7 Reasons why housesitting is an ethical and sustainable travel option

7 reasons why house sitting is ethical and sustainable

Digital nomads and long-term travelers can seriously benefit from using a house sitting platform during their travels. Not only does housesitting set you up with a free place to stay, but staying in someone's home is generally way more comfortable than standard hotels or Airbnbs. 

But did you know that housesitting is also one of the most ethical and sustainable ways to travel?

The tourism industry has exploded in the last few decades, which has raised some serious questions about sustainability in the sector.

Let's take a look at why housesitting is now one of the most ethical and sustainable travel choices you can make!

Bike travel as a sustainable option

It's no secret that the massive increase in tourism over the past few decades has had some negative impacts, and while there are many factors contributing to this, one of the major issues lies in the accommodation that we choose.

Here are my 7 reasons why housesitting is a great choice for ethically conscious travelers.

1.   Stay in a local home instead of an Airbnb or hotel

House sitting is a more ethically sound accommodation option because instead of taking potential housing away from locals, you simply stay in a persons home while they are on vacation.

Originally, Airbnb was a platform for booking B&B-style accommodation, where you stayed in a spare bedroom in a local’s home. But, over time it has slowly become a site for booking short-term apartment rentals, moving away from it's original concept.

We've all I'm sure, been guilty of taking advantage of Airbnb because the pros are hard to resist. Comfortable, home-away-from-home accommodation for cheaper than a hotel? Yes, please! But this comes with some downsides.

Major tourist hubs have started having significant housing issues in recent years which Airbnb is partially to blame for. Landlords have discovered that instead of renting their property to locals, they can put the property on Airbnb and make way more money.

For example, in 2024 the average rent for a studio apartment in London is around £1,500 to £2,000 per month, but on Airbnb, landlords can charge almost double!

In some cities, such as Lisbon, Florence, and Paris, Airbnb rentals have dominated entire neighborhoods. This not only forces local residents out of affordable housing, but also causes these neighborhoods to lose their historic culture.

2.   Housesitters stay longer and fly less

When it comes to any conversation on sustainability in the travel industry, a topic always mentioned is "air travel". Travel by airplane accounts for around 2.5% of global carbon emissions, so frequent travelers do unquestionably have a higher carbon footprint.

When housesitting by using platforms like TrustedHousesitters, it's likely you'll choose to stay in each destination for longer, taking the opportunity to explore a town, city or region thoroughly before moving on or returning home.

This often means housesitters take flights and long-distance transportation less often.

3.   Less pressure on the tourism industry

When visiting the centers of popular tourist cities, it doesn’t take long to realize just how saturated these places have become. Because tourists want to stay near the main attractions in a city, most hotels, tourist restaurants, and tour companies are packed into these areas.

This oversaturation puts a major strain on cities as they need to build up infrastructure to sustain more and more tourists each year. For example, Venice gets more than 100,000 visitors per day, while the population of the island city is only 55,000. There are more accommodation options for tourists than for locals in this Italian city! You can only imagine how difficult this is for locals.

When you housesit, you less likely to be staying in the middle of a busy tourist district. In fact, many housesits will be in more rural areas or smaller cities that tourists rarely visit.

Staying outside of tourist centers puts less strain on overrun tourist hotspots and allows other local communities to reap some of the benefits of your tourist spend!

4.   Authentic off-the-beaten-path experiences

Following on from the last point, housesitting also presents a unique opportunity for tourists to experience, less visited but more authentic destinations, facilitating genuinely unique experiences.

Most travelers rarely venture outside of popular destinations. And while these destinations are popular for a reason, you tend to get a more watered-down view of a country when you only visit the most promoted places.

For example, most tourists only visit Paris in France, but some of the best experiences I have had in the country were in small towns and cities that few foreign tourists venture to.

You also tend to have more memorable conversations and interactions with locals when you visit and stay in off-the-beaten-path destinations. And for me, experiences and interactions with locals are the reason I continue to travel.

More sustainable - Cooking at home

5.   Housesitters produce less waste than the standard traveler

Standard travelers produce quite a bit of waste preferring the convenience of eating out more and using single-use plastics. Hotels are extremely wasteful and produce a lot more trash than a local home. But housesitters have access to stocked kitchens and have less of a need to buy single-use plastics.

For example, when you arrive at an Airbnb, you may need to buy shampoo, body wash, cooking oil, spices, and other home essentials for your stay. At a housesit by contrast, these essentials are already provided for you.

In my experience, home and pet owners will often leave fresh vegetables, food, oil and spices in the house that housesitters can eat and use during their stay, replacing only if they run out. This not only helps cut down on your travel costs but decreases the amount of food and packaging that goes to waste.

You are also more likely to take advantage of composting and recycling when staying in a home.

6.   Housesitting is perfect for budget conscious travelers

Around 25% to 30% of most people’s travel budget goes to accommodation, so cutting this cost out completely can be a game changer. For many, travel is simply too expensive to become a reality, but housesitting presents a budget-friendly opportunity that opens the door to budget conscious solo travelers (no single supplement), couples, and families.

In London, the average nightly hotel cost is $200, so for a week-long vacation, you would pay around $1,500, higher in peak season. When you add airfare, food, activities, and transportation, this becomes a very expensive vacation! House sitting is a great choice for those on a tighter budget who still want to travel and enjoy a homely environment.

7.   Local homes produce less carbon emissions than hotels

The final reason that housesitting is a perfect sustainable alternative to standard travel accommodation is due to the fact that local homes produce fewer carbon emissions than hotels.

Hotels have a notoriously bad track record when it comes to renewable energy and green energy. Additionally, hotels use an extraordinarily large amount of energy when compared with privately owned homes. In fact, a large home uses around 10% of the energy per room that a large hotel.

This means you can enjoy all of the comforts of a home while having a much smaller environmental impact.

House sit with veggie plot

Why I choose to housesit (and why you should too!)

Around a year ago, I made the choice to open a TrustedHousesitters account and start house sitting during my travels to save some money.

Fast forward to today, and I honestly can’t imagine going back to Airbnbs and dusty hotels. The comfort, cost-effectiveness, and lesser environmental impact of housesitting are unmatched when it comes to accommodation options.

As a digital nomad, housesitting is the perfect opportunity to have a comfortable home space to work and relax in while still being able to explore a new place.

Beyond that, you also have the peace of mind that you are making a sustainable decision which has less of a negative impact on the community. Overall, housesitting is a win-win! And as a bonus you get to enjoy the company of a pet or two, which is known to have a positive effect on well-being!

This is a guest post contribution from Lev of The Nomad Almanac
Lev is a digital nomad and self-proclaimed "slowmad" who started housesitting in 2023. He has a passion for discovering hidden gems and soaking up the culture of his host countries where he prefers to stay for several months at a time. 

Last updated on July 7th, 2024