Better than Motel 8?
July 23, 2007 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Imaginary vacation question: Would you think a carbon neutral Bed and Breakfast was interesting? Would you seek such a place if you knew about one? What would make a "green" experience a special part of your travels?
posted by Freedomboy to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you envisioning guests who pay you or someone else to offset their emissions from their stay (which might be hard to calculate or verify), or are you seeing people who already live less, um, carbondioxified lives than most other people?

Treehugger's travel/nature section might have some ideas for you.
posted by mdonley at 3:48 PM on July 23, 2007

I think it would be more about marketing than anything to help the environment. The Bed and Breakfast itself might be carbon neutral, but there's no way you're going to offset all the carbon burned in actually getting to the place. So I wouldn't care one way or the other.

If someone really cares about the environment, they aren't taking road trips to a bed and breakfast in the first place. Sorry.
posted by Justinian at 3:53 PM on July 23, 2007

I would not patronize a so-called "carbon neutral" business that uses carbon offsets. I might patronize a business that makes actual sacrifices to lower fossil fuel usage and other environmental damage, provided that it was otherwise a resort I was interested in visiting, and provided that I did not have to fly or drive far to get there. Flying or driving a long distance to get there would use more fossil fuels than any other hypothetical green practice you could implement.

Basically, in order to be commercially viable, the B&B would have to be someplace that people would want to stay even without the green stuff. It would have to be comfortable, efficient, convenient, luxurious, and otherwise commercially viable. You should learn everything you can about running an inn before you even think about trying this. Then, think about how to incorporate environmentally friendly practices into your business and add those to the wonderful, comfortable, commercially viable experience you're already planning to provide.

The best green vacation practice you could encourage people to implement would be encouraging them to vacation in places near where they live so that they stop flying or using their cars so much.
posted by decathecting at 3:56 PM on July 23, 2007

I would assume that it was a gimmick, used by someone who had something to hide. Which is to say, I would assume that their place was inferior and shoddy, and that they had to try to use "Greenery" as a way of attracting clientele because otherwise no one would stay in such a place.

That would be my impression.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:18 PM on July 23, 2007

agreed with decathecting... if the only reason for the "neutral-ness" was because the B&B was using carbon offsets (ie, by purchasing credits, planting trees elsewhere, etc) i would be less than impressed.

if the facility itself was genuinely carbon-neutral, then it might be more interesting. but i think you need more than carbon-neutralness to build a sustainable business.
posted by modernnomad at 4:22 PM on July 23, 2007

Not at all interesting. It all sounds very gimmicky and I'd suspect that the B&B nightly rate had the carbon offset cost built in. In that case, if I was really carbon-neutral gung-ho, I'd just look into using my own money to buy a large carbon credit to offset my entire trip.

I'd be much more interested in a B&B that was investing in a small onsite garden or local farm to supply the breakfast ingredients. The attraction is in reduced emissions, not paying for indulgences for indiscriminate carbon emissions.
posted by junesix at 4:25 PM on July 23, 2007

Sounds like a gimmick, and unless you're just off a popular bike trail it sounds like it would be hypocritical. Anyone can buy off their carbon footprint. Think about it this way: Would you stay at a B&B only because it gave a small part of its proceeds to charity? Probably not.

Carbon neutral is nice and all, but there are so many other ways to impact the the environment besides carbon emissions.

I'd rather see a low impact B&B where I could experience a low impact environmental lifestyle and see that it can be a luxurious, relaxing comfort. Make the furniture out of locally grown bamboo, feed me fresh locally grown organic produce, power the house off the grid, heat the water with solar, and you can even let me go to the chicken coop in the morning to pick up my fresh eggs. If, on top of that, they would let me plant a tree to offset the gas I burned to get there, then that would be a nice perk.

But above all it has to be a really good B&B.
posted by Ookseer at 4:46 PM on July 23, 2007

It seems as though this, your first market study, would indicate MeFites are not interested in b&bs, which ain't surprising. My grandmother likes b&bs.

