Does this sound familiar? You’ve been told that implementing sustainability practices in your vacation rental business is crucial for attracting sustainability-conscious guests. So, you’ve tried to make big changes all at once, only to feel overwhelmed and frustrated by the lack of visible results. The pain of putting in so much effort without seeing the desired impact can be disheartening. But what if there’s a better way? This episode reveals the power of taking small steps towards sustainability and how it can lead to meaningful changes in your business practices while attracting the eco-conscious guests you desire.

In this episode, you will be able to:

Meet Bob Garner — a seasoned vacation rental manager with extensive industry experience and a fervent advocate for sustainability. Adapting environmentally friendly practices in his holiday apartments in Italy for nearly two decades, Bob has honed his knowledge and skills in sustainable hospitality. Always eager to do more for the environment, he launched Environmental to share his wisdom with the industry. Bob’s strategy is impressive, talking about sustainability not just from a green perspective but also as a key factor in business success.

The key moments in this episode are:

00:00:08 – Introduction

00:00:36 – Pizza Parties and Sustainability

00:02:29 – The Launch of Environmental

00:04:48 – The Business Benefits of Sustainability

00:09:36 – Taking Simple Steps and Branding

00:14:48 – “Green Energy for Websites”

00:17:28 – “Green Cleaning Products”

00:19:33 – “The Importance of Reducing Consumption”

00:21:12 – “Switching to LED Lights”

00:26:25 – “Sustainability Beyond the Environment”

00:30:04 – The Power of Connection and Authenticity

00:30:39 – Website and Environmental Initiatives

Connect with Bob:

Website: https://envirorental.earth/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bob-garner-%E2%93%A5%F0%9F%8C%B3-75a73727/

Missed the 2023 Direct Booking Success Summit? You can catch up here: https://directbookingsuccesssummit.com/all-access-pass-3-normal/

Show notes are available at: https://directbookingsuccess.com/podcast/

Follow Jenn on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/directbookingsuccess

Join the Marketing Hub Free Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/marketinghubforholidayrentals

Sign up for the free masterclass – The 4-step framework for a profitable direct booking sales engine: https://directbookingsuccess.com/masterclass


00:00:32 - Jenn Boyles

Hello and welcome to another episode of Direct Booking Success Success podcast. I'm Jenn Boyles, your host as ever. And today I have Bob Garner with me. He is the CEO and founder of Environmental. Hi, Bob.

00:00:47 - Bob Garner

Hey, Jenn. How are you doing?

00:00:48 - Jenn Boyles

Good to be great, great. And you're joining me from Italy, aren't you?

00:00:54 - Bob Garner

I am indeed, yeah. It's my evening and your morning.

00:00:57 - Jenn Boyles

Yes, I know you're ahead of me today, probably a few different levels. We spoke back in episode eleven. Goodness, it seems like a long time ago, and we talked a lot about your property there and how amazing it is in Italy and your sort of backstory. And I remember the thing that came with that episode were the pizza parties that you hold weekly with your guests, which I just think is the best idea. So if you're listening to this and you've missed it, go back and listen to episode eleven. But I have to ask you, are you still holding these pizza parties?

00:01:37 - Bob Garner

Absolutely. They are the highlight of the week for us and the guests. And I'm not exaggerating there whatsoever, because it's a great chance to get people together. We live on site, connect people at the beginning of their week, get them to have a glass of wine or a beer or their drink of choice, make some pizzas together and have a bit of fun. And we've done over 350 pizza parties now.

00:02:01 - Jenn Boyles


00:02:02 - Bob Garner

And it is the best part of the week because it's engaging with the guests, talking to the guests, and that's the fun part of being a host, in my opinion.

00:02:13 - Jenn Boyles

Well, I'm coming, I just don't know when. And now I live even further away, but I'm definitely going to come because it's just such a great idea. So tell us about Environmental because you started that, I guess, about a year or so ago, was it?

