A very small but growing group of outfitters is investing in clean energy projects to fully offset their climate impact.
Adventure travel company Lindblad Expeditions has committed to becoming fully carbon neutral by the end of 2019. The company announced last week that it will offset 100 percent of the emissions from the 13 ships in its fleet of small-ship expedition cruise vessels (eight are Lindblad–National Geographic vessels and five are leased ships).
It will also offset emissions that result from all of its land-based operations, employee travel, and its offices in New York and Seattle, among other emission contributors.
Lindblad Expeditions works in partnership with National Geographic on its oceangoing voyages, and the announcement coincides with National Geographic’s ongoing efforts to decrease the impact of carbon emissions associated with its travel programs.
“Global climate change is arguably the greatest threat humanity has ever faced—we all need to urgently step up our efforts whether big or small,” Sven Lindblad, CEO and founder of Lindblad Expeditions, said in a statement.
The company did not specify exactly how much it will cost to make its carbon neutral goals a reality, but it told AFAR that it is a “significant financial commitment.” The investment will not impact or be reflected in pricing—rates are not going to increase and are set for 2019 and 2020, the company confirmed.
To deliver on its commitment, Lindblad Expeditions partnered with South Pole, an organization that develops global emission reduction projects, on six carbon projects. The investments focus on renewable energy projects in Mexico, India, and Vietnam (solar-powered energy in Mexico and India, and wind-powered energy in Vietnam); reforestation projects in Peru and Zimbabwe; and a community cookstove project in Rwanda aimed at distributing more fuel-efficient cookstoves.
Other carbon neutral travel companies
The ability to purchase carbon offsets has become a common, if controversial, offering provided by travel companies such as airlines and tour operators to give travelers the opportunity to offset some of their impact. Critics argue that the bigger issue is the need to reduce carbon emissions overall, rather than find ways to offset them (and that the economics and science behind offsets aren’t always sound).
Agree with the practice or not, a small group of travel companies is taking the concept of carbon offsets a step further and investing to fully counteract their impact in order to be able to operate as carbon neutral companies.
Natural Habitat Adventures, a smaller nature and adventure outfitter (in which Lindblad holds a majority stake) offers land-based tours and has been operating as carbon neutral since 2007, according to the company.
Like its parent company Lindblad, Natural Habitat currently teams up with South Pole to offset greenhouse gas emissions from its trips. Starting this year, the company reported that it will also be offsetting all of its customers’ round-trip flights to and from its land journeys.
Global tour operator Intrepid Travel reports that it has been a carbon neutral company since 2010, purchasing carbon credits for renewable energy projects such as a wind-power project in India, a rain forest restoration initiative in Borneo, and a forest protection project in Malawi.
This past spring, Intrepid revealed ambitions to actually become climate positive by 2020—beyond offsetting its carbon emissions, the company now aims to offset more carbon emissions than it actually generates as a travel company.
“Climate action has to be a priority for anyone who loves travel,” Darrell Wade, Intrepid cofounder, said in a statement.
To achieve its goal, Intrepid launched a campaign this past Earth Day (April 22) through its not-for-profit, The Intrepid Foundation, aimed at raising $245,000 for a marine permaculture initiative that will regenerate marine ecosystems in Tasmania and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. (Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide, which has been recognized as a method for reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.) As of early June, nearly $50,000 had been raised toward the cause.
The idea is to invest in the regeneration of kelp forests that have been lost to climate disruption. Intrepid partnered with the Climate Foundation, a U.S.-based nonprofit, and the University of Tasmania, on the project. All donations being made to the project through The Intrepid Foundation are being matched by Intrepid.
“The global climate crisis is escalating, [and] ignoring the problem isn’t going to make it go away,” added Wade. “We need to act now. The good news is that there are solutions.”