OUR ANSWERS TO ALL YOUR QUESTIONS
With this FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) concerning our sustainable development actions, we wish to provide concrete and sincere answers to the questions that you, as travelers, ask about the progression of our ecological awareness and the reasons for our commitments, some of which are pioneering in the world of travel.
This FAQ is divided into three sections:
- Climate change and carbon emission issues
Questions concerning the causes and effects of climate change, the commitments of the Paris Agreement, the analyses of the IPCC report, providing factual and scientific information for a better understanding of these existential challenges for humankind.
- Secret Planet’s carbon reduction commitments
Questions concerning our commitment to a massive reduction of our carbon emissions: calculation of carbon footprint and its hypotheses, our reduction goals, the necessary evolution of our offer, our organization, etc.
- Secret Planet’s ecological commitments
Questions concerning our other ecological commitments, their origins, our sustainable development charter, and the specific actions that we carry out in our journeys in terms of waste management, water conservation, protection of biodiversity, social equity, and cultural respect.
Please feel free to ask us other questions to complete this FAQ or to give us your comments and suggestions, by clicking here.
1. CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUES
What exactly is the carbon footprint?
The carbon footprint is an indicator, expressed in kilos or in tons of CO2, eqCO2 or CO2e, which measures the quantity of greenhouse gases (GHG) released into the atmosphere by human activity. These gases are for the most part carbonic gas or carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and halogens or other even rarer gases.
What exactly is a greenhouse gas (GHG)?
These gases are those present in the atmosphere that trap part of the heat received by the sun. The rest is sent back into space. Such gases, naturally present in the atmosphere, play a vital role in climate regulation. They have allowed life on earth such as we know it and on which the development of humankind depends. An increase in these gases, due to human activities, leads to a rise in land temperatures. Such climate upheaval threatens the underlying balances of our planet and, consequently, the living conditions of humankind.
How are these greenhouse gases (GHG) of human origin emitted?
These GHGs include carbonic gas or carbon dioxide (CO2), the best known, which accounts for more than two thirds of the emissions principally linked to the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas), for the smelting of steel, the production of electricity or for mechanized travel (cars, planes, etc.). CO2 emissions are also linked, to a lesser extent, to deforestation, soil artificialization, and to heavy industry in particular (cement, chemistry, plastics processing, etc.). Near on one quarter of GHGs is made up of methane (CH4) with gas and oil extraction, industry, intensive farming and, in particular, rice paddies, landfills, forest fires. 5% of GHGs is made up of nitrous oxides, with the utilization of fertilizers. Finally, halogens, very powerful and used in the cold chain, account for 2% of GHGs. The carbon footprint expresses the emission of all of these gases that are recorded as the CO2 equivalent ton or tCO2e.
Why do we talk of CO2 equivalent tons?
In order to compare the effect on global warming of greenhouse gases with one another, we calculate for each one a global warming potential (GWP), in other words its capacity to intercept and send back solar radiation, as well as its lifetime, a measurement then reconverted relatively to CO2. GWP is expressed in CO2 equivalent tons, eqCO2, CO2e or CO2-eq. Thus, the emissions of each gas are weighted by a factor depending on its GWP. We find a factor of 1 for CO2, 25 for methane, 298 for nitrous oxide, and up to 20,000 and more for rare and very powerful gases with a global warming potential 20,000 greater than that of CO2.
What effect do greenhouse gases (GHG) have on global warming?
The natural carbon dioxide cycle implies emissions (breathing of living species, etc.), balanced out by absorptions (birth and growth of living organisms, etc.), compensated by storage phenomena of varying duration, in soils or by marine sedimentation. This natural cycle allows a concentration of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere that is relatively stable over time. However, that was before the industrial era and, in particular, before the acceleration of economic development in the 20th century, linked to industrial development, in turn perfectly correlated to the development of the extraction of fossil fuels (coal, then oil and gas) as from 1850. Since then, GHG emissions are such that the Earth is unable to absorb them all, and their global concentrations in the atmosphere have begun to seriously increase, far exceeding pre-industrial values (pre 1850). These values are determined by means of ice cores, in particular produced by scientists in Antarctica, covering tens of thousands of years of atmospheric composition change. The greenhouse effect is amplified in an accelerator loop (melting of pack lice, glaciers, and ice caps, etc.) that is increasingly uncontrollable, modifying the major balances that govern today’s climate (rise in atmospheric and ocean temperature, etc.), biodiversity (ocean acidification, etc.), and the water cycle (droughts, etc.).
