What is Sustainable Couch

Sustainable Couch is a project which aims to bring some aspects of ecological, social and economic sustainability to the hospex world.


    Back in late 2008, Massi, an Italian guy living in Vienna and working for a local NGO, wanted to find a way to combine his passion for environmental and social topics with his very active role as a couchsurfer, hosting people at his place and organizing local events.
    This is what happened since then:
    2009: in November, Massi created the “Vienna Sustainability Group”, which gathered a few dozen of engaged Viennese couchsurfers. Together, we organized many local sustainable activities, such as fair-trade dinners, the FREE BOX, cycling events, and in June 2010, several activities for the Vienna Calling Event.
    2010: inspired by this success, Massi decided to develop a more complex project combining hospitality networks with the general topic of sustainability.
    2011: in March the website http://www.sustainablecouch.org went online. Since April, a regular newsletter has been sent every month.
    2012: to celebrate the 1st anniversary, a questionnaire was sent out to all the members, in order to involve them more in the project. As the results show, most of the members identify this main role for Sustainable Couch: increasing awareness regarding sustainability-related issues within hospex networks. The most important goals to achieve are spreading the word about Sustainable Couch and deepening the engagement of the existing community.
    2013: In April, the Sustainable Couch website registered its 500th member,


    Be informed, share information, get active… and have fun! The motto of Sustainable Couch was created during a meeting of the Vienna sustainability group in May 2010. It is not a 4-step principle, where all the parts must be obtained, one after the other. It is a model for informed, active, happy people who want to make a difference in their lives and in the world by adapting a more sustainable lifestyle.

    Be informed
    Knowledge is power. This is true also even more in the 21st century. In the complex and interconnected world within which we are living, it is very important to gain access to information. This is very easy, condering especially the new possibilities offered by Internet. The difficult part is to get independent, objective news and information. So the big challenge is to be able to filter all the news we get, in order to both have a deep knowledge regarding topics which are important for us as well as to have the capacity to quickly find pieces of information we need.

    Share information
    Sharing knowledge is double power. News and pieces of information we acquire are not a personal possession, but rather something we want to share with other members, with friends and family. By sharing knowledge with other people we start reflecting - open our mind -  and we can even change our ideas when there are reasonable motivations to do so.

    Get active
    It is time to take action! Once we have the knowledge, we want to use it in order to improve or change the situation. At a personal level, with the way we live and act, at a group level with other people who shares our ideas and agree that we should not only want to talk, but also actively initiate and become part of the change. An important and encouraging aspect is that we are never alone, and a growing number of people are starting to act towards a more sustainable world.

    …and have fun!
    Changing the world is fun! We are aware that our planet faces huge problems, but we want to solve them with a smile in our face, while having fun. It is impossible to change the world driven by hate and desperation. That’s why trust in our group and friends and a pragmatic, but effective optimism play a big role for us.



    SUSTAINABILITY is a widespread, yet very powerful word.
    Literally it means: the capacity to endure. Sustainability has three, equally important, interconnected main components.

    • ecological sustainability: we aim for a world where human beings live without destroying the environment. They respect and protect, not only themselves, but also all living beings and planet earth as a whole.
    • economic sustainability: we stand for a world where human wealth and not money is the centre and aim of our actions, of our work, of our lives.
    • social sustainability: we stand for a world based on justice where everybody has the same human rights, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, sexual orientation, property, birth or other status.

    Sustainability is a word which has been used (and abused) in many waysduring the recent years. Originally, the word “sustainability” was strictly connected to the concept of “sustainable development”. The first discussions and studies about this are from the 1980's and the most famous definition of sustainable development is that of the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations on March 20, 1987:

    “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 
    United Nations General Assembly (1987), Brundtland Commission, Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future.

    Even if often associated to the environmental aspects, sustainability is also linked to the concepts of social and economic sustainability . As it is possible to see in the figure below, all three aspects are connected to each other at different levels and real sustainability is only possible when all of them overlap.


    The concept of hospitality exchange, also known as "accommodation sharing", "hospitality services" (short "hospex"), and "home stay networks", "home hospitality" ("hoho"), refers to centrally organized social networks of individuals, generally travelers, who offer or seek accommodation without monetary exchange. These services generally connect users via the internet.

    Hospex are a growing reality, with millions of members all around the world. Some of the biggest and most famous hospex - the numbers below refer to July 2013 - are:

    Our "roles" in ospitality exchange networks:

    • When we host guests, we welcome them in our home, give them hospitality and share time and experiences.
    • When we surf someone’s couch, we handle the trust we are given with respect, sharing responsibility with our hosts
    • When we are active members of a local community, we attend and create meetings and events, contributing with our time, motivation and   ideas
    • When we travel, we experience the world with our own eyes and we have an impact on the places we visit

     That is why Sustainable Couch is divided into the following sections: 

    Sustainable Couch wishes to give couchsurfers the possibility to develop a more sustainable lifestyle, on a personal level, in their local environment and while travelling. This can happen through the acquisition and sharing of new information as well as taking action. While doing all of this, the fun component should always be present as an important source of motivation and inspiration.