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How we measure our carbon footprint

We’ve calculated and published the carbon footprint of EVERY one of our trips – because you can’t manage what you don’t measure. But how did we do it?
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What did we do?

As the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”. Explore signed up to the Glasgow Declaration in October 2021, and formally committed to a target of reducing our carbon footprint by 50%, by 2050. To enable us to get there we need to know what our starting point is. 


To help us “manage” the reduction, we needed to first “measure” our output. So, in partnership with ecollective, we have now measured the carbon footprint of everything - almost 2000 accommodation providers, 240 staff commutes, 186,000 brochures, 85,000kms of train travel on tour, 860 city tours and much more!

 

How do we measure our carbon footprint?

Sounds impressive, but what does measuring a tour actually mean? Here’s a breakdown of what we looked at for our India’s Golden Triangle tour:

 

  1. Ground transport
    The different types of transport we used across the tour – private minibus, cycle rickshaw, auto rickshaw, camel cart, metro – with the distance travelled on each, and their net carbon output

     

  2. Activities
    The activities included in the itinerary – from the city tours of Old and New Delhi to exploring the Amber Fort and City Palace in Jaipur.

     

  3. Food
    The number of meals included on the trip – we know India is a brilliant destination for vegetarians, but as we cannot currently track what our customers choose to eat we’ve taken the decision to measure each meal as a meat-based meal to ensure we’re not making assumptions that would make our footprint look lower

     

  4. Accommodation
    We contacted each of the accommodation providers on the trip and asked them to complete a survey about their energy supply and usage, the size of the property, waste and recycling processes and sustainability policies. Where we haven’t yet received the information from the supplier, we’ve used an average figure for that country

     

  5. Transport to and from India
    We calculate how customers travelled to and from India – where Explore booked the flights it’s super easy and the footprint is exact, where customers booked their own flights we’ve applied logic based on their starting point and are building a system to collect the exact data in the future.

     

  6. Head office
    Our head office footprint – that’s Explore staff, our commutes, the energy to run our office, the brochures we print, our website, and every element that goes into the day-to-day running of Explore. We split this total figure across all tours, looking at our average passenger numbers for each trip. We consider this part of the overall tour footprint because we can’t run the tours without our office team!

 

Once all of this is added together, the carbon numbers are crunched and we get the footprint. Customers can find this number on every trip page when they’re picking their next adventure.

 

What were the biggest challenges?

One of the hardest parts was getting started. It was easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of data we needed to collect, and we spent weeks building a database and testing it. But once we were up and running, it was much easier than we thought – we just needed time to go through everything and spent nearly 6 weeks measuring every element of the tours.

What was the biggest surprise?

Not so much of a surprise but the whole process reminded us of just how much we pack into an Explore adventure! There was a bit of head scratching as we worked out how to measure the emissions of a tuk tuk, and a lot of competition to see who had the tour with the lowest footprint.

What's next?

Next comes the fun part! Now that we know our footprint, we can start looking for ways to bring it down. That doesn’t mean stripping fun things out of the trip though – it means searching for lower impact ways of experiencing a destination. Think chatting to locals on trains instead of waiting in airport queues to take a flight, hopping in a cycle rickshaw, or picking accommodation that’s embracing renewable energy sources.

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