Carbon Footprint of Hostels vs Hotels

Updated: May 18, 2020

If you'd like to check out the video version of this post, click here.

To start off, the carbon footprint for any hotel is dependent upon a lot of factors. Things like floors, type of lights, how many occupants in each room, if the hotel has laundry or a restaurant, the type of windows, and so much more. If you want to search for the hotel you are staying in, you can look at the Hotel Footprinting Tool which I will link below. This allows anyone to have easy access to the environmental footprint of most hotels worldwide. This helps you to choose the least impactful hotel when you are traveling. It is also good for hotels to compare their footprint with competing hotels and hopefully encourage them to reduce their impact.

Here are some cons to staying in a hotel:

- A 150-room hotel will use 6,000 gallons of water each month. Leave your do not disturb sign up to reduce this amount.

- Hotels contribute to 60 million tons of CO2 emissions annually. Mostly due to wasteful practices and the guests not knowing any better.

- Across the US, hotels take up more than 5 billion square feet of space

- They spend over $7.5 billion in energy alone

- They create 1.9 billion lbs of trash each year

- They use 84.7 billion kwh/y (enough to power 9.6 billion blow dryers)

- They use 219 billion gallons of water each year

What if hotels went green?

- Building hotels that meet green standards can prevent 50-75% of waste from ending up in the landfill.

- If each hotel cut their energy consumption by 10% each year, that would be enough to power all of Washington, D.C. for a year.

- They could save 65.7 billion gallons of water each year, enough to fill nearly 100,000 Olympic sized swimming pools.

- If all hotels were to just cut their emissions by 10%, that would be the same as planting 1.1 million acres of trees (that is roughly

- If all hotels in the US went green, that would be the equivalent to taking 1 million cars off the road

- They would save $750 million

For more travel tips on how you can stay green as a hotel guest, be sure to check out this video.

But what about hostels?

- 50 bed hostel uses about 4000 liters per day. (1056 gal per day times 3 is 3168, nearly half that of a hotel of the same size)

- Hotels use roughly 1-15 gallons more per occupant than a hostel

- Other water usage that needs to go into consideration is that most hotels have landscaping, pools, spas, laundry services, cafes and restaurants, and other needs for water than just the guests.

- Typically since they accommodate less people and are not run by corporations, they are easier to reduce their energy and water consumption as well as recycle, eliminate plastic, have little to no food waste, and even go paperless if they chose. It is a lot easier for them to choose to do so.

Overall, I’d say hostels would be the greener choice, but this doesn’t make them more environmentally friendly than hotels. Hotels can be green and so can hostels. It all depends on that establishments goals and what practices they have in place.

This website linked here outlines criteria set by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council for hotels, other accommodations, tour operations, destinations, governments, and even travelers.

Sometimes, it isn’t possible to choose an eco-friendly certified accommodations, but rather just finding the ones that are more eco-friendly. When in doubt, choose smaller hotels (preferably not chains/big corporations), Airbnbs, hostels, guesthouses, and other smaller accommodations instead of large hotels, resorts, and other larger and typically more wasteful accommodations.

Now that we got all the facts out of the way, here was our experience in our first hostel.

Thanks for reading! Let us know down below which you think is greener.

Emma :)

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Hey there! Thanks for stopping by! 

My name is Emma. I am a 20-year-old new to this sustainable lifestyle. I am here to give you my tips as I learn them and help beginners begin their sustainable life...


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