Our Climate Action Plan

At Highland Explorer Tours, we are passionate about Scotland and delivering memorable, authentic experiences. We want you to marvel at the magic of Skye, ride the famous Jacobite Steam Train, drink drams of single malt whisky straight from the source and meet adorable puffins up close: we want to share our home.  

 We can’t shy away from the fact that unprecedented things are happening to our planet, however. Record-breaking temperatures are being smashed, sea levels are creeping upwards and threatening our coasts, and biodiversity is dwindling at an alarming rate. The impacts of climate change are universal and ignoring it won’t make it go away 

We Declare a Climate Emergency

It is no longer a secret that climate change poses a serious threat to what makes Scotland so special: our landscapes, wildlife, and local community.

To fight against these record-breaking temperatures, rising sea levels, and loss of biodiversity, we're declaring a climate emergency as a founding signatory to the Glasgow Declaration. 
Our common goal as travel businesses is to cut global carbon emissions to 55% over the next decade to keep the planet within 1.5 degrees of warming.

Read our climate emergency declaration.

 

Our Five-Point Plan to Combat Climate Change

As part of our Sustainability Strategy, How We Tread Right, we have a five-point Climate Action Plan to guide us in the right direction. Our plan doesn’t feature quick fixes, because they don’t exist, and is instead shaped by our commitment to learning and adapting, and using technology and innovation to move closer to capturing excess carbon in our atmosphere.  

Measure 

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Measure the emissions from our offices, business travel and tours.

 

Reduce 

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Shift to renewable energy and source electric vehicles where possible Set ambitious science-based emission reduction targets by mid-2022.

 

Remove

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Invest in carbon capture and carbon removal solutions to pull and permanently store excess carbon from the atmosphere.

 

Offset 

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Purchase carbon credits to offset unavoidable emissions, including introducing carbon-neutral tours by 2025.

 

Evolve 

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Continue to learn from others, form partnerships and adapt to new technologies to move to a low carbon economy.  

Our Road to Net Zero

Since the launch of our strategy How We Tread Right, global action on the world’s response to climate change has continued to advance, and our commitment to evolve has enabled us to match that advancement. The most significant change we’ve made since the launch of our plan is our decision to commit to net zero.  

In the next step of our journey to net zero, our parent company The Travel Corporation (TTC) has formally committed to carbon reduction targets that are aligned with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). These targets are currently under review by the SBTi and will be announced later this year. Science-based targets ensure that we play our part in reducing our emissions in line with keeping the global temperature below a warming of 1.5° C by mid-century.  

Carbon Neutral Tours 

In 2020, Highland Explorer Tours worked with a third-party consultant to measure the emissions associated with our tours. The carbon footprint of our tours includes emissions from all included transport, accommodation, and meals. Read more about how we measured our tour emissions here 

Beginning in 2022, in partnership with a leading offset provider, South Pole, we will offset your Highland Explorer Tours tour by purchasing carbon credits from a meaningful carbon reduction project.  This Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Standard project guarantees that carbon reductions are made, while offering co-benefits that positively impact local communities:  

Myamyn Lowland Forest Conservation (Australia) 

This project protects Victoria’s Annya State Forest and restores the rich biodiversity that was once found in the forest, before it was illegally cleared two decades ago and planted with an invasive eucalyptus species, causing devastation to the area. By protecting the land against further clearing and re-vegetating it with native flora, this project enhances biodiversity and permanently protects habitat for vulnerable native species.  

 

What can you do? 

 

Here’s how you can reduce your carbon footprint while travelling:  

  • Travel by coach 
    Coach travel has been proven to have substantial environmental benefits, including reducing congestion and causing less pollution per passenger kilometre than any other transportation option. Coaches have been proven to emit fewer greenhouse gases on a per passenger basis than either train or car travel (DEFRA - Dept for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs GHG Conversion Factors 2019) 

  • Offset your flight 
    If you’re looking to offset the carbon footprint of your flight to and from your destination, we recommend measuring the emissions from your flight and offsetting this amount with our partner South Pole’s Flight Calculator. They provide travellers with a variety of verifiable carbon offset projects to choose from. 

  • Use public transport when you can 
    Check ahead to see if there is public transport or a shuttle available to help you get from the airport to your accommodation. This reduces the number of cars on the road, idling and releasing GHGs. We have great local bus services in Edinburgh - to get to and from our Highland Explorer Office by public transport visit Lothian Buses.

  • Try more veggie options 
    Meat production is the primary source of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. When you’re travelling try a new vegetarian or vegan dish 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

How does travel contribute to climate change? 