00:02:29 - Bob Garner

Yeah, nine months ago. We properly launched six months ago. It came about because obviously we run environmentally sustainable holiday apartments here in Italy. We've done it for 1819 years now called Casal de Fiki. We've worked out what works, what doesn't work, what's good for the planet, what's good for the get, what's good for the business. And then as I'm a few years ago, as I may have talked about in a previous episode, I talked all the time about it. I wanted to do more. And so I started to talk about it in our industry, to blog about it, to write about it, to go to conferences and explain the business advantage of being sustainable. You're not doing it just for altruistic reasons, but also the good things that come out of it for the customer, for the clients, for the guests, and also, obviously, for the planet. And I was at one of the conferences last year in Barcelona and there were like 500 property managers in the room I was presenting, and I got everybody to stand up and I asked them two questions, and this was my light bulb moment. And I said, stay standing. If you believe sustainability should be a core part of your business, stay on your feet. 99.9% of people stayed on their feet. They were all there. Yes. Okay, you're with me. The second question, the killer question, is to continue standing. If you've already done something around sustainability in your business, 95 or more percent of people sit down. And this is the gap between the Aspiration and the willingness to do something around sustainability and them actually delivering something. Almost everybody believes they should do something around sustainability in our industry, but a tiny minority have actually taken the step. And for me, that was the point. That was the light bulb moment. When I go, Well, I know this stuff, I've been doing it for like 18 years, I need to step up and do more. And that's when I launched the EnvroRental. And essentially the EnvroRental is bringing together all my knowledge and the knowledge of lots of other people, not just me, putting everything together in one website. So if you're interested in short term rentals and sustainability, you go to EnvroRental. You do not need to go anywhere else. Everything is there. The roadmap, the blogs, the webinars, the case studies, the information, the data, the survey, the analysis. Whatever you could possibly want, you will find EnvroRental. But then more than that, we have a climate of urgency. We need to take serious action. So what I did is also created all for free. So nobody has to pay anything. They can go to the site, access it, and use all that information. Because what we don't want we haven't got time for is any barriers to entry. We don't want somebody going, I don't want to pay $50. I'm just not going to do anything. We want people to engage with the material. So what I've created is everything that people could possibly want. And it has been quite a journey to do that. It did take quite a bit of work, but I've done it. And I want people to use that material to come to the website, to engage with it, learn from it, ask questions, and then start to take some steps. And so that's the whole purpose of environment rentals. It's signposting sustainability for vacation rentals, pointing you in the right direction, giving the information and trying to nudge you to take your first step. You're already on that path. The third, the fourth or the fifth step and moving you down that line. It's as simple as that.

00:06:12 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, no, and it's amazing because it is free. It's like the biggest resource to do anything about sustainability is there. Now, let's go back to when you were talking about these property managers. So you had them stand up. You asked them who thinks sustainability is important. Of course most of them stayed standing. And I'm sure you took the one that sat down out to the back later and gave them a talking to. But the ones that when the next question, when you said who is actually on that path? And most people sat down. I can kind of see it because I don't think a lot of people understand what the word sustainability actually means and what all the things that accompany because they probably actually were on the journey, but they didn't realize it. Because I know that I get a lot of questions about Direct Booking Success. Oh, I don't know about Direct Booking Success. It's so expensive and it's like, well, no, it isn't. So I can see the same question on the sustainability side of things, thinking solar panels, that's an investment. Or I have to change my toilet into a compost toilet or something like that. The big things come to mind where I don't think people realize there's so many little things that they can be doing. So let's dig into that.

