In light of the United Nations’ (UN) 2023 Climate Report - the largest of its kind since 2014 - it’s clear that the world needs to take climate action. As travel professionals, we need to acknowledge the adverse effects that our industry has on the planet.
With Sustainable Travel International estimating that the travel and tourism industry produces 8% of global carbon emissions, this is a significant figure. But it’s not too late to take action and work to reduce this statistic.
We spoke to Green Edventures, a travel company that has been actively working to reduce and offset their business’s carbon footprint since 2009. Founder Tara Short shared her insights and advice about taking the first steps into climate action as a business - and how this doesn’t need to be overwhelming.
As a travel business, why do you believe it’s important—or necessary—to understand your carbon emissions and find ways to manage or reduce those emissions?
Carbon emissions are the driver behind many environmental issues, such as climate change. But scarier to me than this, and less talked about, is ocean acidification. When mixed with water, carbon dioxide forms carbonic acid, contributing to acid rain and ocean acidification. As our oceans become more acidic, plankton with limestone skeletons are unable to form. As plankton are the basis of the oceanic food chain, without them there will be no life in the oceans. If there is no life in the oceans, there will be no life on land.
As a company, we help people fall in love with wild places. But it’s important to show the planet some love, too. Reducing and offsetting our carbon emissions is one of the ways we do this.
How does your business manage and reduce its carbon emissions?
Green Edventures’ mission is to protect people, places, and ecosystems through sustainable travel - we achieve this through investing in the Amazon, specifically by purchasing acres of the rainforest. Since 2009, a portion of each person’s tour price has included a donation to our partners, Amazon Rainforest Conservancy, to offset their tours’ carbon emissions.
One acre of tropical rainforests can sequester about 4.5-40.7 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. In 2023 Green Edventures will purchase 7 acres of Amazon Cloud Forest. Not only are we offsetting our carbon emissions by safeguarding natural carbon sinks, but we’re also helping to slow down deforestation - which is another huge environmental issue.
Deforestation practices in the Amazon release stored carbon into the atmosphere, compounding the effects of global fossil fuel emissions. So buying land has a holistic impact. It protects precious habitats, biodiversity, plant-based medicine knowledge and species, groundwater, food diversity, and Earth’s oxygen manufacturers!
Why did your business choose to buy rainforest land in Peru?
Our previous carbon offsetting partners were bought out by a larger organization, and I felt too distant from the cause. I own a small business, and climate change is a big issue. It’s important for me to know that our donations are going the distance. Through investing directly with our partners, we can we confident in the knowledge that 100% of those funds will contribute to purchasing endangered habitats that are also carbon sinks.
I also feel encouraged by WeTravel’s voluntary carbon offset feature. This means that our travelers can take an active role in reducing their carbon footprint, and we can take the funds previously set aside to offset carbon emissions and invest in the Amazon rainforest in Peru.
How and why did you start your business’s carbon management journey?
I researched the web for organizations that help small businesses and individuals calculate their carbon footprint. They helped me calculate each tour’s emissions per person and assign a monetary value. I then donated that amount to our partner organization at the end of the year.
Offsetting our tour emissions was important because we want to make the world better through travel. Obviously, traveling has a big carbon footprint, but offsetting gives us a chance to mitigate our use of fossil fuels.
What do you encourage travel businesses to do when starting their journey to measure, reduce and manage their carbon emissions?
“Do something. You don’t have to be carbon neutral. Research companies that will help your business calculate your carbon footprint, then decide on what your budget is to offset part or all of your emissions. If it’s not in your budget to include carbon offsets, educate your clients about opportunities for them to offset their emissions.
Don’t worry about the politics around climate change. Instead, focus on the fact that we all have a carbon problem and do what you can to reduce your use of fossil fuels and offset what you cannot.
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