When youth hostel goes with eco-friendly tourism (France)

YRE Competition 2018
19-21 years old

While tourism is responsible for the emission of 26,400 million tons of CO2 per year, can we bring tourism and sustainable tourism together? This is the challenge Samuel Boggio and Alain Berhault set themselves by opening, last April 24th, the first écollective youth hostel in France. Based in the 9th district of Lyon, the “Alter’hostel” tries to integrate travellers in local life of Lyon while reducing their ecological footprints.

A form of tourism that cares about the environment

Eco-responsible travel with affordable prices: this is the goal of this youth hostel welcoming foreign globe-trotters as well as young French people settling in Lyon or even school groups. This goes with a strong will to reduce the hostel’s carbon footprint. In that regard, the lightning is timed, the showers’ water debit is controlled thanks to a compressed air system and dry toilets were put in place. Composts, sorting trays in each dormitory, recycled rainwater… Nothing is left to chance, even the handmade washing-liquid.

“What we decided to put to practice is not rocket science! You just have to want to invest in it. The dry toilets cost up to 2,500-3,000 euros so it should be taken into account but afterwards you save money every year. Lots of people come to us because of our ecological concept so it actually incites other hostels to follow the same principles” explains Samuel, whose idea started to grow during a round-the-world tour. The managers also chose the renewable energy supplier Enercop, even if it means paying 15 to 20% more on the electricity bill. This hostel is of a new kind and does not have anything to do with a simple greenwashing marketing plan. “The concept of an ecological hostel allows to learn more on what can be done to preserve the environment” testifies Marina, who is delighted with her stay.

A new approach for travelling: more open to local life and sharing

At the bar, you can have local drinks with the “Cola’rdèche” soda or “Canute Lyonnaise” beers. Travellers can also pay with the local money, the “Gonette”, even if Samuel admits that this is quite rare. The hostel multiplies local partnerships in order to involve the travellers into the local Lyon life. For instance, the latter can get involved as volunteers for “Les Restos du Coeur” or give the “Acte 2” ticket-counter a hand, the theatre next-door. “It is not only a hostel, it is much more than that” Samuel sums up. With concerts, polyglot evenings, Christmas markets, DIY workshops, the hostel is abundant with events and good mood in an atmosphere where multiple nationalities casually meet. The hostel organizes different workshops of awareness to the environment in partnership with local associations like “Awareness and Ecological Impact”. To Gabrielle Frutos, administrator of this association, “it is a very beneficial cooperation that is justified by the values shared by both these structures”.

Moreover, it is also possible to rent kayaks and bikes. “We are really happy we could associate with the Alter’Hostel to re-use bikes rather than buying new ones and waste them” explains Thierry from the “Change your Chain” association. The hostel also welcomes some young people doing their civic service or doing “woofing”. Everything is made to incite the travellers to become actors of their stay in a convivial atmosphere.

A project that saw the day thanks to collaborative financing

“We are not geniuses, it is just that we have ideas and motivation. We are often said to follow our dreams and that is right (…). We should be creative, not be afraid to try things even if people say it will not work” advices Samuel. To fund their dream, the two young managers did not indeed lack creativity: “We paddled down the Rhône in kayak from Switzerland to the sea. We raised 21,000 euros of funds, 300 people contributed to it.” Then they called for financers from social and solidarity economy such as the “Nef” and the “Crédit Coopératif”.

An inspiring concept, the echo of a new aspiration coming from young people

As it was prized last January with the label “Lyon, Sustainable and Ethical City”, whose goal is to promote practical alternatives to consumption, the Alter’Hostel has a bright future ahead. Samuel seems confident: “we can launch different tourisms, we are the proof of that, and currently it is working. People are often happy to come here, they support us.”

A buzzing innovative concept? “In other cities of France we heard that other projects similar to ours are blossoming”. This dynamic goes to testify the emergence of an eco-responsible awareness, in particular among young people who are more and more attracted to solidarity and eco-friendly travelling. “Sustainable development, in terms of economics, is characterized by exploding markets: there are no risks to take. In terms of personal welfare, it is great because you can meet people with the same values. Suppliers and partners all create a benevolent community. (…) This is the future” concludes Samuel with an optimistic look.

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Written by student from France.