How long do greenhouse gases (GHG) remain in the atmosphere?
This depends on the gases but also on the condition of the ecosystems. In theory, half of the CO2 emitted by human activity could be absorbed by oceans and forests. However, the continued destruction of forest ecosystems (soil artificialization, deforestation) and the modification of the balance of ocean ecosystems result, contrarily, in the re-emission of CO2. The other half of CO2 remains in the atmosphere. According to scientists, 40% of this surplus will still be in the atmosphere after 100 years, 20% after 1,000 years, and 10% after 10,000 years. Halogens can remain in the atmosphere for up to 50,000 years.
What exactly is the IPCC?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an intergovernmental organization open to all United Nations (UN) member states. Its mission is to assess, without bias and methodically, clearly and objectively, the scientific, technical and socio-economic information required to better understand the risks relating to global warming of human origin, to identify more accurately the possible consequences of such change, and to envisage potential adaptation and attenuation strategies. Founded in 1988, the IPCC is an independent hybrid organization, consisting of nations’ representatives and scientists. In 2021 it grouped 195 countries. The IPCC has issued a number of evaluation reports, the first of which in 1990-1992, followed by the second, published in 1995 that provided negotiators with important documents prior to the adoption of the Kyoto protocol in 1997. The third evaluation report was published in 2001, the fourth in 2007, the fifth in 2013-2014, and the sixth in 2021-2022.
What exactly is the 2015 Paris Agreement?
During the COP21 in Paris, on December 12th 2015, an historic agreement was reached by nations to combat climate change and to speed up and intensify the actions and investments required for a sustainable low-carbon future. For the first time ever, the Paris Agreement grouped all nations around a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its consequences, with increased support to developing countries to help them do the same. The Paris Agreement was finally ratified on November 4th 2016 by 55 nations accounting for at least 55% of global emissions. Since then, 195 countries have ratified this Agreement.
What are the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement?
The main goal of the Paris Agreement is to step up global response to the climate change threat by maintaining global temperature rise at a level far below 2 degrees Celsius with respect to pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit still further temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. A global review takes place every five years to assess the collective progress achieved in the accomplishment of the Agreement goals and to clarify subsequent individual actions by countries. To attain such goals, the world needs to adopt a path targeting carbon “neutrality” in 2050.
What exactly is carbon “neutrality”?
Carbon “neutrality” is a theoretical concept that sets out a course of action, that of not emitting more anthropogenic carbon (of human origin) than the Earth can absorb through its carbon sinks, whether natural (peatlands and tundras, forests and oceans) or artificial (nothing significant yet exists). We stress that neutrality does not mean we emit more anthropogenic carbon. A simple calculation shows that if the anthropogenic carbon emitted into the atmosphere is of the order of 36 Gt, given that natural carbon sinks absorb around 3.2 Gt, this means that annual anthropogenic carbon emissions should not exceed 3.2 Gt to obtain “neutrality”, implying a 90% drop in such emissions by 2050… We are closer to an annual 7% of carbon emission reduction required to achieve this goal than the 5% of the Paris Agreement. This is huge.
What are France’s commitments in terms of carbon footprint?
France has aligned with the Paris Agreement to achieve carbon “neutrality” by 2050. Consequently, it plans to reduce its GHG emissions from 418 Mt CO2e in 2021 to 80 Mt CO2e in 2050, i.e. a reduction far exceeding 5% in its annual carbon emissions. To this end, France has implemented a National Low-Carbon Strategy, a roadmap to combat climate change. This strategy gives directions to implement, in all sectors of activity, the transition to a low-carbon, circular and sustainable economy. It defines a path for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions thru to 2050 and lays down short- and medium-term goals: the carbon budgets.
What is the difference between carbon footprint and territorial emissions?