00:07:34 - Bob Garner

Yeah, totally. And the first thing I would say is there's no judgment wherever you are on that journey. Or if you haven't even started, that's fine. I started 18 years ago, some people started five years ago, some people are starting tomorrow. It doesn't matter. The point is, once you've got that information, engage with it and start on your journey. If somebody engages with the material and then chooses not to start on their journey and to ignore it, then I might have a different view and a different comment. That's not what most people are like. So the point of the environmental and you'll see it, if you go to the homepage of environmental, earth is on the home page, scroll down and you'll see the business benefits for why you should do this. I'm passionate about the environment. You might be passionate about the environment, lots of other people are, but lots of people are not. But what they are passionate about is being successful, making more money, getting Direct Booking Success, getting ahead of the competition, building their business year on year, and putting food on the table for their family. Absolutely everybody, almost everybody is motivated by that. So the language on the website is all around why this is good for your business. It doesn't matter if you don't care about the planner, although we wouldn't, because if you do these things, you will be more successful. And the end result is that we will also do the right thing for Planet. So on the website, we talk about saving money, we talk about getting more bookings, talk about getting more Direct Booking Success. We talk about getting ahead of the competition, getting ahead of the regulation, getting better reviews, better quality reviews, more nuanced reviews, the list goes on and on. You'll find it on the website. The language that we use is all about what's good for you and your business, because that's what's going to most likely motivate you to take that first step, because you may not be motivated to think, oh, well, we don't want to spend our time saying, oh, the world's burning, we're all going to die. That's not going to turn anybody on. But if we can talk about this is good for your business and you can be successful as you absolutely can because I'm living proof of it, having done what we've done for 1819 years, then you can do it as well. If I can do it, you can do it, your audience can do it. And so our role is to try and educate people around that. And the most important thing, I say this a zillion times, keep it simple. Take some baby steps that won't cost you any money, the things that you can do quickly and easily that you'll see some results from and that will motivate you to take the next step. Don't start with the difficult stuff, it's going to cost a lot of money. We always say on the roadmap and you'll find it on the website. Take some baby simple steps and take action and then really important, brand your business. So, so important. Don't step and then don't tell anybody because that's not going to help your business. Take some steps and then brand your business as sustainable. And I think we'll probably go on to talk about it because the booking.com survey, the expedia survey that comes out each year, you'll find it on our website, on surveys and data, is really clear that 80% and more of travelers are looking for a sustainable stay. Very even 50% of them are prepared to pay more for a sustainable stay. So pivot your business to those people. Brand yourself without greenwashing. Clearly brand yourself. Be honest about it, blog about it, write about it, put a page on your website about it and start to talk about what you're doing. And find ways that people can find you through OTAs, through Direct Booking Success, whatever is in your bag, do that and bring people to you, and you will find that they will love what you do. They will mend you to their friends and family and they will come back. Because one of the most important things I've learned in all these years is when you brand yourself as sustainable and it's in your digital guide, it's in your communication, it's on the website, it's in printed material that's in the apartments. When people find that they can align their values of what they believe in with your values, they feel they're at home, they feel comfortable and they come back because there's a synergy there and they love that. And that is the sort of magic mix that works. So it's really important to take some simple steps that will motivate you to take more later. Measure what you're doing, brand yourself and communicate, talk about it. Don't hide your light under a bushel and talk about it. Let people know what you're doing. That's really crucial.

00:12:28 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, no, and the bottom line is it gives you something to talk about in your marketing and it makes that connection with the guests. We'll get you more bookings. I think we can say the bottom line, it will get you more bookings. So let's talk about those tiny baby steps that people can start. So if you're listening to this and you're thinking, okay, well, I don't want to go out and do the solar panels right away, what are some of the things that people can start with? Those baby steps?

00:13:01 - Bob Garner

Yeah, so I always start off with this one. And of course, it depends on where you are in the world. So I totally understand that you've got a global audience, so there are different ways in different parts of the world. But one of the really simple, easy things to do in lots of places is to make sure that your business and your properties are on a green energy tariff. So what do I mean by that? What I mean is you talk to your energy supplier where you get your electricity from, and you check that the energy you're getting, you're contributing towards renewable energy. It's not based on fossil fuels like carbon, like coal or oil, et cetera. So that's really crucial. Most suppliers will have a green energy tariff. If you're not on it, you just say, I'd like to switch to the green energy tariff, please. It shouldn't cost you any more money. Obviously it's the same electricity coming down the wires to your property. But what you are getting is that your money is then being used to invest in renewables. And if everybody was doing that, we reduce the investment that goes into fossil fuels fuels, and we increase the money that's coming into renewables. It's a phone call, it's an email, it's a click on a website. And if by chance that provider doesn't do it, and you're in an area where other providers do switch, switch energy providers, you don't have any downtime, you just say, I'm moving from you to you and it's done in an instant.

