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 day figure for the full duration of the holiday. All trips are different and on average, in 2023, our trips emitted 16.1 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 from when you arrive in the destination. All our trips are different so the emissions per day will vary a lot depending on its type, inclusions and the destination.

  Average Co2e per person per night by activity  
Cross country skiing15.3kg

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 = 276.7kg CO2e

Single economy train from London to Rome = 33.1kg 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 work closely with an environmental management company to establish our company's total carbon footprint every year, including the footprint of our offices and of our trips. The vast majority of our footprint comes from the trips we operate.

To get a more detailed estimate of our carbon impact across each specific trip we offer, carbon consultancy, eCollective, has helped us establish informed estimates that all the local transport, accommodation, activities and meals that are included in a trip as well as an amount to account for 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. Every year we measure our emissions and take action to reduce them. At the same time, we use 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. For every person that travels with Headwater, we give £2.50 to the Foundation.
  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 action

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.

We are currently working with our carbon consultancy, Synergy, to develop science-based targets for our business together with a pathway to achieving the reductions we need. Our reduction roadmap should be ready to be published in late 2024.

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
For each passenger that travels with Headwater, we make a commitment to rewild 100 square meters of land in the Italian 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). Over time, this rewilded land will provide a rich carbon sink, removing many tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere.

Supporting Heathy Oceans
As part of our commitment to climate and nature action, we 've joined our sister companies across the Travelopia Group to partner with Blue Marine Foundation. Together, we intend to donate at least £1 million over the next 3 years, with an aim to support the conservation and restoration of 7,000 hectares of vital marine ecosystems through seven global projects. From the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, Kenya to Indonesia, these protected “blue carbon ecosystems” have the potential to remove and store thousands of tonnes of carbon every year. They will also help protect a rich diversity of coastal and underwater wildlife, including endangered species. Our support will also enable the training and employment of local communities in marine conservation, helping ensure these beautiful places are preserved for generations.

Exodus Travels Foundation
Since 2019, the Exodus Travels Foundation has supported conservation and community empowerment projects in destinations we travel to. Over £500,000 has been donated to these fantastic causes. We are looking to expand the reach of the Foundation and continuing to invest in projects that support the regeneration and conservation of nature.

How we are taking action

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 goals will be aligned to a science-based trajectory by the end of 2024 and as we progress we will learn and share knowledge with many fellow tour operators across the sector.

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: