The Trees4Travel tree-planting carbon offset scheme re-forests areas around the world to soak up the CO2 generated by corporate travel. Olivia Palamountain reports
New to the travel industry for 2021 is Trees4Travel, an initiative launched to achieve carbon-neutral, trackable, business travel.
As the name suggests, Trees4Travel uses tree planting to offset business travellers’ carbon footprint, which the company says is a “transparent, ecologically-tangible, affordable and mindful way” to give back to the environment – and it starts at less than the cost and time it takes to buy a coffee.
How does it work? Trees are natural carbon “sponges”, purported to be an answer to soaking up manmade carbon emissions and correcting the world’s carbon balance.
In 2007, Richard Branson famously offered a US$25 million prize to anyone who could invent a device capable of removing significant volumes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Andy Kerr, an Oregon conservationist, drew a picture of a tree and sent it in. He didn’t win (on a technicality – because nobody “invents” a tree) but you get the picture – a tree performs the job of sucking carbon out of the air far better than any technology yet devised by humans.
CEO and co-founder of Trees4Travel, Nico Nicholas, says: “It seems too good to be true, but the simple answers always turn out to be the best solutions. If we plant more bio-diverse trees through reforestation, we correct the damage we have done to the atmosphere, rebuild habitats, repair ecosystems, and ultimately realise our own wellness goals. Forests are the answer, for all Earth-kind.”
The company is part of the United Nations Trillion Trees project and invests in planting forests to re-wild areas of the world, with initial planting taking place on a re-wilding project in Scotland (Talla and Gameshope, Tweedsmuir) followed by a forest fire recovery site in British Columbia.
Companies that feel like inspecting the physical manifestation of their travels are welcome to do so – all planting sites are closely monitored and can be actively viewed via photos and video footage from satellite imaging.
Customers will also receive monthly CO2 reports showing the total emitted versus the amount absorbed along with the ten-year target.The start-up has been taken on board by business travel consortium Focus Travel Partnership, which has confirmed it will be recommending Trees4Travel to all its members in a bid to encourage more conscious business travel decisions.
Pascal Benn, business solutions manager at Focus, says: “The simplicity of the scheme is where it wins, people can relate to planting trees. Simple examples help to illustrate the offset needed for typical trips – for example, a trip on Eurostar from London to Paris with a three-night hotel stay will be offset in ten years by planting one tree.”
Meanwhile, a flight from Sydney to Singapore with a three-night hotel stay would require 14 trees to be planted to offset after ten years. TEN YEARS? That’s a really long time to wait for the damage of one trip to be undone…
Not everyone agrees that carbon offset schemes are the way forward for sustainable travel. Ethical and activist tour operator Responsible Travel stopped offering carbon offsets as a company more than ten years ago and no longer promotes carbon offset schemes on the product pages of its operators.
The company states on its website that “carbon offsets sum up all that is wrong with our approach to tourism and the climate crisis. They perpetuate the idea this crisis does not prevent unlimited growth with old and highly polluting technology; shifts the moral responsibility for carbon reduction to someone else (not the type of behaviour we need to encourage); and finally there is the small matter that they don’t work.
“From 2021 the EU will stop allowing offsets to be counted towards emissions reductions targets.”