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How adventure travel can lead the way on carbon

We recently caught up with Charlie Cotton, Founder of ecollective, a UK based company that works alongside existing travel businesses and destinations wanting to do more to reduce their carbon footprint, but not knowing quite where to start.


Our conversation went something like this …

How do you solve a problem like carbon?

Let’s start with the bad news, the climate crisis is only getting worse. Despite the year, we have just had with no adventures and 47% fewer planes in the sky, global emissions only dropped by 6.4%. We need them to drop by more than this every single year.

Why this matters

A 1.5°C increase in global temperatures will lead to a global shift in our weather patterns and biodiversity. This, in turn, will negatively impact us all from what we eat and what we do. The frightening thing is that we are on course for a 3°C increase so this is a global crisis that requires all of us to act immediately.

What role can the adventure travel community play?

As the industry is starting to see glimmers of hope of an imminent return to travel, this is the ideal opportunity for the adventure travel industry to look at how they can lead the way on better travel for a healthier planet. The greatest asset to adventure travel is the planet, it is therefore our responsibility to play our part in protecting it.


How does adventure travel compare to other forms of tourism?

No two adventures are the same, which means using averages can be completely unfair when estimating your carbon footprint. However, as an industry, adventure travel companies tend to have some of the lowest levels of carbon footprint, but there is plenty of room for improvement. As adventures tend to primarily be human-powered, locally-led and nature-based we have a great starting point to be leaders in low carbon tourism.


The below are averages, so take with a large pinch of salt:

  • 1 week of staying at home: 160kg per person

  • 1 week local adventure trip: 250kg per person

  • 1 week villa holiday in Europe: 600kg per person

  • 1 week adventure trip in Europe: 700kg per person

  • 1 week all-inclusive in Europe: 800kg per person

  • 1 week cruise in Europe: 2000kg per person

What is my score?

When calculating the carbon emissions of what you sell, nearly everything has an influence. Where you go, how you get there, what you do, where you stay, what you eat, etc. Calculating with accuracy can be tricky if it is your first time but large amounts of common sense can be applied to start making a difference. Local food, human-powered activities such as cycling and fewer air miles always make a positive difference.

Aiming for Zero

It is not enough just to pat ourselves on the back for a low footprint, the aim is to reach zero. That is why we all need to start measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of what we sell.

Should we offset?

Offsetting helps but it is not nearly as impactful as reducing your own emissions in the first place. If you offset, you will continue to emit carbon emissions and you will be taking on an additional cost for years to come. It's far better to adapt what you sell to reduce emissions, improve the customer experience and profit margin year on year.


Should we carbon label?

We think so. Not only does it help you start to reduce your emissions and educate your team on what they can do to help, it also helps customers pick better trips for the environment. Additionally we believe that it speaks volumes on the level of attention that goes into your product. So many of the businesses we work with handcraft their trips so adding a carbon footprint to each adventure is a great way to demonstrate attention to detail as well as offering a platform to share your company's purpose with your audience.


What are the basics for starting to improve our carbon footprint?


Start with what you can control and practice what you preach

  • Measure your own business travel including measuring your 'working from home or the office' emissions

  • Flights do have a massive impact on your emissions, fly direct or fewer miles when possible so encourage fewer trips but with greater quality

  • Eat local; it’s tastier, it is one of the joys of travelling and should be cheaper too

  • Focus on the small but effective changes as they really do add up and there are so many of them

  • If you need help, just ask, there is no shortage of things we can do


If you would like to measure, manage and improve your company’s carbon footprint then see ecollective - founded in 2019 to help make it easier for travel companies to measure and reduce their carbon footprint. They have worked with all sorts of companies from tour operators, private jets, cruises to destinations. Their aim is always to help reduce the carbon footprint of what companies sell in a way that benefits both the business and the planet.

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