RetreaTours believes that traveling the world to engage with cultures different from our own can be an important part of the human experience. However, we recognize the impact that travel has on the environment and feel the need to mitigate that impact.
We think there can be a risk in calling a trip “carbon-neutral” or “carbon-negative.” It is important to realize that producing carbon emissions is inherent in all motorized travel and that carbon offsets do not undo your emissions. Rather, they are intended to reduce or sequester carbon emissions elsewhere to “offset” what you have emitted.
Below is a listing of some of the things we are doing to eliminate the carbon footprint of RetreaTours:
Carbon offsets for all transport (flights, vehicles, trains, boats) while on tour. (All of our trips are carbon offset at least one time; some of our more transport-intensive trips are triple carbon offset.)
Carbon offsets for the flights of each guest to get to the starting point of the tour and back home thereafter.
Carbon offsets for all travel/activities/lifestyle for RetreaTours (BJ & Lauren) during the course of the year.
Carbon-offsets are not a silver bullet that will entirely solve the climate change crisis. It should be seen only as a part of what we all need to do to reduce the environmental impact of our lives (including our travel). It is important to mention that these actions and this statement are not intended to “greenwash” the situation. We are fully committed to doing our part and more to stave off the crisis at hand.
It is also important to mention that we have not raised our prices to account for paying for these offsets. For years we have purchased carbon-offsets without even mentioning it to our guests because we felt is the right thing do to. But we now realize that it’s important for our guests to be informed and to have the opportunity to donate themselves, above and beyond what has already been done on their behalf.
Our primary partner for carbon offsets is Carbonfund.org. They are audited and highly respected. That said, we also give to other (non-profit) carbon offset organizations to spread the wealth and diversify the types of projects chosen to offset the carbon. You can read about some of those organizations here. In addition to Carbonfund, we particularly like:
By 2021, airlines that fly internationally will be required to offset any emissions under a UN agreement (called the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation); however, we are still committed to offsetting our carbon emissions thereafter. We also very much encourage our guests to visit one of the organizations listed above to offset their travels and activities in their everyday life. It’s worth re-mentioning that the offsets that we have purchased are just a small part of the greater picture.
On a personal note…
Lauren and BJ have been on the road year-round since January 2013, designing itineraries and leading tours. This itinerant lifestyle involves a lot of flights, and we offset each of our flights. On a day-to-day basis, however, we are quite stationary. We don’t have an office so we don’t have to commute. We don’t own any vehicles and primarily use public transportation. We live in hotels and guesthouses so we share common spaces with many other people (communal-style living). We only own what we can carry in our suitcases (each of us has about 44lbs/20kg of clothing, cameras, and personal items). We invest in clothing and gear that will last for years and years, so we are ultra-low consumers of material goods. Most of what we eat is consumed in small restaurants that use locally sourced food, and it is primarily plant-based. And it is probably worth mentioning that we also chose not to have children, which is one of the biggest impacts we could possibly have.