I think the first question is, can you yourself run a b&b? Do you have the skills? Do you have the right location?

As a differentiator (or what cynics call a 'gimmick'), carbon offsetting would definitely work, but there's got to be more.

There's also the opportunity to use bona fide organics and local produce. Perhaps you can do some off-grid power stuff. Recycle rainwater or something. But the carbon-neutral status is just one part of the overall experience.

But, at the end of the day, you're going to be running a b&b. Can you do that?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:47 PM on July 23, 2007

Yep, gimmick.
posted by wafaa at 4:52 PM on July 23, 2007

I know a few people, probably myself included, that would be interested in staying at a carbon-neutral B&B if it was somewhere we were already going. Probably would pay slightly more for it as well, as long as the B&B was well-rated (or rather, rated comparably to surrounding establishments, or better than those places). However, as has been pointed out above, just buying carbon offsets isn't really very cool. Using locally grown/grown on site foods, gray water recycling, rain water recycling, solar power, and other actual efforts toward actually BEING carbon neutral rather than buying your way in would be the way to go.

All that said, no one's going to want to stay in a carbon-neutral shack.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:03 PM on July 23, 2007

It would be interesting as an afterthought. Like finding out that they once shot a movie there that you remember liking (but not your favorite movie). "Oh, honey, look, they're carbon-neutral. That's nice!"
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:37 PM on July 23, 2007

Agreed that if by carbon neutral you just mean buying offsets, then no way-- anyone can do that themselves.

If you mean a genuinely environmentally friendly B&B with a below-average impact, then yes, that would be a selling point for me. It would lift it above similarly-priced competitors and I'd probably pay a bit more, although not a ton more. Lots of good suggestions already on ways to do it... local foods, solar power, etc would be appealing for me. I'm sure there are plenty of other creative ideas out there-- for example, maybe offering loaner bikes to guests as an alternative to touring the area by car?
posted by EmilyClimbs at 5:48 PM on July 23, 2007

Would that you were a B&B using passive solar heating and passive solar water heating, biodiesel from WVO, wind, solar, or microhydro power generation, with a garden and farm that supplied the second half of your "B", I might think that was pretty cool.

Carbon-neutral is...well...difficult, and carbon offsets are as much of a genuine American ripoff as Wonderbread and the Toyota Prius.

The idea of carbon neutral is something that enters peoples vocabulary that they often don't know what it doesn't mean you're NOT producing CO2, it means you're not dredging up sequestered carbon from 10 million years ago. That's why burning peatmoss or sorghum stalks is carbon neutral but ethanol distilled from petroleum isn't, even though the emissions-to-volume output from the stalks are so much higher. Of course, then you raise the issue of particulate matter in the air....but there's always something.

Feel free to contact me if you want resources on making a building as energy-independent as possible w/o actually trying to make it off-grid.
posted by TomMelee at 6:00 PM on July 23, 2007

I would not stay at a "carbon-neutral B&B", and would probably instead make fun of it.

But I might stay at a green/low environmental impact/random other phrase in that field B&B. I don't know why that's different, but it is.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 6:08 PM on July 23, 2007

What would make a "green" experience a special part of your travels?

Add me to the list of people who don't care about carbon neutrality. BUT to me a real vacation would be a high-end cabin B&B place more along the lines of what TomMelee outlines.

- I'd like a place where you can't even drive up to the house, you have to park at the bottom of some path and walk up to it. - No (or minimal) electricity and yet somehow seems luxurious. Nice lighting, decent heating, solar whatever.
- I'd love it if I didn't see a brand on anything the whole time I was there. Not on the english muffins, not on the hand soap, not on the stack of brochures by the door.
- I'd love it if I could get there without driving my car, in fact, if it was on public transportation or if the proprietor would pick me up at the train/airport.
- I'd like it if it had no TV at all and no stack of movies that I'd never watch. I love my wifi but I'd love none of that too for a vacation-y thing.
- I'd love reading material that was stuff I really wanted to read and could read in a short vacation stay
- I'd like a tiny set of cabins all by a river someplace with a hammock and a kayak and a dog I could borrow.
- I'd like a place with cool gardens to walk around in and a nice place to swim.

