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How we measure and manage our carbon footprint

We never forget that travel leaves a footprint. And as a travel business, we want to ensure that everything we do to create and run our trips brings about positive impacts for the natural ecosystems and economic livelihoods in the places we visit and for the people we meet.

We know that carbon is one of the negative impacts of our business and here, we give a little more detail on how we measure and manage it and how we invest in the regeneration and conservation of our natural world.

NB. Please note that when we refer to 'carbon' or 'CO2' we mean 'carbon dioxide equivalent' which refers to the combination of greenhouses gas emissions we seek to reduce.

What the numbers mean

The carbon footprint calculation is a per person, per trip figure for the full duration of the holiday. All trips are different and on average, in 2022, our trips emitted 16.2 CO2e per person per night. This is the sum of all the included activities, accommodation, transportation and meals on a per person per night basis. All our trips are different so the emissions per trip will vary a lot depending on its type, inclusions and the destination.

  Average Co2e per person per night by activity  
Cross country skiing17.5kg

Note that the flight or other transport to and from our trip start and end point is not included in these figures above. This is a major factor, but as we do not book transport for all our guests, it is difficult to know exactly what these emission figures might be. We are actively looking at ways to help customers choose less carbon intensive transport options - ask us about booking a train to the start of your adventure!

To put that into context

Sources: (EcoPassenger, Carbon Catalogue Database)

Single economy flight from London to Rome = 277.3kg CO2e

Single economy train from London to Rome = 46.7kg CO2e

Levi Strauss 501® Original Jeans (Rinse Run) = 15kg CO2e

Coors Light beer 500ml brewed in the UK (including steel can) = 31.37kg CO2e


How we measure our carbon footprint

We've worked closely with an environmental management company to establish our company's total carbon footprint baseline, including the footprint of our offices (across the UK and North America) and of our trips. The vast majority of our footprint comes from the trips we operate.

For our 2022 trips, we wanted a more detailed estimate of our carbon impact across each specific trip element. For this, carbon consultancy, ecollective, helped us establish informed estimates for our trips that include all the local transport, accommodation, activities, meals, and our office operations.

Having these figures across each trip element helps us understand where we can make real reductions in emissions and gives our customers the information they need to help in their decision-making process.

Our climate action

Headwater takes action on carbon and biodiversity loss in three ways:

  1. We are reducing our emissions and using our core products, offerings and operations to protect and enhance natural environments and empower communities
  2. The Exodus Travels Foundation (Exodus is our sister company) exists to facilitate our investment in the regeneration and conservation of our natural world
  3. We collaborate with leading organisations and NGOs to invest in carbon sinks and other projects that support the regeneration of communities and nature

Our carbon reduction target

Headwater supports the global 1.5 degree Celsius aligned targets with the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting our global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures.

Our target is to halve our carbon footprint by 2030. This encompasses an almost 50% reduction in the carbon footprint of our 'Scope 1 and 2' emissions (primarily the fuel and energy we use across our offices) and a 50% reduction in the carbon footprint of our 'Scope 3' emissions (primarily the trips we run), per passenger, by 2030, based on our 2019 baseline.

This target currently excludes the transport to and from our trips, given the level to which the decarbonisation of aviation falls outside of our control. However, we will still be measuring and reporting the carbon impact of this transport, and implementing actions to actively reduce this impact, such as the launch and expansion of our train travel offering. See more on this below.

Our carbon consultancy, Synergy, is currently supporting our parent company, Travelopia, to develop Science Based Targets for our entire business. Aligned targets will then be set for Exodus, together with a pathway to achieving that target.

Over the course of the year, as the work with Travelopia continues, we will be developing and publishing our own carbon reduction roadmap.

How we are planning to reach our target

Our style of trips, in general, have a lower carbon footprint than many other styles of holidays - we stay in smaller local accommodation, enjoy locally-produced food and spend time cycling and hiking instead of in coaches and cars. However, any transportation can still have a carbon impact, along with other factors such as energy used by accommodation, any imported food provided and so on.

Our carbon management plan focuses first and foremost on carbon footprint reduction. The emissions of our trips will be reduced year on year by measures such as:

  • Increasing take-up of our train travel booking service, which now offers train travel as an alternative to flying to most of our European trips.
  • Increasing the number of 'closer to home' trips, such as our UK collection, meaning less reason to fly.
  • Opting for lower impact in-country transportation, for example, using public transport where feasible and looking for opportunities to switch to electric vehicles as soon as destination infrastructure allows.
  • Prioritising the use of accommodation that promotes conservation and community initiatives.
  • Aiming to ensure food is locally sourced and includes plant-based meals, meaning it has lower carbon impact.
  • Eliminating use of single-use plastics in the places we visit (plastic contains lots of 'embodied carbon').

Our reduction goal is ambitious, and our roadmap towards the 2030 target will continue to evolve in the years ahead as we progress, learn and share knowledge with many fellow tour operators across the sector.

Examples of our climate action beyond our value chain

We invest in projects that contribute to the regeneration and conservation of the natural world. A few of these examples include:

Rewilding the Apennines: We have partnered with leading conservationists, Rewilding Apennines, to help support their vital rewilding work, including a Nature & Carbon Corridors project (read more about this partnership and project here). For each passenger that travels with Headwater, we make a commitment to rewild 100 square meters of land. Over time, this rewilded land will provide a rich carbon sink, removing many tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere.

Exodus Travels Foundation: Since 2019, the Exodus Travels Foundation has supported conservation and community empowerment projects in destinations we travel to. Nearly £400,000 has been donated to these fantastic causes. One of them, the Himalaya Community Project, supports and empowers communities across Nepal and India through a range of grass roots initiatives. In the next 12 months we are looking to expand the reach of the Foundation with an even greater focus on investing in projects that support the regeneration and conservation of nature.

What this means for you

Our goal is to create immersive experiences that help people reconnect with the natural world. This relies on us valuing and protecting that world and taking responsibility for our actions.

By measuring and reducing our negative impact, not just on carbon, but also on other elements that affect biodiversity such as waste and ecosystem exploitation, we are striving to create nature positive travel. At the same time, we are also demonstrating the real and positive economic, environmental and social benefits that each of our holidays creates. More detail can be found in our latest impact report here.

We don't have all the answers and recognise we have a big challenge ahead, but we're committed to keeping you updated on our progress. We also welcome your comments, ideas and questions. To get in touch, please email: