1.5 degrees Celsius is a pretty big number in the grand scheme of things. It’s the number that all responsible nations around the world are trying to stay under, in terms of temperature change in our climate. Hitting it or even going above it by even 0.5 degrees will significantly exacerbate climate catastrophes like hunger, conflict, and severe weather that can bring our ecosystem to pretty much a stand still.
Climate change doesn’t just stand heavy on the shoulders of nations to deliver on their promises, it requires an understanding and conscious effort by all to make sure we all do our part. So how can small travel business owners do their part? How can you make sure you can make a change in the big picture of Wicked Problems?
Carbon Offsetting is a method used by big travel companies as well as small businesses, to mitigate the carbon emissions produced by buying Carbon Credits. It’s a unit that defines the removal of carbon measured in one metric tonne. By purchasing these credits companies account for their own emissions.
Everybody has a carbon footprint and nowadays our digital lifestyles and modern living has created a digital carbon footprint that is easier to measure. Digital and carbon footprints are unavoidable consequences of the 21st Century inextricably linked. All our digital interactions with our devices and computers define our digital footprint. Sending a message through WhatsApp, streaming through Netflix, even sending emails burns through data centers that eventually use huge amounts of electricity and water, eventually adding to carbon dioxide emissions.
“Whilst the carbon footprint of an email isn’t huge, it’s a great illustration of the broader principle that cutting the waste out of our lives is good for our wellbeing and good for the environment.”
Mike Berners-Lee, researcher at Lancaster University and author of “There is no Planet B”
The simplest things can make the biggest impact. In a report released in 2019, 64 million emails were sent by UK citizens in a single day. They were single or two word pleasantries so a complete waste and un-actionable in the grand scheme of things. Each UK adult sending one less ‘thank you’ email a day, would save over 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year – the same as 81,152 flights to Madrid or taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road.
What’s your Digital Carbon Footprint?
Measuring is key to finding out how much you actually produce, so that you can offset against what you produce. One of the easiest ways to reduce carbon being produced is simply taking a look at your website to begin with. A really good online initiative called Website Carbon Calculator, the world’s first carbon calculator for websites, can help you define how much CO2 is being produced by your technology.
It measures against server databases and energy sources used by the data center hosting your website, energy intensity of web data, carbon intensity of electricity and website traffic. The results can be shocking but provide a breakdown of the equivalence. One result showed how a website emitted the same amount of carbon as six trees. Go offset and plant six trees, more on that later.
Another more individual-based calculator is available from Sustainable Travel International. It has a raft of information that you can use to refine what to measure against as well as a wealth of good practice advice.
Reducing Your Digital Carbon Footprint
We don’t need to be bright and shiny all the time. A study by Harvard University on the brightness of monitors, found that reducing your monitor brightness from 100% to 70% can save up to 20% of the energy it consumes.
One of the biggest issues of new equipment like computers and monitors is what happens to all the old stuff? Using secondhand or re-using older digital devices against brand new ones can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your digital travel business.
The trends of email marketing will only rise, get your inbox into lean mode and delete old emails. One single email may be tiny in terms of CO2 footprint but with 300 billion emails pinging around the globe, being kept on servers and in your inbox, requires storage and capacity. Get rid of emails that are not critical to your business. Unsubscribe to emails that get left unread and as mentioned already, you don’t need pleasantries being said in two word emails.
A great way to keep a visitor on your website is to autoplay video content. The big firms and technology know this so they will always make sure the video plays automatically, just to keep you engaged. They also spew out a ton of bandwidth which ultimately means higher carbon emissions. The Firefox web browser has this built in so it will stop auto play by default. Chrome has extensions available in their store to enhance its browser to also do the same thing. All you Mac fans out there, don’t fret as Apple has its own resources to help you.
Carbon Offsetting Solutions
Prioritise your emissions first and disclose how you’re offsetting. The main aim is to remove carbon emissions, not just offset so ultimately a shift towards this approach is invaluable for your business.
Staying within globally recognised credible organisations that are considered to be an authority, will keep your efforts recognised as well. Your customers and clients will also appreciate this. Two of the most widely recognised are the Gold Standard and VCS (Verified Carbon Standard). They both verify the quality of the projects you can offset against and purchase your Carbon Credits from. Essentially, they maintain a project database where you can choose which project you want your business to support, balancing out your carbon footprint.
Projects can be related to reforestation, renewable energy projects, carbon-capturing technologies and energy efficiency improvements. Carbon Credits vary in price per tonne but once you’ve done the simple calculations the selection of projects is actually the good part.
VCS has a project repository that covers a vast range of climate initiatives. Let’s not forget the other kids on the block either. Some are affiliated with the organisations above but all have the same goal, some aligned with the SDG’s governed by the United Nations. One of the cooler ones, excuse the pun, is Cool Effect. It has a human approach that is geared specifically towards the travel industry. Climate Partner, another long standing organisation, has opened up the Nordic region with its Swedish based location, now with over 500 projects.
How can you use all this to benefit your business?
Being the first carbon neutral travel company in the world since 2010, adventure travel company Intrepid, says younger travellers are keener to book through a company that offers offsetting than older ones. The study, based on its own figures and research by YouGov, found that 58% of travellers believe sustainability is an important factor when making travel choices, but when asked what steps they would like companies to take, only 20% of travellers aged 55+ said they would like the chance to offset, compared with 44% of those born in the late 1990s.
You can leverage your carbon offsetting programs with good PR, great content on your site showcasing how your travel business is helping the global discussion on climate change and staying climate positive.