Airbnb and the Sharing Economy

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cedar ceiling boards glisten in the light spilling from the all-white bedroom of this airbnb suite

all photos in this post © Wally Sears, who is not only the owner of this Airbnb suite,

but an accomplished architectural photographer as well


   Airbnb gets at the heart of one of the essentials of the Original Green: using what we’ve got. If sustainability means “keeping things going in a healthy way, long into an uncertain future,” then that begins with “keeping things.” And that means supporting the good existing fabric of places first. To be clear, you probably can’t prevent a developer from putting up a new hotel, but you can choose where you stay. And I’ve learned about a new (for me) choice.

generous white linen curtains tumble around the bed, lit both from the pair of lamps standing like sentinels beside the bed and also from the light of the garden over the headboard beyond

   I wrote a couple years ago about the virtues of having a bed & breakfast in your neighborhood. But with Airbnb (“air B&B” if you’re not familiar with them), you can have several… or many… B&B suites in your neighborhood. I’ve participated in the sharing economy in a number of ways for years, but had never tried Airbnb until now. But I’m loving it now on so many levels that I’ll likely look here first from now on for my travels. Here’s why:

dark wood French doors glow softly between bedroom and living in this airbnb suite

   For one thing, it’s just simply more interesting. Corporate hotels are just so uniform. If Wally’s suite I stayed in recently is any indication, Airbnb rooms will be a pleasant respite from the sameness. And there’s nothing like a change of scenery to sensitize your eyes to other new things in a place you’re visiting. As a matter of fact, I believe it’s this “eyes wide open” condition that allows us to appreciate and then come to love a place we have never visited before. More on that soon in another post.

all-white alcove is perfect for breakfast for two in this Neptune Beach airbnb suite

   You’ve also gotta love the fact that except for Airbnb’s commission, all the money you spend goes into the local economy. And more specifically, it goes to these places that look cool enough to you on Airbnb’s site that you say “I’ll give this one a try.” So consider yourself to be supporting coolness. Would you rather do that, or would you prefer to help fill the coffers of some faceless corporation headquartered thousands of miles away?

palmetto leaf splays against white boarded wall beside opening into softly glowing kitchen cabinets beyond

   Like so many other things local, this is an opportunity to actually meet interesting people. “Know your farmer” has become a mantra of the local food movement, and “know your innkeeper” is something Airbnb allows you to do as well. Trust is essential to the success of sharing economy businesses like this, and Airbnb makes sure that you can easily hook up with your hosts and get acquainted before setting off on your trip to their place.

casual green-striped lounging chair and palmetto leaf lit softly in the glow of a lone lamp set against dark-stained wood wall boards

   One more thing… I’ve written this entire post so far from the viewpoint of the traveler. But do you have a suite, or even a room, that you don’t use most of the time? If so, you might think about listing it. Do the math, and you’ll see that it can be quite rewarding. You’re not tied down, as you only have to list your place for the times that you’re there. And if you discover that being a part-time innkeeper just isn’t for you, it’s really easy to de-list yourself. But you just might discover that it’s a really good thing.

   Just curious if you’ve stayed at an airbnb suite? Or if you have one? If so, please let us know how it’s working. And if you’re ever in the Jacksonville area, be sure to stay with Wally… not only is his suite incredibly cool, as you see here, but it’s also just a block from the beach.


   ~Steve Mouzon


Legacy Comments


Steve Mouzon · Board Member at Sky Institute for the Future

I've never done airbnb... until now. But this experience has converted me, and also got me to thinking about how sustainable the sharing economy can be. Your thoughts?

Mar 26, 2014 11:00am


Perry Sponseller · Memphis, Tennessee

I have heard of talk that the corporate hotel chains are pushing for policy to regulate the airbnb in the same light as they operate. This is a common challenge in this new era of urbanism and new ways of doing business. My hope is that policy makers will look to understand this new era and not place restrictive policies on local economies.

Mar 26, 2014 11:13am


Diane Joseph Dorney · Executive Director at Seaside Institute

LOVE this apartment. I wish I had a reason to go to Jacksonville ...

Mar 26, 2014 12:47pm


Geoffrey Jason Hall · Ottawa, Ontario

I've had some really good experiences, as well as a couple problems, but overall very good. I rented a very cool loft in Cape Town for a couple days, then listed my space when Airbnb offered me a credit for doing so. I ended up renting out my income property short term during a gap in tenancy, and then when I went away for a month to Thailand and Burma, I rented it out to 3 sets of short term guests, covering a chunk of my holiday costs. It's such a great use of your existing resources, and creates wealth without additional damage to the planet. What's not to like?

Mar 28, 2014 10:58am


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