Measuring Our Impact
How We Are Measuring Our Impact
As mentioned, we’re small in size and available resources and do not have an in-house team who can effectively work on decarbonisation and reduction strategies. Therefore, our first challenge is how to measure.
- Although there are carbon consultancy companies available to do a private carbon audit, these are way outside of the budget of a small independent company such as ourselves.
- There are many online carbon calculators available but a majority are for individuals or for general businesses rather than tourism-specific companies.
- We wanted an accurate footprint analysis whilst also keeping the process manageable and achievable. Of the limited carbon calculators available to small tourism companies with a restricted budget we have signed up with the carbon calculator tool Carmacal – specifically designed for tour operators and the 2017 winner of the UNWTO Award for Innovation in Research and Technology.
- However, there are limitations with this online tool in the fact that – like most online carbon calculators – you can only measure transport and accommodation and a few very specific activities. But, the main contributors to carbon footprints are food, consumption, transportation, and energy, and all are heavily utilised during a tourism experience.
- As a result, Jess has been working with postgraduate student Kelly Hirschbuehler from the Responsible Tourism Management Postgraduate Course of Leeds Beckett University in the UK – the only responsible tourism management MSc certified by the UNWTO – looking at how we can measure the carbon emissions of meals on tour as well as the carbon footprint of our office as well as certain tour activities.
- Using the calculations provided by Kelly in her research project we can now better calculate – not perfectly but still better – the overall carbon footprint of each trip we run.
- Having completed the carbon measurement for each experience we offer, we will then balance the footprint for each by purchasing Plan Vivo Foundation carbon certificates which are used to support the Plan Vivo Mongolian Nomad Project – working in partnership with the Mongolian Society of Range Management.
- Once each trip we offer has this carbon footprint breakdown, it will give us a framework from which we can work to identify ways we can improve and further reduce carbon across our trips. Secondly, we will offset the carbon footprint of each trip into the Mongolian Carbon Project.
Don’t International Flights Have The Biggest Impact?
We focus solely on Mongolia – a country where a majority of our guests have no option but to fly to. However, as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and have no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include them in our carbon footprint measurements. But, air travel has a massive carbon footprint and although carbon offsets are far from imperfect and don’t tackle the real issue the world faces – to reduce emissions – they do make a difference. Also, tourism employs 1 in 10 people globally (pre-Covid) and tourism – when done responsibly – can be a force for good growth and positive change. It can support economic development, help to protect the environment, sustain local communities, and contribute to meaningful exchange.
These are reasons we have partnered with C-Level and our ‘Balance My Flight’ calculator (link) allows our guests to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by their international flight. The carbon offsetting payment will be invested in Plan Vivo Certificates – environmental service certificates, each representing the reduction or avoidance of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide into the Mongolian Carbon Project (link).
Sustainable Development Goals | Our Financial, Environmental And Human Impact
At the end of September 2015, the United Nations adopted a global agenda to end poverty, inequality, and climate change. 17 Sustainable Development Goals have been set to make the world a better place by 2030.
Tourism has the potential to contribute, directly or indirectly, and therefore can and must play a significant role in delivering the SDGs which cover inequality, conserving and preserving the planet’s fragile ecosystems, clean drinking water, tackling climate change, and sustainable energy. (Tourism For SDGs). We use six of the SDGs (see further down the page) to help provide a framework for measuring our financial, environmental, and human impact in relation to each of the families and projects we work in long-term local community partnership with. We also aim to measure our impact on each of the national parks or nature reserves where we run tours in Mongolia but this is a long-term goal.
Following are a few examples of the impact measurements we make in relation to each of the families we work in long-term local community partnership with:
- The location of each family
- The usage of the family toilet (most are long-drops)
- Number of EL guests hosted by each family in low season
- Number of EL guests hosted by each family in peak season
- The variety of ways in which we support each family
- The number of extended treks we arrange with the family including the route as well as the type of trek (foot, camel, horse, or yak cart)
Goal 8 focuses on decent long-term stable work and income-earning opportunities for all and sustainable economic growth that benefits the entire community. The UN has defined 12 Targets for SDG 8 including target 8.9: Promote beneficial and sustainable tourism that promotes local culture and products.
SDG 12 – RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION
Goal 12 is about sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources leading to a better quality of life for all. This includes substantially reducing waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.
Mongolia practices commingled waste collection and a majority of the waste collected is buried. There are issues with the open dumping and open burning of waste causing soil, water and air pollution. Sorting and recycling are undertaken by the private sector and is on an informal scale. However, within Ulaanbaatar there are a few small and medium scale recycling plants in operation and the Mongolia National Recycling Association (MNRA – founded in 2005) has numerous city-wide centres.
[Ulaanbaatar Waste Management Improvement Strategy and Action Plan • 2017–2030]
SDG 13 – CLIMATE ACTION
Tourism contributes to climate change and should play a leading role in the global response to combating climate change and its impacts. By reducing its carbon footprint tourism can help tackle one of the most pressing challenges of our time.
- Approximately 70% of pastoral land has degraded.
- The drying up of lakes, rivers and springs and melting of glaciers has intensified in the last decade.
- Water temperature and evaporation are continuously increasing, leading to declining water resources.
- The intensification of dry climatic conditions cause the increase of the frequency of forest and steppe fires, the occurrence and the intensity of forest insect and pest outbreaks.
[UNDP Feasibility Study Pasture Use Fee Baseline Study Report]
SDG 14 – LIFE BELOW WATER
SDG 14 focuses on healthy seas, oceans and rivers. Although Mongolia is land-locked, the increase in single-use plastic used in tourism in the country has resulted in fragments and films of consumer plastics (including plastic bottles, fishing gear and plastic bags) being found in Lake Khovsgol – Mongolia’s largest freshwater lake (representing 70% of Mongolia’s fresh water and 1% of the planet’s fresh water).
[Free, C.M., et al. High-levels of microplastic pollution in a large, remote, mountain lake. Mar. Pollut. Bull. (2014), http:// dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.06.001]
SDG 15 – LIFE ON LAND
SDG 15 focuses on sustainably managing forests, combating desertification, halting and reversing land degradation and halting biodiversity loss. In Mongolia, soil degradation has become one of the biggest challenging environmental issues. An assessment of desertification and land degradation in Mongolia, made by Mongolian researchers in 2015, showed that 76.9% of the total area was under desertification and land degradation processes.
[Darbalaeva, Darima & Mikheeva, Anna & Zhamyanova, Yulia. (2020). The socio-economic consequences of the desertification processes in Mongolia.]