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364,000 sustainable homes on Airbnb now up for grabs, but guests report horror stories

Sustainable home, Bali
Sustainable home, Bali
By Maeve Campbell
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The rental housing platform popular amongst holiday makers is breaking into the world of sustainability, but guests say customer service is sub-par.


Airbnb has announced an upsurge in bookings to stay at eco-friendly homes around the world, with an 141% increase in the last year. With over 360k ‘sustainable stays’ now available on the rental platform, eco-tourism is on the rise as hosts create environmentally conscious solutions to housing.

Alongside these figures, Airbnb reported that there has been an 175% increase in homes made from upcycled materials in the last four years, such as glass bottles, tires and even recycled fabrics like denim. The data is based on users including specific keywords in their searches, such as 'recycled materials', 'upcycled materials', 'reclaimed materials', from August 2015 to August 2019. Hosts are also sharing photos of green spaces more than ever before, as their guests respond positively to settings filled with nature.

According to Eurostat statistics, the residential sector accounts for 27% of energy consumption in Europe, including space and water heating, cooling, cooking, lighting and electrical appliances. Heating homes is the main component using up energy, closely followed by heating water and lighting appliances, say the statistics from 2017. As such, renters using Airbnb are becoming more conscious of the environmental impact of housing, choosing to stay at sustainable homes on holiday.

These homes may include energy efficient electrical systems and are often made entirely from reclaimed materials like wood. Some, such as “Zoe’s cosy wood cottage” in the UK even come with eco accoutrements such as a hammock and blankets made from recycled plastic bottles, and one apartment in Portugal boasts a reclaimed denim couch and floor made from wine corks.

Chief product officer and co-founder of Airbnb, Joe Gebbia, described the news as “truly amazing to see that the impact is even bigger than we could have imagined”, in the official Airbnb announcement. He emphasised that the Airbnb community “supports environmental sustainability around the world.”

What is Airbnb’s reputation?

Since its launch in 2008, Airbnb has hosted 400 million guests and now offers listings in over 190 countries. Research conducted by the Morgan Stanley Report also showed that over 50% of Airbnb users in 2016 gladly used it to replace a traditional hotel stay. With the concept of rental platforms booming in many industries at the moment, it’s no surprise that the user-friendly, online site is so popular on a global scale.

Sustainable guest houses, Iceland

However, Airbnb has been blasted by many for its lack of concerned or available customer service. In fact, there is a website solely dedicated to “helping hosts and guests share their stories about the risks and dangers of using Airbnb” – it goes by the name of

On the site, guests lay into the platform, citing problems such as “false advertising” of accommodation with inaccurate photos, “discrimination” after “host cancels before start of trip”, one instance of an “account mistakenly deactivated twice in one weekend” and even disturbing anecdotes such as “left homeless in Philadelphia after no contact.”

“Alone late at night on the streets of Naples”

For a better low-down on an authentic guest experience at Airbnb, we spoke to one woman (who wishes to remain anonymous) about her stay in Naples last month. She describes finding herself “alone late at night on the streets of Naples with Airbnb nor host responding to my messages and calls,” on her birthday weekend at that. She claims Airbnb “didn’t assist me in any way.”

When she finally reached Airbnb by phone, customer service simply concluded that she “look for a hotel instead” which, in her own words, “defies their whole raison d’être and philosophy of the company.”

David Mark
Streets of Naples, ItalyDavid Mark

In the end, she found herself in numerous taxis, “going from one replacement flat to another” and “paying a much higher price for last-minute accommodation.” The only compensation she could claim for was a £24 coupon that didn’t even cover the cost of the taxi fare.

Despite the fact that Airbnb does have a twitter account for answering queries and also provides a number to call, many guests report that customer service is sub-par at best. At Euronews Living, we tried to contact someone at Airbnb for comment, but found the automated voice on the phone was frustrating and we could not get through to a real person.

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