The goals and monitoring of France’s Low-Carbon Strategy figures, just like the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, are based, for all countries, on the measurement of “territorial emissions” and not on the “carbon footprint” of countries. Territorial carbon emissions do not take into account imported emissions, i.e. emissions from products consumed in the country but imported and thus manufactured outside the country or emissions linked to international transport (including air transport). They take into account exported emissions, thus those consumed elsewhere, which theoretically speaking should be deducted. Consequently, we are not concerned here with a national “carbon footprint” but with “territorial emissions” or the “national inventory” of the country, that is, it only counts the greenhouse gas emissions emitted “physically” on national territory. To take the example of France, its carbon footprint (territorial emissions, plus imports, minus exports, plus the percentage of international transport) is more than 50% greater than its territorial emissions… The opposite is true for China, global subcontractor, whose emissions, the highest in the world, concern products not consumed by the Chinese and thus exported to other countries. These territorial emissions do not properly reflect the reality of each country’s responsibilities in terms of global warming…
What quantity of greenhouse gas (GHG) is present in the atmosphere today?
According to researchers, the conclusions of whom can be found in the IPCC’s latest report published in 2022, human activity has emitted, since the start of the industrial era in around 1850, between 2,390 and 2,560 Gt of CO2e, i.e. roughly 2,500 billion tons of CO2e… bearing in mind that human activities emitted another 36.4 Gt en 2021: a record, that the planet was unable to absorb through its natural carbon sinks (forests, oceans, etc.), and that entered and accumulated in the atmosphere.
Is the rise in the Earth’s temperature inevitable?
Yes. It is linked to the carbon concentration in the atmosphere that is inexorably rising. Thus all that can be done now is to limit this temperature rise as much as possible. In the IPCC’s latest report, climate modelers estimate that to remain below the limit of a 1.5°C temperature rise, the carbon emission budget would be between 400 and 500 Gt CO2e, bearing in mind that we emit some 40 Gt per year. This limit will thus be reached and likely exceeded in the 2030s. To remain below the 2°C rise limit, the remaining carbon budget would be between 1,150 and 1,350 Gt CO2e. At the current rate we are looking at about thirty years. And that’s if emissions do not increase or, worse, if the planet’s natural capture system does not change and carbon sinks start to re-emit carbon… Above 2°C, we would enter a situation the consequences of which specialists are unable to evaluate. Objectively, the situation is catastrophic.
How is a 1.5 or 2°C rise in the Earth’s temperature an issue?
The answer is in the huge upheavals of ecosystems generated by warming. This leads to an increase in the intensity of climatic phenomena that we are starting to notice each year with massive consequences, as well as to in-depth modifications of biodiversity on which our health and our diet directly depend. Moreover, note that a 1.5°C warming is only an average, oceans included. The rise will be faster on the continents with, in all, a likely temperature rise on land of between 5 and 8°C.
What are the consequences for humankind of a temperature rise of 1.5 or 2°C?
It will become physically impossible to live in certain zones for a large part of the year, particularly at the equator, in view of the moisture-laden air. Soils will dry up, leading to a reduction in agricultural yield and the resulting food shortages. Water tables will run out, leading to drinking water shortages. Fires will be increasingly frequent, emitting carbon into the atmosphere and causing the disappearance of forests, thus speeding up global warming. We shall experience extreme climatic phenomena such as heat waves, late cold spells, floods, hurricanes, storms, etc. The melting ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica will lead to a rise in sea levels of more than a meter with consequences for coastal areas. Breeding grounds and germs thrive in heat, which could well result in more frequent pandemics. Thawing of permafrost will speed up the global warming process further still with the release of carbon. Ocean acidification with the rise in sea levels will have serious effects on marine life.
How can we be certain that global warming is of human origin?
First, because this temperature rise is in accordance, in climate modeling, with the increase in carbon concentration observed in the atmosphere since the pre-industrial era. Second, the average warming rate leaves little room for natural causes. At the end of the last ice age 20,000 years ago, the Earth’s temperature rose by 5°C in 10,000 years. Now it has risen by 5°C in just one century, that is, 100 times faster. Last but not least, observations confirm a warming of the troposphere (lower layers up to 10 km) and a cooling of the stratosphere (beyond this up to 50 km), proving that global warming is linked to GHG emission and not to natural causes, as the latter would provoke the opposite phenomenon (hotter in the upper layers). The natural causes of the previous glaciations and deglaciations are now attributed to a slow change in the tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis. Which doesn’t seem to be the case today…
Why is carbon compensation a bogus good idea?
