Trading Mansions Sounds Like a Dream. It’s Also a More Sustainable Way to Travel. | Kanebridge News
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Trading Mansions Sounds Like a Dream. It’s Also a More Sustainable Way to Travel.

By Jennifer Tzeses
Sun, Sep 10, 2023 7:00amGrey Clock 4 min

For many, the idea of doing a home exchange is enticing: The thrill of a new destination, calling an inspired new space home away from home, living like a local for a little while. But what happens if you have a sprawling estate on the ocean to offer yet can’t find a property swap that comes close to the size and luxury of your own?

Enter: HomeExchange Collection, a division of Paris-based HomeExchange, a 30-year-old home-swapping company with over 100,000 residences across 133 countries and teams in Zagreb, Croatia, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. The new division launched last year and focuses solely on luxury property trades.

“Some of our members were over flooded with requests from people who wanted to exchange homes, yet their houses just weren’t as nice,” the company’s co-founder Emmanuel Arnaud says. “That’s why we decided to launch HomeExchange Collection, to better cater to the needs of clients with super-luxurious homes. It’s a space where they can meet other like-minded travellers who want to exchange their little piece of paradise they’ve built all around the world,” Arnaud says.


HomeExchange Collection is an uber-exclusive community of home (and yacht and farm and castle) owners. And the criteria for membership is stringent. Homes are required to be valued at US$1.5 million or more, though US$2 million to US$10 million is typical.

“Location is a big part of it as well as amenities,” Arnaud says. “For example, if your house doesn’t have a pool in a prime sunny location, it’s going to be harder to make the cut.”

The houses themselves are anything but ordinary. Many come with five-star amenities such as boats, tennis courts, gyms, notable artworks, pools, daily housekeeping, and private chefs. Some of the most luxurious offerings include a 6,700-square-foot mansion in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a full-time gardener, chef, maid, and part-time massage therapist; a penthouse in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighbourhood with a 750-square-foot terrace; a coffee farm in Sao Paulo, Brazil; and a hillside villa in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with a60-foot solar-heated lap pool and hot tub on the terrace.

A home in Chiang Mai Thailand
Courtesy of HomeExchange Collection

Exchanges needn’t be reciprocal or immediate, either. If a member lends their home without reciprocity, they get GuestPoints to bank for a stay somewhere else at another time.

Members of the HomeExchange Collection can lend their homes to each other for a weekend, week, or month—and all include the benefit of their host’s insider intel. Other perks include a 100% flexible cancellation policy for guests, up to US$2 million in property damage protection, and access to the member service team 24/7.


If your home is selected, an annual membership to HomeExchange Collection costs US$1,000, which gives members the opportunity for unlimited exchanges during the calendar year.


With over 4,000 luxury homes in over 70 countries across the globe, from France and Italy to Thailand, Australia, and the U.A.E., even the most affluent are reconsidering the way they vacation. “Covid has invited everyone to rethink being in shared, public spaces, and instead having a whole place to themselves,” Arnaud says.

It’s a shift happening, in part, Arnaud says, because of growing environmental awareness.

“People are rethinking their relationship to consumption,” he says. “The idea that you have this very, very nice home sitting idle while you’re paying to be at a hotel sounds a bit absurd. Why not use these homes which would otherwise be empty?”


As a certified B Corp, HomeExchange Collection meets high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability—and it’s the definition of responsible tourism. By nature, the concept of home exchanging is a more sustainable way to travel. By using pre-existing accommodations and encouraging people to live like locals, the local ecosystem remains undisturbed.

“We think our approach makes better use of the existing infrastructure, the existing homes, rather than building new homes and hotels,” Arnaud says.

The company takes its commitment to the environment one step further by calculating its carbon footprint every year, trying to reduce it, and contributing to global carbon neutrality by investing in social and environmental projects.

Meanwhile, members, through HomeExchange’s Solidarity group, can open their homes to relief workers or affected members in instances such as pandemics, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, or war.

“It started with Covid when we realized we had a lot of homes available and a lot of people who wanted to help. We launched the Solidarity program to help frontline workers in hospitals to be able to have a place where they could stay without having to commute back and forth,” Arnaud says. The program was then expanded to house Ukrainian refugees.


Aside from continuing to grow membership and properties worldwide, Arnaud’s mission is for everyone to have the opportunity to go on vacation. The company has already partnered with an organisation in France, Le Secours Catholique, which helps low-income families travel.

“We want to be able to help people go on a vacation, no matter who they are, and we are looking for the right kind of partners and the right kind of ways to put that into place on a wider scale,” Arnaud says.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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At the World Plogging Championship, contestants have lugged in tires, TVs and at least one Neapolitan coffee maker

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GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


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