You only need to glance at the logo to appreciate the importance of sustainability to YHA – having a tree on your emblem is a fair indicator of an organisation’s green credentials.
A home with an open door, signifying a warm welcome to shelter, next to a tree, representing nature and the environment. The hostelling philosophy has had sustainability at its core ever since a German schoolteacher named Richard Schirrmann led his class on a summer hike 107 years ago, and began the Hostelling International (HI) movement in the process.
But like how the tree in the logo bends with the breeze, the YHA of the new millennium has evolved from the era of quaint countryside Jugendherbergen to become flexible to the eco-concerns of 2018.
Last year, YHA Australia was recognised for the Best Green Accommodation Initiative at the Global Youth Travel Awards at the World Youth and Student Travel Conference in Montreal, Canada. The prestigious award acknowledges the huge range of sustainability initiatives that YHA undertakes, from small projects like free-range chicken farms and herb gardens to massive ones like the decision to stop selling bottled water and the installation of solar cells, at a time when Mother Nature needs a hand more than ever.
Every time you book a stay at a YHA hostel on our website, you have the chance to donate $1 to our Sustainable Hostels Fund, which YHA then matches dollar for dollar and puts towards projects that make our network of hostels that little bit greener.
The Sustainable Hostels Fund has helped install solar hot water systems at Adelaide Central, Byron Bay, Cairns Central, Pittwater, Grampians Eco Lodge and Melbourne Metro, as well as solar power in sun-baked Alice Springs, which generates as much as half of that hostel’s energy needs. The 145 solar cells installed on Perth City’s rooftop in 2014 saves more than 42 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
Even the choice to stay in a hostel is better for the environment. Four people could stay in four separate hotel rooms with four separate air-conditioners, four separate sets of lights, four separate bathrooms . . . or they could share one room in a hostel, sharing all those facilities, and collectively lightening their load on the water and electricity bills. And when you book directly with YHA, you’re putting more money back into a not-for-profit organisation with sustainability woven into its fabric.
Rainwater tanks, solar panels, swap shelves, bike rental, low-energy lightbulbs/LEDs, water-saving bathroom devices . . . you can hardly turn around in a YHA hostel without bumping into a sustainability initiative.
All the waste from the Grampians’ kitchen is composted then fed to the hostel’s free-range chicken farm. Brisbane City flushes its loos with an 80,000L rainwater tank. Port Elliot has its very own on-site veggie garden. Railway Square has recently installed furniture recycled out of timber posts and a ‘green wall’ made of old railway luggage racks, echoing the history of the building.
And Sydney Harbour YHA, which has been feted with award after award for its $1 million worth of sustainability features since opening in 2009, even has pin boards made from recycled PET, the nasty stuff disposable plastic bottles are made of. Speaking of bottled water . . .
YHA hostels are pretty easy-going places but one ugly item has made its way onto the ‘banned’ list: disposable water bottles.
The gas-guzzling process of producing, packaging, transporting and refrigerating bottled water means it has a carbon footprint 300 times greater than the clean, free water we’re lucky to have plumbed into our buildings. And then there’s the 1000 years PET products take to break down in landfill.
So YHA Australia has gone down a path that’s kinder to the environment, and considering bottled water is twice as expensive as petrol, much gentler on your wallet, too.
YHA hostels have axed disposable water bottles from vending machines and group lunches, installed chilled water bubblers in our properties, and now sell quality re-usable water bottles for $9 a pop – virtually cost price – so guests can fill up at no cost to them or the environment.
Since imposing the bottle ban on July 1, 2014, YHA has sold around 2000 re-fillable bottles to take a dent out of the 600 million litres of bottled water Australians consume every year, which churns out 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions or the equivalent of 13,000 cars on the road for 12 months.
1. Give $1 to the Sustainable Hostels Fund when booking your stay on yha.com.au and YHA will match your contribution dollar for dollar. Your contributions have already helped install solar hot water at Byron Bay YHA and Adelaide Central YHA, as well as solar electricity at Alice Springs YHA.
2. Cut down on flying. Either fly direct to minimise emissions from take-off and landing, or catch the train! Rail is often cheaper, pumps out way less pollution than air travel, and is a great way of seeing the country.
3. Tread lightly when you arrive by seeing the sights on foot or on bike – plenty of YHA hostels offer free or great-value bike rental. And reduce your eco-footprint during your stay by flicking off lights and air conditioning when you’re not using them.
4. Save water by taking shorter showers, turning off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth or shaving, and reporting leaking taps and showers when you see them. Take extra care to conserve water in remote, natural hostels.
5. Swap and share. Leave behind food, books, clothes, and anything else you don’t want when you check-out so other people can use them. One person’s trash is another one’s treasure . . . especially on a backpacker’s budget!
YHA hostels are getting involved in a number of events in 2018...
Click here to learn more about YHA Australia’s sustainability efforts.