We aim to become one of the most environmentally friendly tour operators in the world and encourage our partners in the New Zealand tourism industry to do the same, whilst supporting all of the fantastic initiatives that are already in place. We strive to achieve this in a number of ways that are outlined below and strongly support the sharing of ideas, programs and resources so that all businesses can achieve synergy with the environment in a realistic and viable way.
One of our first targets is to offset our carbon emissions, ideally, we would reduce our emissions at the source (our vehicles), but unfortunately there are no existing electric vehicle options for our operations as we use mid-sized coaches and travel up to 600km in a day. So instead we calculated our carbon emissions and used government statistics to conservatively estimate how many trees we needed to plant to offset our emissions. Our conclusion was “On average we assumed that each of our trees would only live 50 years (even though they are planted on protected land and most large NZ natives can live to be hundreds of years old), we also assumed that we would lose a further 20% that didn’t survive. We run an average of 9 tours to reach the limit of carbon absorption per tree over its conservatively estimated 50-year lifetime. Realistically we reduced this by a further 33% to account for aging vehicles, slow growing trees etc for an average of 6 tours per tree.”
However, we decided this still good enough and made the decision to plant a tree for every tour we run, no matter how short! What’s more we don’t just plant any old trees, we plant a large New Zealand Native (Rimu, Kauri, Tawa, Puriri, Pohutkawa etc) for each tour we run. Thanks to the expert advice of our local horticulturist (aka Mum – but to be fair she has a lifetime of experience in the landscaping industry) we expect a high survival rate of our trees. We plant on family land that is protected to prevent any of the trees being removed even if the land is sold, in this way we are offsetting our emissions by a factor of 600% and trying to go above and beyond to sustain a better future for our environment.
If you would like a full rundown of how we calculate our emissions and where the statistics come from, click on Eco-Initiative number 7 'Complete Emissions Calculations' to view a PDF with our calculation tables.
Naturally we take great care to ensure that our own tours have a minimal impact on the environment, but also use them as an opportunity to educate our clients on New Zealand’s stunning environment and how to best protect it. Thanks to the Department of Conservations (DOC) efforts we have an incredible network of hiking trails and huts throughout the country, and also the information, education and resources needed to best protect the areas we visit. Basic measures include removal of rubbish and food scraps, sticking to formed paths, pointing out delicate vegetation, reducing the risk of fire and more.
More advanced measures come into play when there are specific threats such as Kauri dieback disease, this disease infects and kills one of our most iconic native trees (Kauri) and is most commonly spread in the soil attached to hiking boots and shoes. DOC has established cleaning stations in high risk areas, so it is a must that all out clients use these stations correctly so as to reduce the risk. Another option our clients have is to have their own individual tree planted, in addition to the tree we already plant for their tour group – all they have to do is pay for the tree and we plant it alongside the tour tree!
As a small-scale business, we operate from a home office using Ecotricity as our only power supplier, who are the only 100% carbon zero certified electricity provider in New Zealand. Ecotricity generate all their power from hydro, wind and solar sources as they are the most renewable methods available. In addition, our newly built home/office have been wired for solar power, so we hope to be completely off the grid ourselves in the near future!
Minimising waste, and recycling whatever we can out of the waste we do generate is an easily achievable goal for any business or household on New Zealand, and Sole Ventures is no exception. We do the following to reduce our waste:
• Use check in apps and pre-arrival forms that are filled out online or on iPads
• Don’t print receipts or provide any printed paperwork unless specifically requested
• Don’t print pamphlets or flyers
• Use reusable keep cups and Tupperware for food and drink on our tours
• Shop using reusable bags and purchasing bulk goods in reusable containers
• Use biodegradable corn-starch bags in place of plastic bags (only when we must)
For the waste that we do produce, we recycle everything possible including soft plastics – which we take to the refuse station and sort ourselves as our local council service does not include soft plastics. Even our large bins for general waste use 140L corn-starch bags that biodegrade.
Nowadays many supermarkets or specially designed stores offer bulk goods that you can shop for using reusable containers or paper bags, when we grocery shop for our tours we make every effort to buy as little plastic and packaging as possible and make the most of these products. In addition, all cleaning and vehicle products we use are purchased from bulk stores using refillable containers, for the few products we cannot refill we buy in the largest sizes possible to reduce our plastic waste.
One of our biggest wishes is for a viable electric or otherwise sustainable coach, however unfortunately this option doesn’t exist in New Zealand, so instead we use late model Mercedes-Benz coaches. These coaches are powered by diesel engines which Mercedes have perfected over the years to be as economical as possible, with the latest models consuming 12% less fuel! In addition, they are fitted with diesel particulate filters which reduce soot emissions by 95%. We know it’s not a perfect world but it’s the best option we have until there are more sustainable options available on the market, a day we hope is not too far away!