How can we hope to put right the fact that we extract astronomic amounts of carbon from the lithosphere (coal, oil, etc.) and send it into the atmosphere? Such carbon could only be neutralized by sending it back into the lithosphere, which is technically impossible today. To hope to compensate what we have already emitted is an illusion, if not a downright lie. What’s more, most compensation projects only aim at producing wood, in an arithmetical vision of nature… that in reality is pointless. Nature is more subtle. What we need is not to plant trees but to recreate ecosystems… which would take decades and even centuries. Scientific findings thus leave no room for hope: there can be no carbon compensation for the extraction of fossil resources. An ambitious forest regeneration policy would find it hard enough to compensate for the damage caused by rampant deforestation.
2. SECRET PLANET’S CARBON EMISSION REDUCTION COMMITMENT
What are Secret Planet’s carbon emission reduction commitments?
We commit to reducing by 5% per year the total emissions of our activity, taking 2019 as reference year. Thus, in 2030, we aim at emitting no more than 2,160 tons of CO2e, i.e. 37% less than in 2019 when we emitted 3,430 tons of CO2e. Consequently, our maximum “carbon budget” for 2022 is 3,260 tons. This will drop to 3,100 tons in 2023. And so on until 2030. We are the first to take such an initiative in the travel industry.
Why have you chosen 2019 as the reference year for your carbon emission commitment?
Because our pre-Covid carbon emissions formed an interesting symbolic starting point, given that the following two years marked by the pandemic witnessed a drop by four in our activity. Choosing those years would hardly be reasonable! The path of our commitment is long and full of obstacles: we thus decided to take the year when Secret Planet reached the peak of its activity to leave us a little more leeway and serenity to completely overhaul our offer. For information, 2018 is the reference year of the Paris Agreement on which the carbon path of nations was built.
How do you calculate Secret Planet’s carbon footprint?
We take into account international flights, domestic flights, private and collective land transfers, and accommodation. For information, we never propose “flights only”, that is, without an associated travel content. We also count in our carbon footprint the international flights taken by our clients for journeys, generally expeditions, which they purchase without flights. Last but not least, we complete the carbon footprint of all our journeys with that of our agency based in Lyon. The figures and calculation methods stem from different sources that we considered the most reliable possible. However, there are areas for which there are very few sources, particularly for accommodation.
What is the average carbon footprint of Secret Planet’s journeys?
The carbon footprint of our journeys varies considerably, ranging from virtually nothing (e.g.a mountaineering course in the Alps) to 8.4 tons (e.g. an expedition to the South Pole in Antarctica). For all our programs, it was on average 2.8 tons per journey in 2021, dominated by the international flight (87% of emissions on average), followed by the carbon footprint of land transfers (8%), accommodation (3%) and, finally, local flights (2%).
What is the carbon footprint of the Secret Planet travel agency?
We are talking here of our physical agency in France, in the historical Lyon, where a dozen collaborators work. Excluding the digital carbon footprint, which we do not know precisely today and on which we intend to work in the coming months, the agency’s carbon footprint was in the order of 15 CO2e tons in 2019, a figure that dropped due to Covid in 2020 and 2021. It thus accounts for near on four per thousand of the carbon footprint generated by our clients’ journeys,
How accurate are your carbon footprint calculations?
Our carbon footprint calculation for our journeys is based on hypotheses that are described and substantiated. The largest part concerning international flights uses the carbon calculator of the GoodPlanet foundation, in turn based on the Bilan Carbone® methodology developed by ADEME in France. We must remain humble in our calculation approach that will evolve with the publication of new, more accurate, studies. However, the order of magnitude is there, and the margin of error acceptable to allow us to make a diagnostic and set goals. What’s more, it is the evolution of our carbon footprint that interests us, so the challenge is not so much the accuracy of calculation of each journey as the measurement of the evolution of the total from one year to the next. By keeping the same hypotheses over the period of analysis, we ensure the pertinence of the comparison. And we report publicly each year thanks to dedicated carbon accounting. The project of a carbon meter in virtually real time is in the process of implementation.
Do you refuse bookings if your annual carbon budget has been attained?
Yes, the goal is to have the clearest policy possible in this matter. Each year we have a carbon budget (basically, 5% fewer CO2e emissions than the previous year) that we announce and shall not exceed under any circumstances. We use carbon monitoring of our bookings that we also communicate to our travelers, allowing them to decide whether they need to make their booking with Secret Planet immediately or not.