Whenever we start a car or jump onto an airplane, we emit harmful emissions into the air, known as greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). GHGs are caused in part by the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) to keep our gas tanks full and our fossil-fuel based transportation system moving. GHGs trap heat from the sun within our atmosphere and the more GHGs that we emit into the atmosphere, the more heat is trapped – warming our planet.   

What is a carbon footprint? 

A carbon footprint encompasses the total amount of carbon that was emitted into the atmosphere to provide a product or service.  

How did you calculate the carbon footprint from my tour? 

Highland Explorer Tours worked with a third-party consultant to measure the carbon footprint of our tours. Here’s what we considered in scope and our responsibility to offset 

  • Transfers: any transportation provided as part of the tour 

  • Meals: any included meals as part of the tour 

  • Accommodations: all accommodations included within the tour. 

We took a regional approach to measuring these emissions, to ensure regional specific emission factors were used where possible. We will review and update the carbon footprint of our tours every three years using our custom tour emission calculator. 

Here’s what we considered out of scope and will not be included as part of our tour carbon footprint 

  • Traveller’s air travel to and from the destination 

  • All pre and post services not included in the price of the tour 

  • Emissions produced by facilities or buildings we visit on our tours (e.g., visitor attractions). These emissions are considered the responsibility of the facility as determined by internationally accepted principles for emissions accounting.  

  • Meals purchased by the traveller. 

What are science based targets? 

Science based targets are ambitious targets approved by the Science Based Target Initiative to ensure businesses reduce their emissions to limit the global temperature increase to no more than 1.5°C in order to avoid catastrophic impacts of climate change.

What is carbon offsetting? 

Carbon offsetting means that for each tonne of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions we emit into the air, we will pay for one tonne of GHG emissions to be prevented from entering the atmosphere. We do this by investing in renewable energy projects for example, that prevents carbon from being released into the atmosphere. The projects we invest in are independently verified to the highest standards to ensure the carbon credits are verifiable and transparent. Learn more about the carbon offset project we invest in here. 

Does carbon offsetting cost me more? 

Highland Explorer Tours will pay for your tour to be carbon neutral, beginning in 2022. We are offsetting 100% of tours so you don’t have to worry about opting in!   

Can I choose which carbon offset project my tour supports?  

As part of our carbon offsetting program, Highland Explorer Tours will invest in a carbon offset project to offset tour emissions. Each project is independently verified and offers co-benefits to the local communities. Learn more about the carbon offset project we invest in here. 

How do I offset my flight to and from my destination? 
If you’re looking to offset the carbon footprint of your flight to and from your destination, we recommend measuring the emissions from your flight and offsetting this amount with our partner South Pole’s Flight Calculator. They provide travellers with a variety of verifiable carbon offset projects to choose from.

What else is Highland Explorer Tours doing to reduce the carbon footprint of its tours?

Highland Explorer Tours is taking several steps to reduce the carbon footprint of our tours:

  • We use the most fuel-efficient Euro 6 coaches, and we are assessing the use of biofuels for these coaches.

  • All of our premises are run on 100% renewable electricity: our shop and bus yard in Edinburgh, and our accommodation on the Isle of Skye and Loch Ness.

  • We work with local suppliers to continually increase the selection of the freshest local food products we use, reducing GHGs associated with transport and increasing local food security.

  • We have a dedicated “Green Team” who ensure we operate in a more sustainable way. Examples include switching to an accredited sustainable stationary supplier, getting bottled milk delivered to our Edinburgh office, signing up to the “Bike to Work Scheme” and installing a shower at our HQ Edinburgh office. These steps have led to us achieving a gold Green Tourism award across all our businesses.

  • To help restore the Caledonian Forest we have pioneered an Eco Scheme where you can make an optional £2 donation when booking any tour. We will match every £1 you donate, with proceeds going to the leading Scottish environmental charity, the Trees for Life.

Where does Highland Explorer Tours purchase carbon credits from? 

More Details on Carbon Reduction Projects:  

Myamyn Lowland Forest Conservation (Australia) 

Two decades ago, sections of Victoria’s Annya State Forest were illegally cleared and planted with Tasmanian blue gum, an invasive eucalyptus species that devastated the local and delicate biodiversity. By protecting the land against further clearing and re-vegetating it with native flora, this project enhances biodiversity and permanently protects habitat for vulnerable native species. The Myamyn project has rehabilitated over 20 hectares of cleared lands, protecting a total of 200 hectares against further clearing and enhancing habitat by controlling weeds and pest animals In doing so, habitat for a range of vulnerable and endangered native species is protected and enhanced – including the southern brown bandicoot, powerful owl and long-nosed potoroo. This project is a Verified International Carbon Credit that meets the Gold Standard.