00:14:28 - Jenn Boyles

And there's no and tell them why you're moving.

00:14:32 - Bob Garner


00:14:34 - Jenn Boyles

You don't have brain energy care if I'm gone, yeah, totally.

00:14:39 - Bob Garner

And that is such an incredibly powerful step that you can take and talk about it, brand yourself, and then let people know that you're doing it. So that would be a quick, easy win. It's a very easy thing to do. I mean, there are lots of other things I would encourage you to do as well. Here's a small one that most people don't even think about. And I have to confess that five years ago I didn't even know about it, it is your website. Most people have got their own website. Make sure that your website, the servers that support it, are working on green energy, on renewable energy. And all you have to do is go to a website, click your URL, and it will instantly tell you whether you are on a green energy tariff. In terms of your servers, servers that are running your computers, everyone complains and talks about flying and how bad flying is. But here's the fact, here's the amazing fact. The total internet and the use of the internet and email and all that technology has the same carbon footprint as flying 3.5%. But nobody talks about how you can reduce your carbon footprint with your website. So if you go to our website, Environmental Earth, roll down to the bottom, you will see on each web page how much carbon has been emitted to draw up that page for you. And what you want to do is have it well below 1 gram per feed per page. And on our website, it tells you exactly how much carbon has been used to create that page. And obviously we've created our website in a very low carbon impact way as well. And that's a whole nother type of technology. But you can easily do that and you can easily check. You'll see all the badges at the bottom of our website and you can go there, click on them and it will take you back to the source and you can do those things as well.

00:16:43 - Jenn Boyles

I can see that. So easy, you don't think about it. We're online now, 24/7, those servers that are running the internet are on all the time. So you have to think about the energy, if every single person is online at the same time, how much energy those servers are having to draw. So, yeah, I can see that. So we've got your energy for your properties on a green tariff. We've got your website hosting on a green tariff as well, which I know is super easy. They're both super easy to do. They just take five minutes of your time. Okay, another tip. Let's give another tip, yeah, and just.

00:17:28 - Bob Garner

To say one more thing on that green server, and the company is called the Green Web Foundation. You can find it on our website, you can just Google it and it might well be that you're already on a green tariff. It's great. Download the badge and put it on the Foot review website. Easy win. You might just be lucky and you've done it.

00:17:44 - Jenn Boyles

I'll put that link too in the show notes.

00:17:46 - Bob Garner

I'll put it in the show. So it's easy to get to. Another great thing is to start to move to some green cleaning products. So the products that you put in these homes for cleaning the home or the personal products that people are using at the shower or the bathroom, start to move away from those products that have micro beads or that have toxic ingredients and start to move away to some of the more organic ingredients. And also find a supplier, as we have here, where you buy the products and they refill the bottles. So this combines with trying to reduce your plastic use as well. As you know, most products that you buy for the kitchen or the bathroom come in a plastic container with a gun or a spray of some sort. You use them, then you throw the plastic away. We're still using those same guns and those same dispensers ten years on. Plastic was not meant to be used once. It's capable of being used again and again and again. So we're trying to get rid of single use plastic, but when we buy these products that we use once and throw away, that is single use plastic.

00:18:56 - Jenn Boyles


00:18:56 - Bob Garner

So there are different mechanisms of finding ways that you can buy refills that are organic and that are good for the planet. And I think you're doing the right thing for your cleaning and your guests.

00:19:07 - Jenn Boyles

And I think in life the whole recycling message has been very strong and I think we've all jumped on the bandwagon of recycling. But I think what some people don't may not understand is that next step recycling is great when you use something, but it's not the solution. The solution is not to use it in the first place, isn't it?

