How can we have a positive impact while we are on vacation? Rita of Impact House shared with us some useful tips to learn even more sustainable practices while travelling. This sustainable hostel allows you to make a difference!

Impact House is a space open to the community in Lisbon where sustainability, circular economy and partnerships with local nonprofits are at the heart of everything. There you can enjoy different activities while contributing to a positive impact on the community and the environment. Let’s travel with a positive impact!

Impact House, Sustainable Hostel in Portugal
Impact House, Sustainable Hostel in Portugal

Impact House, Interview with Rita, the Sustainable Hostel founder

Rita, eco-host and founder of Impact House in Portugal
Rita, eco-host and founder of Impact House in Portugal

“Sustainability concerns minimizing our environmental footprint and maximizing our positive social impact. Sustainability means taking care of environmental and social issues. While we live and while we travel, we should be conscious of our actions’ consequences.”

To explore what it means to travel with a positive impact, we interviewed Rita, founder and CEO of this Sustainable Hostel Impact House.

Hi Rita, could you introduce yourself?

I am Rita, I am Portuguese and I am the Founder and the CEO of Impact House since April 2018. I studied Management at Lisbon School of Economics and Management and at Nova School of Business and Economics. After that, I worked a bit in the Marketing field and then I decided to start this activity.

Why did you decide to create this sustainable hostel?

Before the hostel, I created a travel agency called Impact Trip. It aims to develop volunteer programs around Europe, being a Responsible Tour Operator, a social business that promotes Responsible Travel experiences around Portugal. Since there were a lot of people coming to Lisbon to do volunteer experiences, I decided to try to do something to reduce their expenses and their efforts to look for a place to stay. For this reason, the idea of Impact house project came up.

Since I am very engaged in sustainable issues, I am used to travelling choosing sustainable tourist places. Since I saw that there weren’t enough sustainable tourist establishments in the area here, I decided to create a sustainable hostel to educate our travellers and make them more aware of environmental and social aspects.

First, I created the hostel for these volunteers, but then I decided to open it to the general public, everyone can come and join us local volunteer programs.

Living Room, Impact House
Living Room, Impact House

Which characteristics does your accommodation have regarding sustainability aspects?

We are sustainable because we do recycling and upcyclingin fact, we like to upcycle our trash and find a new use for it, for example, the room furniture is made from wooden waste.

We take care of food waste and composting; all our leftover food is donated to people in need and we have the compost turning fruit and veggie scraps into nutritious fertilizer for our vertical garden.

We have a vertical garden where we use herbs for our home-cooked meals. There is a social and sustainable shop where we sell lots of little products arts and crafts from our social partners.

An art gallery regularly exhibits the artworks of local disabled artists. We use ecological and biodegradable cleaning products. We attempt for sustainable options when we choose our suppliers and products. Also, we regularly host events around various sustainability topics.

Finally, we connect travellers with local NGO programs.

Vegetarian Food, Impact House
Vegetarian Food, Impact House

How did you learn these sustainable practices you are offering?

I learnt by myself attending various workshops, my family also transmitted me some practices, and I learnt a lot from my previous travels and people I met because I was always looking for sustainable solutions.

Which kind of volunteer activities are you offering to your guests?

Thanks to Impact Trip we have a good network of different NGO partners. We aim at combining the best of travel with a positive social and environmental impact by connecting our travellers and our partner associations. Travellers can support environmental and social causes. Some volunteer programs we offer for example are the following:

Food Rescue, Youth Support, Homeless Support, Marine Conservation, Wolf conservationSustainable Fashion, Inclusive Agriculture, Animal Care, Beach cleaning.

With that we help travellers who join us to connect with the locals, experiencing the culture and contributing in a positive way to the local communities. They can stay at our sustainable hostel and join different volunteer activities during their stay. During 2019 we had 705 volunteers who joined the programs we offered.

Volunteer Activities in Lisbon
Volunteer Activities in Lisbon

What does sustainability mean for you?

For me, sustainability concerns minimizing our environmental footprint and maximizing our positive social impact. Sustainability means taking care of environmental and social issues. While we live and while we travel, we should be conscious of our actions’ consequences. Our little actions can help a lot the others.

For instance, while travelling, it is better to choose places that make efforts to reduce inequality and that try to have a good social impact, preferring local suppliers, local workers, helping the local community with the activities that they offer to their guests.

What does sustainable tourism mean for you?

I think that sustainable tourism regards all the good practices that the tourism sector can incentive through its activities. Travelling with a good purpose trying to reduce as much as possible the negative impacts on the environment and the community, this implies, for example, choosing the travel transports, accommodation, activities to do. It regards also deciding consciously to who we give our money, for example, the restaurants we go to eat, the shops we go to buy. The more we prefer local, the better it is.

Sustainable Practices
Sustainable Practices

What does sustainable accommodation represent for you?

I think that sustainable accommodation is a tourist establishment that tries to create a network between guestslocal communitylocal suppliers and local offer of services. Also, it tries to reduce the waste of resources like energy, water, food. It tries to educate his travellers, making them conscious and making them feeling part of a sustainable community. It doesn’t see the tourism sector only as a way of making money, but there’s something more, it tries to incentive good practices and to educate.

Which is the typical traveller who stays at your place? Why do they come, and what are they looking for?

Our guests are mainly young travellerssurferssolo-travellers and group of friends who aim to live local and meaningful experiences. They look for meeting other similar people with similar needs and similar points of views. The majority are open-minded and very social; they look for sharing stories and experiences. Their aim is to come back home spiritually richer; here they want to learn and not to consume.

Do you know which experiences your guests highlighted at Impact House?

I think the guests coming here are mainly interested in environmental issues, and in fact, it is not easy to find establishments that implement what we do. Also, they appreciate a lot the social aspects regarding the particular activities we offer, since we try to be different and not to offer the standard activities.

They appreciate learning more sustainable practices to act in a more sustainable way when they come back home. They want to incentive people like us who try to make a change, who try to make efforts to find sustainable solutions. We noticed that they particularly like our homemade vegetarian food, for instance when we organized a workshop about conscious vegetarian alimentation, we had a lot of success. Also, the worm composter in the hostel has been really appreciated. Thanks to that they can learn more about home composting. Also, our guests like the local markets list we recommend.

Green thumb a Impact House
Green Thumb a Impact House

Conclusion

Be conscious of the consequences of your actions and try to have a meaningful purpose as Rita has with her sustainable hostel.

 “I live always trying to have a meaningful purpose and to pursue personal and job objectives related to sustainability. In fact, I managed to join my sustainability values to my job and this is perfect because I have the feeling that I am following a good direction, I am proud of Impact House. I spend most of my time working at the hostel, I love my job.”

Activities offered at Impact House
Activities offered at Impact House

Look deeply and try every day to have a positive impact on what surrounds you.

Be a future changemaker and join Impact House!

 


Author: Irene Paolinelli

Olà, I’m Irene, an Italian girl born and raised on the Tuscan hills between Lucca and the Sea. Due to study purposes I lived in Valladolid, Spain and in Lisbon, Portugal. A recent mind-opening journey to Brazil enlightened me about social and environmental sustainability that our society needs. Since I was a child, I’ve been driven by discovering New Cultures and Mastering a variety of Foreign Languages. I’m passionate about Sustainable Tourism, Marketing, and Social Impact Projects. "Who lives must be prepared for changes" (Goethe, Italian Journey). 
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