Why: Carbon Offsetting

Tourism, Planes and Carbon Emissions

For many years tourism was seen to be an environmentally friendly economic development option. Tourists consume experiences, not material goods, was the thought. They can travel lightly and responsibly, leave only footprints, support local cultures, inject valuable dollars into rural areas, and even (holy grail of holy grails) contribute to world peace through economic development and increased understanding between people of different cultures. When the calculations are done however, tourism’s impact is high, and rising.

An article in The Independent (07/05/2018) summarises the most recent (and thorough) study calculating the carbon emissions associated with tourism. The authors of the study have a piece in The Conversation discussing their research.

It’s basic findings are:

¤ Tourism contributes 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions
¤ Transport, shopping and food are the main contributors

To give some idea of the transport numbers, in 2013, international travel was responsible for 23% of the global carbon footprint of tourism (so domestic flights, and all other forms of transport are not included). A study by Mountain Riders calculated that 75% of CO2 emitted during a winter ski holiday in France is simply the transport (generally car or plane). Which means that the other 25% includes the ski lifts, heating the chalet, cooking the food etc. So if you want to tackle one key thing, transport would appear to be it.

But travel, but its very definition, involves transport. Is it possible for it to be otherwise? We can virtually travel (games, computers) but as we all know, there is simply nothing like actually moving and seeing with your own eyes, smelling, touching, breathing in another place. The more money we have, the more we travel, and our demand appears to be insatiable – we keep travelling more as we become richer (regardless of how green we think we are) and it doesn’t appear to taper off. What to do?

tcw_carbon_footprint_0The authors conclude that flying less (and less distance) is the number one rule. And offsetting is the number two.

In the same way we have now come to understand the carbon emissions associated with using the internet are much larger than originally imagined, even though we again think we are only consuming an experience, travelling is an experience that is high in tonnes of CO2 emitted. While there are no magic pills, offsetting schemes provide the only way to minimise these impacts. A NY Times article here discusses travel and carbon offsetting.

Since January 2019 all our holidays have included an offset amount on the invoice. We donate this money to The Converging World who invest in reforestation and renewable energy schemes in the UK and India.

Some alternative options you might like to investigate independently are: Ekos (NZ), Greening Australia, The Good Traveller (USA).

This article from the Guardian gives some additional background to carbon offsetting. As does this article from Choice Australia.

We use The Converging World’s carbon calculator below to calculate the amount to add to your invoice. We convert it to Euros and round it up. At the end of each season we will make one donation of the total amount we have collected. Try it out for yourself!

Climate Change and Winter Sports

The French Mountain Riders Association (of which we are a member), like the American Association Protect Our Winters (and its UK offshoot), work to raise awareness of climate change in the skiing and outdoor sports communities. Join up, support their projects, jump into action if you can… It’s all good. The following piste map from POW helps to think about how we can change our own actions and then go on to influence others…


Our carbon reduction efforts

¤ Reduction in meat consumption. All the Pyrenean Odysseys team are pretty much on the same page here, all somewhere on the spectrum from “flexitarian” to vegan. One way I found is simply to not buy meat any more. I still eat meat – at other people’s places and at restaurants if there isn’t a vegetarian option. If my husband and two meat loving teenage boys want to eat meat at home then they can buy and cook it, but if I cook, its vegetarian. They eat plenty of meat at the school canteen, at their grandparents and everywhere else. Over the last 10 years the evidence has mounted and been confirmed, eating less meat is the number 1 thing we can do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

¤ At Hotel Les Templiers, breakfast is a meat free zone (we still have dairy and eggs). We have opened an organic bar with some bits and pieces to eat, also vegetarian. There are plenty of lovely things to drink, nice cheese, good hummus and cruditées and, this winter, soup. Just what the doctor ordered with a glass of natural wine (see here if you are asking “what is natural wine?”).

¤ Starting for winter 2019 we are automatically calculating the carbon emissions for all Pyrenean Odysseys client’s transport for any holiday we sell. We will include it on your invoice and then make one big donation at the end of each season of all the money collected to The Converging World, a Bristol based charity investing in renewable energy projects in India and the UK. Transport is by far the biggest part of the total carbon emissions in a holiday package, so this is the largest item in our business’ carbon emissions. Even though we don’t sell air tickets we do incite people to buy them and come on holiday. So we need to offer a way to offset the carbon emissions generated. If you are already offsetting your emissions another way just let us know and we’ll remove the offset from your invoice.

¤ To offset our own emissions we do a range of things within our own households and properties. We have bought farm land which has been taken out of the industrial farming system and now simply grows hay for the local farmer, and is fertilised with  only the manure from the cows that eat that hay. We have land in Australia that is simply regenerating forest. Mandy and Sacha have chickens to eat food scraps and supply eggs, Dan and Beccie have a full permaculture garden supplying a large part of their diet, Richard does plenty of things too numerous to cite, and we all buy locally and eat organically for the most part.

¤ We pay into an offset scheme to offset our flights to Australia.

¤ Ongoing work in Hotel Les Templiers to improve heating and hot water production. We have insulated our attics, insulated our north and east facing external walls, put double glazing in some rooms (more to come), keep shutters closed and curtains in rooms to avoid heat loss in winter and to keep the rooms cool in summer, insulated between radiators and external walls and all sorts of other bits and pieces. We are now moving on to finding a replacement for our old fuel oil boiler. As we have no outside space, and are opposite a classified monument, solar, geothermal, gas, heat pump and wind are all out. The choice is between a wood pellet boiler, or possibly a village wide hot water network connected to a wood chip boiler. In any case, over the next couple of years the old fuel boiler will be out the door! In the meantime we are installing three large hot water tanks so our sanitary hot water will be largely electric.

¤ We have a small plot of land above the village and a friend is developing her permaculture garden there. She supplies us with vegetables for most of the summer, and also some bits and pieces for the café in the hotel. We hope to develop this over the years to come.

¤ All fresh fruit and vegetable used in the hotel (and our personal supply) is organic and regionally sourced – which means southern and western France. This means we eat (and serve to our clients) only produce that is in season, and organic.

¤ We are finally composting all food waste produced at home and in the hotel. Our land above the village now has three compost heaps on it and we have hugely reduced the quantity of our waste going into municipal waste bins. All that is recyclable is recycled.

¤ We pick up hitchhikers around the valley, and we use car sharing and public transport for our personal trips, along with optimising our car trips every time we go somewhere making sure we do as many things as possible in one day rather than making multiple trips.

¤ We design car free holidays to encourage people to come by train and bus.