How Bad Are Bananas?

I'm sure ​that author and carbon footprint consultant Mike Berners-Lee* won't mind me borrowing the above title to grab your attention. If you've already read his excellent book, please read on and I will explain why I borrowed the headline. If you haven't read the book, I'd thoroughly recommend that you buy and read that, but please read on here first because I believe that what I have to say here is important for everyone.

Borrowing Mike's words again (for the last time I promise; well in this article at least), I hope that if you're reading this page, I can take some basic assumptions for granted:

  • Climate change is a big deal

  • It's man-made

  • We can do something about it ​

Numbers are important. And so is transparency

You deserve to know everything about the holiday you're booking, right? Do you agree? From what the price is, what's included, where you go and every gram of CO2 emitted along the way. The last part you might not have thought about too much, but there's a cost to it (to the air we breath and the atmosphere which keeps us alive), so don't you want to know what the cost is? A bit like watching your weight, you want to read how many carbs, sugars, fats etc are in the food you buy so you can make a choice about whether to eat it (or whether you need to go out for a run or a cycle to balance the scales). Do you still agree?

Why it matters

A 1.5°C increase in global temperatures will lead to a global shift in our weather patterns and biodiversity. This, in turn, will negatively impact us all from what we eat and what we do. The frightening thing is that we are on course for a 3°C increase. This is a global crisis that requires all of us to act immediately.

The good news is that we have the tools and the know-how to limit warming to 1.5°C. Choosing low carbon lifestyles will accelerate the change we need.

The travel industry's dirty little secret

I am an avid traveller and have been for most of my adult life. I intend to keep travelling too, but I'm aware we need to take care of a problem first (and we have an opportunity to do that more than at any time in the last fifty years).

Most travel companies are not as sustainable as they would like to think. Many businesses talk the talk but do not walk the walk. In this age of fake news, exaggeration and greenwashing, there is an increasing need to be transparent. I don't think that anybody in the travel industry is deliberately trying to create trips that are bad for the planet, but they often don't have the tools to be able to measure or understand the effect, the footprint.

And that's why Natural Britain is committed to showing you the carbon footprint of all the adventures and hotels we offer (and of the carbon footprint of our company). We hope that by doing this you will find it easier to make more informed decisions.

So we've introduced Carbon Labelling on every trip we offer. As far as we know, we're the first UK-wide travel company to show the specific carbon impact of every trip that's on sale. And we hope that many will follow in the future.

For an example of this in more everyday life (e.g. in relation to food), have a read about what Quorn did earlier this year here).

Know your Impact

Ok, so maybe at Natural Britain we have an unfair advantage over long haul travel companies in the zero carbon race. Our outdoor, locally-operated and often human-powered adventures were always going to have a lower carbon footprint. But this is something worth paying attention to and shouting about - and we believe it will be the future of travel. If 2020 has taught us anything it is that we need to rebuild better. For travel, that means celebrating the amazing adventures we have on our doorstep.

Aiming for Zero

Our travel partners in the UK know what makes a real adventure. From wild weekends on the hills using pedal power, to kayaking along our beautiful coastlines in search of secret coves and beaches, they love the outdoors and our natural environment.

That is why we see it as our responsibility to protect it. Even though our trips have low carbon footprints we strive to help our partners to reach zero. We are doing this through education and transparency. We are in this together.

So how do you read a Carbon Label?

We want to give meaning and bring to life how our adventures compare with other holidays and everyday things.

Our adventures average at 8kg CO2e per person per day.

This figure alone may not mean much to you, so here are some things that you can compare it to:​

  • Driving 20 miles in the car: 5.6kg CO2e

  • The average UK person per day: 41kg CO2e

  • A typical Dubai hotel room for the night: 99kg CO2e

  • An economy ticket from London to Ibiza: 206kg CO2e

  • An economy ticket from London to Vietnam: 1,352kg CO2e

  • A business class ticket from London to Vietnam: 3,922kg CO2e

* If you want to understand more about your everyday (or every year) carbon footprint, we highly recommend reading 'How Bad Are Bananas?' by Mike Berners-Lee. It is a fascinating, useful and enjoyable read which helps to provide context and understanding of the whole concept of the carbon footprint and compares everything from buying a cappuccino to flying overseas or even just sending a text.

Methodology and accountability

In 2020 we partnered with a specialist consultancy called ecollective to help us measure and improve our carbon footprint. Calculating your own carbon footprint can be a little complex as almost everything in our day to day lives has some sort of impact. Our calculation system is not perfect due to the complexity involved, but it stands the test and we aim to improve year on year with the latest data and methodologies.

For this project we followed the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) and emission factors provided by DEFRA. To keep ourselves accountable and open to criticism, we are happy to share our workings. Just contact us to find out more

The future of travel?

We have a vision for the future, it is about getting out into the outdoors, dipping your toes in the water, getting active, thinking differently and enjoying the British Isles with all of their wonders. We have far more on our doorstep than many of us realise, accompanied with great local produce and some wonderfully eccentric characters.

However, none of this should come at a cost to our environment. And that is why we are taking this seriously. De-carbonising the economy and re-wilding some of our land will help us to fight the climate crisis. And we aim to do this, one adventure at a time.

So how bad are bananas?

In a nutshell, they're really not too bad at all in terms of carbon emissions because they're usually shipped and are part of a well organised supply chain. But please read the book by Mike Berners-Lee for a full explanation - it just might set you on a different kind of journey...

To check the carbon emissions of a typical trip, head over to the Natural Britain website - there's a great example in Dorset of a zero emissions trip (once you get there of course - ask us about how to reduce the emissions of your journey to the start of the trip).

Mark Wright

30 October 2020

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