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Four years ago, Dutch start-up Better Places was the first tour operator to report on and compensate for all travel undertaken by travellers and staff, at its own expense. It started to buy carbon credits in bulk from the South Pole Group, and invest these in a clean cooking stove project in Ghana.
Two years later, the Dutch Tour Operators Association (ANVR) followed its example and started to offer all members the opportunity to buy carbon credits in bulk through the South Pole Group. Better Places is very proud that in 2019 this same initiative was taken to the next level by the Adventure Travel Trade Association, a global trade group based in North America.
How it started
From the very beginning, the founders of Better Places (and subsequently Fairaway in Germany and Better Places Travel internationally) knew they wanted to be at the forefront of change. Saskia Griep, director of Better Places, said, “I worked in tourism long enough to know that voluntary offsetting schemes won’t get us far. We felt that offsetting emissions was the least we could do, on behalf of our customers, if we really wanted to call ourselves a responsible tour operator.”
After spending the better part of 2015 collecting data and learning the different carbon calculators and emissions’ trading schemes, Better Places found the South Pole Group, and was able to offset all of its customers’ emissions.
At the start of 2018, the Dutch Tour Operators Association (ANVR) followed suit. Only 1 in 800 Dutch travelers were voluntarily offsetting their trips at that time. Like Better Places, ANVR secured a similar carbon credits deal for its members through the South Pole Group. Twelve larger Dutch tour operators did the same and began offsetting for their travelers (15.000-25.000 per year) at their own expense.
Starting in January 2020, Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) members can take advantage of the ATTA’s partnership with the South Pole Group by buying carbon offset credits in bulk at a greatly reduced rate. The program, called Neutral Together, allows ATTA members to buy carbon offsets at approximately US$4 per tonne, rather than the standard US$12.
Offsetting alone is not the answer. Better Places does everything possible to minimize the CO2 emissions of its journeys, including advising clients to travel less often and for longer periods of time whenever possible. Recently it also started to offer adventure trips within Europe to unique destinations that can be reached by train. Since 2018 it has imposed a voluntary flight/carbon tax on itself as a company, with proceeds going entirely to supporting and promoting clean energy initiatives and research towards less polluting options for flying.
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