This won’t stop your clients traveling and polluting with your competitors!
Do you mean that those who cannot travel with us, as our carbon footprint budget has run out, will go elsewhere? And so it boils down to the same thing? Some of our clients might and we can’t stop them. But we also believe in the conscience of our travelers. Those who go on the type of journey we propose know how lucky they are. And that they mustn’t abuse their luck… Traveling less but for longer seems to us a reasonable gamble. All they have to do then is to finalize their travel plans earlier and they can set off with us! We believe that our commitment is meaningful for them and will ensure they continue to live their passion serenely. What’s more, we really hope that each of our competitors and colleagues do the same thing. We can only succeed if we’re in this together.
Why have you initiated this radical carbon reduction approach?
We are confronted with climate chaos, among other ecological issues, and its dramatic consequences for living systems. Pioneers in our passion for adventure and nature, prioritizing immersion and knowledge, the feeling that we were contributing to this disaster, albeit marginally, had become unbearable to us.
Why were you not more radical and did not just close your agency?
First, because we have an economic and social responsibility, in France and worldwide. Our journeys help improve the living conditions of many families in developing countries. The journeys we propose, far removed from mass consumption, have meaning and allow each of us to grow. They nurture exchanges between cultures, favoring tolerance and goodwill between peoples. In short, we are convinced that our journeys offer benefits that are greater than the nuisances they generate. Above all else, we continue to be passionate about adventure and nature travel and expeditions!
Are things so bad that you had to commit to such a catastrophic economic model?
No, just the opposite, things are going rather well, thank you! Our growth, shown in the pre-Covid years, was in the order of 25% per year between 2015 and 2019, which proves the attractiveness of our offer. In 2022, we are witnessing a growth of more than 100% vs. N-1. We simply trust in our capacity to build a viable alternative economic model, which is ecologically and socially sustainable. In view of the climate change and ecological issues for us and, above all, for our children and their children, any other model seems to us to be suicidal… or criminal, as you like.
Why enter into such a commitment now?
Everyone, or at least all people of good faith, agree on the ecological diagnostic. And yet no-one is doing anything. We strongly believe that by acting immediately and decisively, we can have a salutary ripple effect on our travelers, on our fellow travel agencies, and, why not, more widely still? Taking up such a challenge in a sector so dependent on carbon could encourage other economic stakeholders to assume their responsibility. If each country, each industry and each citizen waits for the other to make the first move, nothing will happen, and the awakening will be rude. Thus it’s here and now.
What is the strategic advantage of entering into such a commitment?
Being the first to enter into this commitment allows us to anticipate and prepare for a new model, which, sooner or later, will be imposed on us by society or the government. The fact of reflecting now on this transformation allows us to implement creative solutions, to develop a corporate culture and methods in terms of journey creation, carbon efficiency indicators, management of our offer, all things that we can but benefit from. Last but not least, through this commitment, not only do we ourselves enter the most virtuous approach possible, but more importantly, by necessity we extend it to our clients, partners and guides, all the players in our ecosystem who entrust us with their travel projects or their skills. And we believe that the way in which we approach these subjects allows us to attract the very best. That has no price.
Why announce this commitment publicly?
To make the general public and decision makers aware of the need for concrete and immediate actions. Secret Planet is a mere drop in the carbon ocean… This is electroshock therapy. Stating that it’s possible to commit without denying the essence. Above all, we hope to generate a salutary ripple effect, first in our profession, from our travelers, followed by a larger public and other economic and political stakeholders. What’s more, this commitment will require so much energy to implement and we shall be so discouraged at times that by announcing our goals publicly, giving up will not be an option! That’s what real commitment means.
What do your two indicators, Carbon Intensity and Carbon Efficiency, correspond to?
