All you need to know about carbon neutral tours
As of January 1st 2022, Radical Travel Group will be carbon neutral, and we’ve developed a five-point Climate Action Plan to guide us - committing to carbon reductions and evolving to support the transition to a low-carbon future. Here’s where you can find out all the details about how and why we’re doing it, and what it means for you
In 2020, Radical Travel Group worked with Synergy Enterprises, an independent consultant, to create a customised Tour Carbon Calculator to measure emissions linked to our tours in Scotland. The Tour Carbon Calculator captures our tour emissions from the moment you step onto our buses, to when we drop you off again, covering all included transport, accommodation and meals. Carrying out this work was a mighty undertaking but it is something we are insanely passionate about. If you are wondering how, exactly, we were able to measure our emissions – and why we wanted to – please read on.
Let’s begin with the why
We are all too aware that the climate crisis demands urgent action, so we began our journey to understand and measure the carbon footprint of our tours. Carbon neutral tours are part of a larger Climate Action Plan we have in place, which is focused on first and foremost reducing our emissions.
In the interim, we view investing in carbon credits (which are offsets) as a way to take immediate action to address our unavoidable emissions and transition towards a low carbon economy. These investments come with positive social impacts that keep local communities thriving by creating jobs, improving health outcomes and promoting local entrepreneurship.
The elephant in the room:
While our carbon offset covers your tour, it obviously does not include any flights to and from Scotland. Arguably, this flight will be the largest part of your travel carbon footprint if you’re travelling overseas to join one of our tours. If you wish to offset your personal flight emissions, we suggest using this footprint calculator by our partner South Pole to purchase carbon credits. This is entirely optional and by no means a requirement for you to go on tour with us.
About our Tour Carbon Calculator
Our Tour Carbon Calculator was developed by Synergy Enterprises in line with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, an internationally accepted emissions accounting and reporting standard.
The most relevant and up to date emission factors at the time were selected from international reporting bodies. Emission factors are coefficients that allow us to convert activity data into greenhouse gas emissions. They may differ based on the country or region the activity is taking place in. Where emission factors were not available, custom averages were developed. Sources include:
- DEFRA GHG Conversion Factors
- International Energy (IEA) Agency Emission Factors
- Cornell Hotel Sustainability Benchmark (CHSB) Index
- CO2 Connect
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy Use Associated with Production of Individual Self-selected US Diets.
What’s in and out of scope?
Here’s what we considered in scope and our responsibility to offset:
- Transfer emissions: Include emissions from all forms of transportation during a Radical Travel Group. This includes transfers that are included as part of the tour and transfers to your Free Time Add On’s. Emissions from transfers are calculated by taking transfer modes, distances, fuel type, passenger numbers and number of used for selected tours.
- Accommodation emissions: Accommodation emissions are based on average energy consumption by room type from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. A regional energy factor is applied resulting in a unique average for each room type in each region.
- Meal emissions: Emissions from meals have been calculated based on two main identifying factors – buffet vs. non buffet and vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian meals. Synergy Enterprises developed customized emission factors for each meal type that accounts for food production and food waste. Emissions are only calculated for meals in the tour itinerary and do not include those purchased by the traveller.
Here’s what we considered out of scope and will not be included as part of our tour offset:
- Traveller’s air travel to and from Scotland (but you can choose to offset this through the footprint calculator)
- All pre and post services not included in the base price of the tour
- Emissions produced by facilities or buildings we visit on our tour (e.g., visitor attractions). These emissions are considered the responsibility of the facility as determined by internationally accepted principles for emissions accounting.
- Meals purchased by the traveller
What is the average carbon footprint per person per day on a Radical Travel Group tour?
Using our Tour Carbon Calculator, Radical Travel Group calculated the emissions of 14 tours with consideration of region and distance travelled, seasonality, and number of included and optional experiences. We measured these tours to identify an average carbon footprint per passenger, per day. This worked out to 10.82 kg CO2e per person per day.
Average carbon footprint per passenger, per day: 10.82 kg
Who offsets my tour?
Radical Travel Group will offset your tour by purchasing carbon credits from our carbon offset provider, South Pole. There is no additional cost to the traveller. All tours departing in 2022 and going forward will be carbon neutral, travellers do not have to opt-in for a carbon neutral tour.
Our Carbon Offset Projects
Beginning in 2022, in partnership with a leading offset provider, South Pole, we will offset your Radical Travel Tour tour by purchasing carbon credits from a combination of three meaningful carbon offset projects. These projects include Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Standard projects to guarantee carbon reductions are made while offering co-benefits that positively impact local communities. You can learn more about the project here.
Our Commitment to Improvement + Transparency
Over time, our goal is to decrease the average tour emissions per passenger per region per day while increasing the accuracy of our measuring our tour emissions. While we have had our Tour Carbon Calculator and its methodology reviewed by peers and industry experts, we recognize this is an evolving process and commit to collaborating with the industry and incorporating best practices on measuring and reducing tour emissions. We will review and update the carbon footprint of our tour every two years using an updated Tour Carbon Calculator with the latest emission factors.
In cooperation with our parent company, The Travel Corporation (TTC), we will report and verify our 2022 business and tour emissions with an external third-party auditor in alignment with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
What else is Radical Travel Group doing to reduce its carbon footprint?
Radical Travel Group works closely with our parent company, The Travel Corporation and has a Climate Action Plan in place. Learn more about it here.
Across the business, from our tour operation to our accommodation in the Highlands & Islands, we are taking several steps to reduce our carbon footprint:
We use the most fuel-efficient Euro 6 coaches, and we are assessing the use of biofuels for these coaches.
All of our premises are run on 100% renewable electricity: our shop and bus yard in Edinburgh, and our accommodation on Skye and Loch Ness.
We work with local suppliers to continually increase the selection of the freshest local food products we use, reducing GHGs associated with transport and increasing local food security.
We have a dedicated “Green Team” who ensure we operate in a more sustainable way. Examples include switching to an accredited sustainable stationary supplier, getting bottled milk delivered to our Edinburgh office, signing up to the “Bike to Work Scheme” and installing a shower at our HQ Edinburgh office. These steps have led to us achieving a gold Green Tourism award across all our businesses.
To help restore the Caledonian Forest we have pioneered an Eco Scheme where you can make an optional £2 donation when booking any tour. We will match every £1 you donate, with proceeds going to the leading Scottish environmental charity, the Trees for Life.
If you have questions about our approach to measuring Radical Travel Group's emissions or ways to improve, email us at email@example.com.