with a small mari­na and quay­side which is full of inde­pen­dent shops, pubs and restaurants.

Eco travel love home swap Suffolk

Eco retreat in the Pana­ma mountains

Look­ing to com­bine your love of sus­tain­able trav­el with a trop­i­cal expe­ri­ence? Then look no fur­ther than this stun­ning eco-retreat in Pana­ma. Boast­ing four bed­rooms, each with its own pri­vate ter­race, this airy home swap is set in 17 acres of land. With sev­er­al kilo­me­tres of walk­ing trails through­out their for­est (which the own­ers are nat­u­ral­ly regen­er­at­ing,) man­go and cit­rus trees across the land, a small pool and two rivers to explore, you’d be for­giv­en for not want­i­ng to leave. If you’re look­ing for more adven­tur­ous hik­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, then you’re on the road to the Omar Tor­ri­jos Nation­al Park, which is a cloud for­est that is famous for mul­ti­ple exotics species of bird, plus pumas and jaguars! It’s best to hire a local guide if you’re plan­ning on hik­ing here – but the rewards will be well worth the effort.

Eco travel love home swap panama

Eco-friend­ly fam­i­ly home in Gloucestershire

Based just out­side of Chel­tenham, this house is set down a pri­vate dri­ve and sleeps up to sev­en peo­ple – mak­ing it ide­al for large fam­i­lies or groups of hol­i­day­mak­ers. Just a cou­ple of min­utes away are The Cotswolds where you can explore a num­ber of quin­tes­sen­tial Eng­lish mar­ket towns and vil­lages, or embrace the clean liv­ing with an out­door swim at the local C‑Side Spa at Cow­ley Manor. Ful­ly embrace the home swap expe­ri­ence in this exquis­ite home away from home.

Eco travel love home swap Gloucestershire

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