Conserving Tanzania’s landscapes and wildlife that visitors travel thousands of miles to witness is not a new concept for Tanzanian adventure outfitter Nature Discovery. It is a core value that runs deep, alongside their commitment to supporting the communities they work amongst.
Taking a look at the company’s operations and culture, you see actions that promote responsible travel throughout, from their leadership role collaborating with KPAP (Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project), to practicing and promoting “Leave No Trace” principles, to conserving forests by offsetting their carbon emissions.
It may not be surprising that staff at an adventure outfitter are active cyclists in their leisure time. However, many of the company’s daily tasks are also completed by cycling in a bid to reduce the company’s carbon emissions. This includes the office messenger cycling about town to deliver confirmation vouchers and make payments. There is also a program incentivizing employees to cycle to work, this not only benefits the environment but the health of the staff as well as productivity.
To further reduce emissions the company minimizes their need to drive into town by employing their own in-house electrician, welders and other specialists. The company also tends an organic herb and veggie garden on their plot to feed staff and clients, guaranteeing adventure seekers receive the freshest produce available. They also use low-wattage bulbs throughout the entire office complex.
On safari, Nature Discovery promotes sustainability by completely avoiding the use of traditional charcoal and cook mostly on gas burners. Charcoal is the staple form of cooking energy in Tanzania, including throughout the tourism industry and is one of the drivers of deforestation in Tanzania. To heat water, they use a combination of solar water heaters and small grass and twig burning water heaters. “One doesn’t have to be uncomfortable to be eco-friendly, just a bit more creative” explains Thomas Holden, the company’s General Manager since 2003.
The company’s commitment to social responsibility has seen the development of the Arusha Bicycle Centre; a social enterprise started in July 2015 to promote the growth of the bicycle in Arusha as a means of transport and to further the development of competitive sports. “We’ve already sold 2000 bikes in Arusha in the last year with all profits going toward the growth and development of competitive cycling in Tanzania.” explains Thomas.
Since 2011 Nature Discovery have been offsetting the carbon emissions generated by their Kilimanjaro climbs, an action that awarded them Carbon Smart Offsetter status. A Carbon Smart Offsetter looks at only a portion of the company’s carbon impact. In late 2016 they decided it was time to step up and become a Carbon Elite offsetter and look at the emissions generated by their entire operations. To become a Carbon Elite Offsetter one has to assess their entire carbon emissions, reduce them where possible, and then offset the remaining unavoidable emissions.
In just a few short weeks the team had assessed their fossil fuel use throughout the company and had implemented a procedure to first offset all their emissions, then to educate and encourage their clients to offset their own carbon impacts.
Often the perception is that only a large company with an HR and sustainability department have the time and resources to reduce their environmental and carbon impact and become an Elite Carbon Offsetter. However, Nature Discovery have proved that this does not have to be the case.