00:19:33 - Bob Garner

Absolutely. And I have to say that when I talk to people, as I do every day about it, almost the first thing they say is I recycle. I recycle as though it's the be all and end all. It's the very bottom of the food chain. And I'm actually, to get the conversation going, I will often say I'm anti recycling, I'm not anti recycling. But it's exactly to your point, Jenn. It should be that last thing. Don't buy it in the first place. If you are going to buy it, reuse it, repair it, find a way of making it last for longer and then recycle. Because the fact is that globally, only 9% of plastic actually is recycled. The rest of it ends up in landfill or in our oceans and then it degrades and ends up in our food and in the food chain, as you're probably aware. So yes, if you have to buy it, buy it, but then find a way of reusing it as long as you can until it is no longer fit for purpose. That is absolutely the best thing you can do. Plastic. Yes.

00:20:40 - Jenn Boyles

Well, that's it. Well, I'm glad you're not anti recycling, but I totally get your point. I can see that that would start a conversation with people.

00:20:50 - Bob Garner

Yeah, totally. That's good. Sometimes we need to stir the pot a bit to get people thinking, well, that's it.

00:20:57 - Jenn Boyles

That's it. Okay, great. Should we do one more tip? Let's think of another tip that you could give people that's low cost.

00:21:05 - Bob Garner

Yeah, so low cost. Switch out your lights, if you haven't already, to Led lights. A lot of people have already moved over to that. So the Led lights are the latest technology. It's been around for a few years now. But the important thing about Led is that most of the power that it consumes, which is a fraction of the old style light bulbs, a tiny fraction, goes into creating light. It doesn't grow to create heat. And if you remember, some of the old style light bulbs were warm to the touch. They were hot to the touch. So a lot of that energy is being used in creating heat rather than creating light bloomings, as it's called. So the new technology is much better at consuming a tiny fraction of power, and then that power is used to create the same light rather than the heat.

00:21:56 - Jenn Boyles

But they also last longer, don't they? They last longer.

00:22:00 - Bob Garner

They last much longer. So for your properties, you don't have to worry about where the light bulbs are going and somebody having to go in and change a light bulb, because they last for years and years. And the statistic is something like an average US. Property can save $250 a year by switching to Led lights. Simple task of switching from one light bulb to another light bulb because you consume so much less energy, a little bit like when you buy white goods like your fridge or your freezer that are much higher energy efficient, they may cost you a little bit more. You save so much because they're so much better at functioning at a very low energy level. These are all the things that create a way of reducing your consumption. And of course, the way energy prices have gone up, particularly in Europe, who doesn't want to reduce their energy bill? Because that's obviously great for you, great for the business, great for the planet.

00:22:57 - Jenn Boyles

I have to tell you, I went in the house here, we've got two night lights that we use, and I had to go to the shop to get new light bulbs for these old night lights. And I found them. I didn't even know you could buy nightlight lights, if that makes sense. And they're led lights. And I'm like, great. But there was a pack of ten. And I'm thinking, okay, well, I need two, but I've got a pack of ten. They're going to outlast me. I am going to die before we get to that 10th bulb. I was like, Can't I have a smaller package, please? I only need two. I don't need ten. I will never use these. That's an aside, of course, but it is amazing. And for a safety thing, too. I remember when I was a kid, this was a horrible thing. My brother, probably, I guess a toddler, brought his bedside lamp into his bed. So now we're talking 70s, late 70s, early eighties. Oh, goodness. I won't tell you if I'm older or younger, but he brought that light into his bed and he put his blanket over top and basically started a fire and my mum found him. Everything was fine. Everything was fine. But with these new Led lights, they can't do that because they're not producing that heat.

00:24:23 - Bob Garner

Exactly. Totally. All that energy is going in to create light and they consume a tiny fraction of the power. It's an amazing difference and that technology will continue to improve and develop and that's fantastic. But, yeah, hopefully most people are moving over to Led now. It's certainly the standard now and that's great.

00:24:44 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah. I'm sure if you went through your house, I'm sure if we went through this house, I probably would find a couple of the old ones, but they would burn out quite quickly. But there is a huge savings to be made. So this has been really great. So we've given some great tips here and we've talked about what's in it for the property manager, the host, the owner, because people like you said, guests are looking for places to stay that are environmentally friendly, that are sustainable. Now, one thing that I wanted to bring up, because it was something earlier this year that I sort of realized was that when we're talking about sustainability, we're usually talking about things that we can do for the environment. But another part of it that sort of it was a light bulb moment for me, was realizing the effect you have on your immediate surroundings, your neighborhood, so keeping that and is that something that you tackle in environmental as well about your place in the neighborhood?

