What does it mean to be carbon neutral?
There's no internationally agreed upon definition for 'carbon neutral'. Australia has recently defined carbon neutrality under the National Carbon Offset Standard (1 July 2010) as "a situation where the net emissions associated with a product or an organisation's activities are equal to zero through the acquisition and cancellation of carbon offsets that meet additional criteria".
The general principle: to have a 'carbon neutral' product or service means to have zero net CO2 emissions for the activities assessed.
Watch our carbon offset trip video here
How does Intrepid maintain its carbon neutrality?
Being carbon neutral involves calculating Intrepid's climate-damaging carbon emissions, avoiding, reducing and seeking a less carbon intensive alternative where possible and then balancing the remaining emissions through a carbon offset activity. Intrepid follows a project plan which describes the activities and milestones necessary to keep us carbon neutral year after year.
What is carbon offsetting?
Carbon offsets are a way for individuals and businesses to balance out their greenhouse gas emissions by allocating funds to emission reduction programs. For example, if your flight emits 4.14 tonnes of CO2, you can balance out these emissions by purchasing 4.14 tonnes of carbon credits from carbon offset programs which work on avoiding or absorbing CO2 emissions, such as renewable energy initiatives.
Still confused? Try this simple analogy. If you ate 300 calories worth of gelati in Italy but then walked around Rome for two hours, the net impact (in terms of calories) of eating the gelati would be zero. While it's not ideal - in that you probably shouldn't have eaten that gelati in the first place - it's far better than not doing anything at all. Offsetting carbon works in a similar way.
How do we measure our trip emissions?
We initially conducted detailed assessments of the carbon emissions of 38 of our most popular trips around the world. With so many trip components potentially emitting greenhouse gases, we had to define clear boundaries of what we would assess and subsequently offset. We decided to concentrate on the main emissions, being transport, accommodation and waste.
Our group leaders, given their experience and expert knowledge of the precise activities, locations and transport modes of the trips, collected the data. We then sent this data to an independent assessor to determine the carbon emissions associated with each element. The scope of components included in our emissions assessment was:
- Transport - all intra-trip travel including flights included as part of the trip, taxis, tuk tuks, boats and trains. As direct emissions from transport makes up the vast majority of the emissions when travelling, offsetting this component is vital!
- Accommodation - all included accommodation from hotels to camping.
- Waste - while we attempt to reduce waste in all ways possible, recycling isn't accessible in all countries we visit. We have therefore considered emissions generated through the average waste generated per person in that particular region.
By completing a detailed assessment of emissions on our top 38 trips, we were able to use this data and extrapolate it across our whole portfolio of trips by trip style and region. In doing so, we were able to offset the carbon emissions of our trips on behalf of our passengers!
So by travelling with Intrepid, you do it in a way which dramatically reduces your carbon footprint.
How do you calculate the offset cost?
The offset cost is embedded in the cost of the trip - so our passengers have no additional fee to worry about. The average offset cost embedded in our trip price is between $0.19 and $0.54 AUD per passenger per day (dependent on the trip and region you are travelling to). Even with the offset included, these trips are still competitive, ensuring you get both the best price for a fantastic grassroots adventure with a reduced environmental impact.
What offset assessment standards do you use?
Greenhouse gas emissions generated as a result of stationary energy use, transportation and waste generation and disposal were assessed in accordance with the GHG Protocol (A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard Revised Edition, World Resource Institute & World Business Council for Sustainable Development - 2007).
Information relating to energy use and waste generation and disposal rates were based on data provided by Sustainability Victoria and the United Nations Statistics Division. Emission factors were derived from a number of sources including the Department of Climate Change (DCC), Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change and the World Resource Institute.
Why do companies charge different amounts for offsets?
A tonne of carbon can vary greatly in price due primarily to two reasons:
1) the cost of producing the offset and
2) the assessment boundary and method used in determining how much greenhouse gas was produced in a specific activity which then determines the number of offsets required.
What is climate change?
Climate change is the term commonly used when talking about global warming. The Earth is like a giant greenhouse, but instead of having glass panes which trap heat, it has gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. As the sun's rays shine on the Earth this blanket of gases (Earth's atmosphere) traps some of the heat - which has the effect of warming the planet and keeping it at a relatively constant level. Without it the Earth would either get too hot or too cold.
When greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere by human activity like burning fossil fuels and clearing land, it's like constantly adding more glass layers to the greenhouse, ultimately raising the temperature inside. If we don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there's a risk that the Earth will heat to a level which could seriously affect life on our planet. For more information on climate change, please go to the Australian Conservation Foundation's website. For the latest scientific observations of climate change, please see the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's website.
Why the focus on carbon dioxide and not other greenhouse gases?
Greenhouse gases include methane, nitrous oxide and halocarbons but the mostly commonly referred to greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2) so it has become the standard measure of greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases are released every time we turn on the light at home, switch on our computer, take a flight or drive the car.