SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) individual and business paying members can take advantage of buying carbon offset credits in bulk. The bulk purchase program, called Neutral Together, is the first of its kind available to the adventure travel industry.
Traditionally, the cost of calculating carbon emissions has been too expensive, complicated, and time-consuming, especially for tour operators running small businesses with limited budgets and staff. Neutral Together, initiated by the ATTA in partnership with South Pole, drops the price of carbon offsets from approximately US$12 per tonne to approximately US$5 per tonne.
While the COVID-19 crisis has halted travel this spring, some businesses have been using the downtime to focus on sustainability and strategize for carbon neutrality, in some cases putting plans in place to double or triple their offsets.
Alongside that, it seems that travelers themselves may have been taking the downtime to reflect on the importance of climate action. Recent research from the Yale Program on Climate Change on U.S. based consumers suggests that climate concern is high: 73% of U.S. consumers say they agree global warming is happening; two-thirds feel a personal sense of responsibility to address climate issues.
“Adventure businesses understand that in order to keep temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius, we have to make significant progress in cutting emissions by 2030. The travel industry has a remarkable opportunity to contribute to this effort through its operations, and through the actions we can inspire among travelers,” Christina Beckmann, who leads ATTA’s Climate Action work.
Neutral Together allows companies to use a simple calculator to determine the carbon footprint of its tours and business operations.
Kelsey Gibson of Trek Travel who has been part of a group pilot testing the South Pole calculator commented, “Since measuring our carbon footprint is new to us, this calculator has not only helped us in measuring our footprint but also in knowing what data we need to gather. Thank you ATTA and South Pole for this – it’s a great resource!”
At the discounted cost-per-tonne price, Neutral Together participating businesses can choose from three categories of projects to support: forestry, renewable energy, or cookstove projects. For example, since 2011, through the KaribaREDD forestry project in Zimbabwe, nearly 785,000 hectares of forest have been protected from deforestation and land degradation, preventing more than 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from being released into the atmosphere. A renewable energy project in India that generates electricity using wind potential prevents 479,448 tonnes of greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere every year. And a cookstove project in Rwanda provides fuel-efficient cookstoves to rural communities, which improves livelihoods and reduces emissions and the risk of smoke-related health problems. Through Neutral Together, ATTA members will further the success these and similar projects have already generated.
Ted Martens of Natural Habitat Adventures (carbon neutral since 2007) served as an advisor to the project. He commented, “This program empowers businesses that may not have been too involved in the climate crisis in the past. To date, companies who have gone carbon neutral have been the hyper-committed. But now, with the ease of measurement and the relatively low cost of offsetting through this innovative program, any adventure travel business can now offer carbon-neutral travel.”
In addition to Neutral Together and offsetting the carbon emissions created by team travel and events, the ATTA is leading the travel and tourism industry’s climate action initiatives in a number of other ways.