A climate emergency is threatening our planet, but slowly the world is waking up. Travel has frequently been cited as one of the biggest culprits, largely due to fossil fuel guzzling flights pumping CO2 into the atmosphere.
In reality, there are far bigger baddies in the picture. Textile production, for example, produces around 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year – more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.
In fact, if used correctly, tourism can be a force for good, improving livelihoods and protecting natural resources. The trick is to travel with a reputable operator. So, if you want to ease your conscience and travel sustainably in the future, consider booking through one of these providers.
1. YellowWood Adventures
Specialising in small group adventures to more offbeat destinations, such as Ethiopia and Mongolia YellowWood offers a mixture of trekking holidays and cultural tours. Started by traveller and passionate environmentalist Sam McManus, it’s a proudly independent company, where the focus is on delivering memorable adventures while also benefitting local economies. The company’s strength and charm lie in its staff and guides – all local to the destination – and each tour is linked to a local charity.
As part of their ongoing commitment to more sustainable travel, YellowWood has partnered with WeForest to plant 15 trees for every client and guide who purchases international flights.
“Travelling responsibly and supporting local communities, we are small enough to tread lightly, but big enough to make a difference,” says McManus.
2. Intrepid Travel
Offering group tours with a social and environmental conscience, Intrepid is the world’s largest carbon neutral tour operator, with ambitions to become climate positive. Pioneers in the adventure travel realm, they were the first to ditch elephant rides on their tours and have raised $688,239 to help restore Australia’s kelp forests (a weed responsible for sucking CO2 from the ocean and replacing it with oxygen).
A certified B Corporation, recognised for balancing purpose with profit, Intrepid are also champions of human rights in the workplace. All staff receive benefits and there’s a drive to improve opportunities for women, with females already accounting for 60% of their global workforce.
3. G Adventures
Adopting a mantra of G for Good, this Canadian group tour company cleverly balances business with sustainable practice, proving they can be mutually beneficial. G Adventures’ non-profit arm Planetterra supports social enterprises such as restaurants and transport providers, which in turn, provide vital services on tours. In India, for example, they have partnered with Women With Wheels, a female-only chauffeur service, to ferry guests from Delhi airport.
All wildlife-related itineraries have been crafted with experts from World Animal Protection, The Jane Goodall Institute and the World Cetacean Alliance, while their child welfare policies have earned the company Friend’s International ChildSafe certification.
4. Much Better Adventures
Co-founders of the Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency movement, Much Better Adventures (MBA) is on a mission to reduce their carbon footprint with full transparency of any measures undertaken.
By working with locally-owned businesses, they ensure 80% of the money spent by travellers is funnelled into local economies. (By comparison, some mass tourism outfits only trickle a measly 5%.) As a result, tourism can provide an incentive for communities to protect important natural areas.
MBA also plough 5% of revenue (not profit) into their Foundation, focused on conservation, reforestation and rewilding. Not afraid of making their voice heard, they launched an Adventures Not Dams campaign, to raise awareness of controversial plans to dam Europe’s last free flowing river, Vjosa in Albania.
5. Swoop Adventures
Firm believers their customers should be free to make informed choices, these polar and Patagonia specialists have created a calculator to tot up carbon emissions for various trips. Advisors can also offer tips on how to make holidays more sustainable.
As part of a long-term plan, Swoop hopes to eventually offset all customer emissions, including flights – even if not arranged through the company. Better still, they plan to backtrack the policy to bookings made since their inception in 2010.