These two indicators are extremely useful for economically modeling a more sustainable development for Secret Planet and for monitoring our progress in this area. Basically, Carbon Intensity (CI) answers the question “How much carbon must I emit to achieve a turnover of €1?” Of course the less I emit, the better the world will be… For example for Secret Planet in 2015, our CI was in the order of 1, i.e. 1 kg of CO2e emitted to generate a turnover of €1 or 1 ton of CO2e emitted to generate a turnover of €k1. In 2019, our CI was 0.7 (thus 700 g of CO2e emitted to generate a turnover of €1), thus much better. Finally, in 2021, our CI was 0.4 in the exceptional circumstances linked to the pandemic. Carbon Efficiency (CE) answers the even more essential question “How much carbon must I emit to achieve a gross margin of €1?” Here yet again Secret Planet has made considerable headway since our CE was of the order of 5 in 2015, i.e. 5 kg of CO2e emitted to generate a gross margin of €1 or 5 tons of CO2e emitted to generate a gross margin of €k1. In 2019 our CE was 3.2 (thus 3.2 kg of CO2e emitted to generate a gross margin of €1), thus well down, and finally, in 2021, our CE was 1.7. We refer you to our web page “Calculation and reduction of carbon emissions” that details these concepts. To date we are not aware of any other company that has implemented such a methodology that we offer in open source* for all those in the travel industry and, more broadly, for all organizations, economic or otherwise.
How do you intend to develop your travel offer to keep to your goals?
We shall continue to develop our offer, focusing on journeys with ever greater meaning, longer, and with more added value. In concrete terms, our journeys will increase from 20 days on average to 25 days, for example. This will enable us to make a living with fewer departures and thus fewer flights. We shall prioritize direct flights (most of our flights include stopovers today) or more optimized flights (with stopover but practically on the direct route). We shall propose alternative solutions for international transport (train, cargo, etc.): a journey in a journey. We shall hone the details of our stays to reduce their carbon footprint in their transfers and accommodation. We have removed from our catalog all journeys of less than two weeks requiring an international flight. We shall do away with all long-haul flights if a proximity alternative exists. Our arbitrations are now more precise, quantifiable, and founded. Our clients, through their loyalty, proposals and sobriety, play a vital role in supporting this transformation. In all, our model aims at maintaining a sufficient level of turnover to let us continue to perform our role as economic stakeholder, while at the same time significantly reducing our emissions.
Should this not begin by removing from the catalog journeys such as Antarctica, an unspoiled and fragile continent?
The freedom to travel anywhere in the world has always been at the heart of our commitments. We do not want to start to say what is good and what is bad. For some people, setting out on an expedition to Antarctica meets a genuine need, rooted in a personal and meaningful project. Furthermore, our programs in Antarctica concern only very few people worldwide. However, you would be right to reply that “one person’s freedom ends where another’s begins”, in particular the freedom to live in a “decarbonated” world. This is where our other essential commitment, the reduction of our carbon emissions, takes on its full meaning. By committing ourselves as Secret Planet, we commit all of our travelers so that the sum of their footprint constantly diminishes from one year to the next. In this way, we hope to reconcile individual and collective aspirations and continue to live out our dreams of adventure journeys, while doing our fair share to prevent the nightmare of climate change, in a mutual logic of respect and tolerance.
Are your prices going to go up and allow only the most well-off access to your journeys?
We are also going to propose longer journeys that are more accessible financially, besides having an attractive content. We are thinking of offering at least one in each of our main destinations. Moreover, our average basket is already high given the specificity of our programs, and our clients are not all well-off, far from it. They save up to do less and better. Last but not least, we implement more flexible methods of payment for long journeys. For example, for our five-month great Nepal crossing, participants can pay their balance monthly during the journey.
Who can travel for one month or more?
We have always been convinced that travel requires lengthy immersion in a country. And we have observed that more and more of you believe this too. We firmly believe that employers will increasingly accept to grant unpaid leave or sabbaticals to make their jobs more attractive and to adapt to our changing world. Why not stay in a country and enjoy two three-week journeys with, between them, a week or more of teleworking. We believe that exciting opportunities are all set to emerge.
Do you refuse clients who travel several times a year?
No, this is what makes our global commitment so interesting. Clients who travel only with us will know that they respect the Paris Agreement and that they contribute to a global reduction of carbon emissions.
What exactly is the “voluntary carbon contribution” that you propose?
It is an opportunity to contribute to the development of two non-profit associations committed to sustainable development projects. This maximum contribution is calculated as the product of the carbon footprint of your journey and the reference price of a ton of carbon emitted. Consequently, if your journey emits 3 tons of CO2e and the reference price of a carbon ton is €60, your voluntary contribution can be as much as €180. When signing up for the journey, you decide whether or not to make a donation for 25 %, 50 % or 100 % of this total. If you are resident in France, you can benefit from a tax deduction of 60% of this donation. To date, since 2019, we have collected some €7,000 in this way, a sum redistributed in full to these two associations.