00:25:53 - Bob Garner

Yeah, I think the thing about sustainability is you can look at it very narrowly or you can look at it very broadly, and I like to look at it from a broad perspective. So, of course you've got sustainability, which is all about what you're going to do to reduce your carbon impact and benefit the planet, and of course you benefit guests and your business at the same time. But there's also that wider perspective of what you're going to do for your business, how you're going to treat your staff, how are you going to look after your suppliers, what you're going to expect from your suppliers. And I found, for me, what I tend to do is thinking about sustainability. It makes me look much more widely. So I'll be choosing a supplier like Who gives a crap? Toilet Paper is a funny name, an Australian company they supply all over the world now, recycled paper, which is obviously great, but fundamentally for me, they give 50% of their profits back to building toilet and water facilities in the developing world. And that's great. Let's work with companies that themselves are doing some good because I'm a really small business, but I can amplify my message and my impact by working with suppliers who are doing good themselves. And imagine if everybody did that. What an amazing difference that would make around the world. So, yeah, it is wider than just the environment. It's about who you work with, how you treat your staff, how you manage your business. It's a whole ethos and we try to touch on that in the whole message around sustainability at environmental. But I really encourage people to take some simple baby steps and not get overwhelmed by it, because otherwise you don't start and you don't do anything.

00:27:38 - Jenn Boyles

No, it's the same thing. It's the same thing. Any big project or big change you want to make in your life, and that's what I think you've done so well, is by cutting it up into baby steps so you don't get overwhelmed and you don't sort of give up. Now, I just want to talk to the listener. If you're listening to this and you're wanting to hear more from Bob, last week was Direct Booking Success Success and it was amazing. And Bob presented there about tapping into the demand for sustainable stays, giving you the data together with the resources you need. Now, if you're going, oh, I missed that. And if you're listening to this or watching this in real time, the All Access Pass is still available till 13 October 2023. If you're listening past that, it's gone. And I'm sorry, but if you're listening to this, in the week that this has gone live, you can head over to Direct Booking Success and purchase the All Access Pass there. And Bob's amazing presentation is included in there. So thank you, Bob, again for being part of Direct Booking Success Success this year. You bring such a wealth of knowledge about sustainability. Plus, also, you've been in this business, you've been in hospitality for 18/19 years. Like that's amazing in its own right. So I really appreciate you coming to share your expertise.

00:29:12 - Bob Garner

My pleasure.

00:29:13 - Jenn Boyles

Oh, good. And I can't let you go without asking you, what does Direct Booking Success Success mean to you?

00:29:22 - Bob Garner

Yeah, Direct Booking Success Success is really important to us because we run a business here in Italy called Casal de Fiki. 90% of our bookings are direct. 90%. I think that's a good number in the industry. And what it means to me is repeats, referrals and reviews. The three R's repeats, referrals and reviews, because when you build a brand and I talked about it in my presentation, that is based around sustainability and you would attract great people, they come back, they refer you and they write a brilliant review. So that's what Direct Booking Success means to me.

00:30:02 - Jenn Boyles

Oh, I love it. It's that connection. It goes back to that connection. You were showing your moral compass and people are attracted by that and you connect together and they have an amazing holiday. And they want to come back and back and then they become your fans, don't they? And they tell other people, it's just, yeah, you've got a very successful business there and I'm so glad that you are using your expertise and everything that you've done with EnvroRental.

00:30:32 - Bob Garner

Now tell us your website again so it's EnvroRental.Earth.

00:30:39 - Jenn Boyles

Okay, I am going to put that in the show notes. I'll also put in the show notes the website for checking your website to see if it's running on Green. I'll also put a link to your place in Italy there so everyone can see the magic that you are creating there. Thank you, Bob, so much for coming on today.

00:31:01 - Bob Garner

It was my pleasure. I love sharing these resources and please just get in touch, anybody who needs some support.

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