I know it's not quite what you asked, but I stay in a fair amount of B&Bs and even more hotels and I increasingly find that the stuff that passes for fancy in midrange places is often the opposite of what I consider really nifty.
posted by jessamyn at 7:02 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't care. I wouldn't care one tiny tiny bit.

The British media portrays the British people as being ultra-obsessed with "carbon footprints" and "carbon neutral" and all the relative buzzwords. If you're trying to attract British tourists maybe it'll help, at least until next year when the media has another disaster to obsess over.
posted by watsondog at 7:41 PM on July 23, 2007

Lots of negative responses here, so I wanted to chime in and say I think it's an intriguing idea! Sure it could be gimmicky and wouldn't mean much unless you're doing much more than buying offsets. But with the growth in environment consciousness, I think it could bring in business.

The car concern raised by a few Mefites is an important one - maybe you could brainstorm ways to deal with that, I'm thinking like an energy efficient shuttle from the bus/train station.

There are similar (in terms of limiting environmental impact) eco-lodges and such that have been successful, so you might be some ideas from them.
posted by purplevelvet at 11:06 PM on July 23, 2007

I'm in agreement with the "interesting afterthought".

If I had a choice between two equally great B&Bs, at a destination that I already wanted to go to, I might pick the carbon neutral one, but it wouldn't be much of a factor.
posted by KAS at 8:37 AM on July 24, 2007

Since it hasn't been explicitly addressed--I think it's important to consider the reason people here are feeling so much skepticism about the idea of offsets, vs. the positive feelings they express about a low-impact and/or "green" lifestyle.

Buying a carbon offset is kind of the easy way out. You're using the energy, but then you're saying, "Oops, sorry, I guess I shouldn't have done that."

Not only that, but the offset itself is sort of iffy, environmentally speaking. Say a tree is planted. Great, but what kind of tree? Where? I'd bet you that typically it's one more seedling plopped into a plantation, perhaps not even one of native trees; better than a parking lot, but not worth much as habitat. Not only that, but does the seedling survive? As a forest matures, many young trees die off, and you end up with only a few mature ones. Does the offset gloss over this by counting one seedling as = one mature tree? I don't know, maybe they count 10 or 15 seedlings as = a mature tree. Or maybe they're not planting trees, and they're buying carbon credits from a wind farm. This is just an example, pointing out that the nature of the offset may require consideration. However, it is safe to say that in any situation, it would have been better to have consumed less energy and resources in the first place--and that you can do this using techniques mentioned by others above.

Buying an offset is a very facile, consumer-oriented approach and, although it's better than nothing, the concept is sadly typical of our modern life--I would say especially of the U.S.-American lifestyle, although we don't have a monopoly on this and I don't know where you live. It's the idea that you can solve your problems without any personal sacrifice and without changing your ways: just by buying a product. That's why people here see it as a gimmick. If buying the offsets is the only thing you're doing differently from anybody else, you're showing that you don't really have an understanding of or dedication to green issues.

The low-impact/green B&B is far more appealing you're reducing the amount of energy consumed in the first place--that's what we really need to do anyway--and you're showing that you understand that climate change is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to environmental issues. Making such changes requires a lot of effort, innovation, dedication, and even sacrifice, so it's harder.

By definition, just buying the offsets is gimmicky because anyone who really cares will know that there's far more that should be done.

Personally, if that's all you're doing, I'd agree with KAS and others. If you're buying the offsets in addition to making other changes, I'd be far more interested. But, frankly, the other changes would be what I really cared about and the offsets would still be a faint positive.
posted by Herkimer at 9:25 PM on July 25, 2007

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