Working towards a more sustainable future for travel in the face of the climate emergency, Much Better Adventures is embracing carbon labelling to better inform tourists. Rose Dykins reports
Similar to calories listed on food packaging, travellers booking with Much Better Adventures can now assess and understand their environmental impact thanks to the company’s new carbon label next to trips listed on its website.
In 2020, the travel tour operator was one of more than 200 industry organisations who founded Tourism Declares A Climate Emergency, with the aim of collaborating to build a more sustainable future for tourism. Much Better Adventures also launched its Climate Action Plan for 2020, with annual goals for improving its impact on the planet.
One of these goals was to publish a transparent, third party-verified carbon footprint analysis for each of its trips and for its internal operations.
Now, each trip listed on its website is accompanied by a figure that estimates the environmental impact of each of its components, including local transport, accommodation, activities, guides, staff, office operations and food.The average carbon footprint across all Much Better Adventures trips worked out to be 112kg CO2e per person in 2019 and 106kg CO2e per person in 2020.
While this figure varies widely depending on the trip, as an average across them all it broke down to be:(According to a 2020 article in The Independent, the UK ranked 36th in the world for its CO2 emissions from consumption spread across its population, totalling at 8.34 tonnes per person in 2017.)
“Measuring and transparently publishing your carbon impact must become the norm for every organisation, in every sector of travel, and every other industry for that matter,” says Much Better Adventures. “So, on every one of our trips you’ll now see this ‘carbon footprint’ section where you can view the estimated carbon emissions per person arising from your spot on the trip.”
Much Better Adventures teamed up with independent carbon consultancy C-Level to initially calculate the carbon footprint of its itineraries. The company then had these numbers peer-reviewed by partners and experts across the travel industry, including members of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency.
Currently, customers’s individual flights are not incorporated into Much Better Adventures’ carbon label. However, the company says that this year, it will offer customers a way to measure and mitigate the carbon footprint of their flight when they book.
In the meantime, it has calculated the carbon impact of flight emissions from more than 4,500 customers from 2019 and applied the average to each of its carbon labels.
Interestingly, Much Better Adventures found that flights alone account for up to 80 per cent of the carbon footprint of its trips. This high figure is in part down to the fact that the company curates low-impact adventures that often involve camping, kayaking and hiking.A travel company selling stays at all-inclusive resorts paired with overland ground transport, for example, would most likely have a proportionately higher carbon footprint in other areas of its itineraries.
“We very much encourage all customers to minimise the number of flights they take, says Much Better Adventures. “We’re continuing to expand the range of adventures you can do near home, and that are accessible by train, and developing an ever wider range of big adventures designed to allow you to fly less, and stay for longer.
“However, to simply stop offering any trips that involved flying would, we believe, do more harm than good. Tourism employs 10 per cent of the global population and is an incredibly important global redistributor of wealth from developed to developing countries. Without the income from tourism, not only would the human cost be devastating, but the environmental cost unimaginable.
“Tourism is and can be a major driving force behind the conservation and protection of natural wonders, without which far more destructive economic alternatives such as mining and deforestation would become the only options in many places. In summary, we truly believe that tourism can be part of the solution to the global climate and biodiversity crisis, and a solution without tourism is simply not the right solution.
Much Better Adventures wants to inspire other travel companies to measure and disclose their carbon footprint so that customers can make more informed choices. To help this happen, the company is publicly sharing its methodology, inviting peers to share their feedback.
“Our hope is that by releasing both our measurements and the methodology we used, other companies will be able to more easily follow suit, build and improve on what we’ve done so far, and give feedback that can help us improve further,” it says.
Since 2016, Much Better Adventures has been planting enough trees to off-set at least twice the carbon footprint of each of its trips. It has updated Climate Action Plan for 2021