3. SECRET PLANET’S ECOLOGICAL COMMITMENTS
When did your sustainable development commitments first begin?
For the past 30 years with Tamera, we grew as creators of adventure and nature travel and expeditions, offering rare, longer journeys, thus with a more favorable plane/stay ratio, with soft modes of transport, in small groups, with immersion at the heart of traditional cultures, in some cases focused on the conservation of biodiversity…. But it was in 2017 that we decided to give formal structure to our commitment by drawing up a charter that you can find here.
What do your sustainable development commitments cover?
Our commitments, which you can find in our sustainable development charter, cover six major themes: carbon footprint and global warming, waste management, water conservation, protection of biodiversity, social equity and cultural respect, and last but not least, informing and raising awareness of our travelers and the general public on these issues.
What have you implemented in terms of carbon footprint and global warming?
Since 2018 we have calculated as accurately as possible the carbon footprint of all our journeys. This information is given in CO2 tons and can be found on our websites and in our program details. This is a means of raising the awareness of our travelers and the general public on such issues. To the best of our knowledge, few travel agencies have done the same. And the first to become aware of such issues were the Secret Planet teams! Our calculations revealed something only too obvious, namely a footprint that was unacceptable given the current climate issues. Thus, in 2022, we decided to make our development part of a policy to reduce our carbon emissions by 5% per year along the lines of the Paris Agreement. We talk here of reduction and not of compensation, a difficult and original challenge that calls for optimization of our journeys and a restructured offer.
What have you implemented in terms of waste management?
First, raised awareness to waste management during travel, on our websites and in our program details. We have participated in an expedition for the collection of waste at high altitude in the Mustagh Ata in China (7,145 m) – consult here. We have collaborated extensively with Marion Chaygneaud-Dupuy – a recognized expert, in particular for having coordinated implementation of waste management on Everest on the Tibetan north slope – notably for the implementation of a charter in partnership with the Mountain Riders Foundation. This project, however, was not successful. We thus left this work to test tools and methods in Nepal and Algeria, among other countries. However, the pandemic struck in 2020 and 2021. We will start our work again there in the autumn of 2022 and 2023. Last but not least, we direct donations, which we receive as part of our “voluntary carbon contribution” to the NGO “Océans Sans Plastiques”.
What have you implemented in terms of water conservation?
Not very much up to now, but we can’t be everywhere! Let’s say, the strict minimum: we have stressed, both on our websites and in our program details, on our travelers the importance of water conservation when traveling, good bivouac practices on treks and expeditions, washing more than 50 meters from all water sources, type of washing soaps, utilization of stones to purify the water used for cooking, etc.
What have you implemented in terms of protection of biodiversity?
For a long time now, in fact since 1996, Saïga, our travel sector offering journeys focusing on biodiversity, has created a large number of eco-volunteer stays. Also, we give priority to partnership with NGOs. We have thus contributed directly financially, for several hundred thousand euros, to the development of a dozen associations working with large primates, larger wildlife species, elephants, tortoises, and marine life. Here yet again, on our websites and in our program details, we seek to raise awareness of the need to protect wildlife.
What have you implemented in terms of social equity and cultural respect?
We have inherited from Tamera since 1994, the respect of cultures and the construction of fair and sustainable partnerships with our partners. We pay a fair and balanced price for local services, seeking the interests of our interlocutor and our clients. We strive to ensure fair remuneration of guide teams. We commit to the creation of synergies with local, sustainable or ethical initiatives: direct financial aid for projects (in Libya, with the Mentawaï “flower people” in Siberut, Indonesia, the associations En Terres Indigènes/La voix des femmes autochtones, etc.) or for misfortunes, education, valorization of traditional knowhow (traditional medicine, shamanism, etc.). In the face of sometimes fragile cultures, we inform you in our program details of the behaviors to observe and the good practices to respect.
* Should you be inspired by or wish to communicate on elements of synthesis or methodologies resulting from our reflections and work on sustainable development, carbon footprint and carbon emission, we kindly ask you to quote Secret Planet © 2022 as your source and to refer your readers and internet communities to our website www.secret-planet.com