Responsible tourism is at the heart of what we do. Since 2002, we’ve challenged ourselves to improve environmental sustainability across all areas of our business.
Our Responsible Tourism Mission
- Carbon neutral since 2016
- Maintain our Gold Ecotourism Certification
- Continually reduce our energy consumption
- Continually reduce environmental impacts across all areas of our business
- Encourage our suppliers and other members of the tourism industry to adopt similar practices
- Continue to nurture and respect Ireland’s landscape, culture and heritage by bringing and educating our small group, low-impact tours to rural Ireland
Our CO2 Emissions and Responsible Tourism Programme
We are very conscious of the energy that Vagabond Tours consumes. Our vehicles, our office operations and the air travel undertaken by guests to reach Ireland all add up.
Our annual CO2 emissions total 110 tonnes (rounded up to take account for a margin of error). To offset these emissions we have begun the following programme:
1. Carbon Off-Setting
We’ve been proactive in carbon offsetting using native Irish woodlands.
Using native Irish tree species promotes biodiversity and helps foster more effective natural habitats for insects, birds and mammals.
We planted 110 trees in 2016; 150 in 2017; and we will plant 170 in 2018.
2. Leave No Trace
As proud partners of Leave No Trace Ireland, we train all of our guides in the Leave No Trace Ireland awareness programme.
Twelve of our staff have qualified as Leave No Trace Trainers. This approach not only ensures that our footprint on the landscape remains minimal. It also enables us to raise the level of environmental awareness among Vagabond guests.
3. Talking About Responsible Tourism with Guests
We take great pride in starting conversations with our guests about our love for Ireland, and the need to care for it.
In 2018, we conducted a survey of 130 guests on the topic of responsible tourism and their impression of Vagabond’s role in promoting it. Were our guests aware of sustainability? Did they care?
Whilst approximately 80% of guests were aware of our sustainable ethos prior to their visit, only 23% were familiar with the eco-tourism label.
Yet, at the end of their visit, all guests surveyed had a greater awareness and understanding of the need for responsible tourism. Only 20% of passengers had considered sustainability when booking our tour. However, 60% now said they would build sustainability into their future travel choices.
We consider this proof that our multi-faceted efforts to promote eco-tourism are effectively communicated, and could be applied elsewhere in the industry.
4. Helping Local Communities Benefit from Tourism
Vagabond’s off the beaten track ethos aids communities in lesser explored corners of Ireland.
On average, our guests spend 9 days and 8 nights in rural Ireland. Our accommodation suppliers and activity providers; the pubs and restaurants we use; all are owned and run locally. Therefore, the bulk of our customer spend is retained in the local economy.
This approach nurtures economically sustainable tourism in areas that may be located far from headline attractions or major infrastructure.
Case Study: Magnetic North
Our Magnetic North tour focuses on lesser visited areas of Ireland, such as Donegal and Mayo. Tourism in these areas struggles to attract tourists. They have low international profiles. There is little or no rail infratructure. They are located long distances from motorways.
Our Magnetic North itinerary features two nights and three days in both counties. Our guests are not only encouraged to explore the natural beauty that surrounds them in these areas, but to engage with local communities too.
5. Combatting Waste and Single Use Plastic
In 2017, we calculated that our customers generate approximately 27,000 disposable coffee cups per year.
In response, we stock every tour with 100% compostable cups and lids. Guests are encouraged to use them for takeaway coffees. Every used cup is then returned to our HQ for industrial composting.
All tour vehicles are fitted with separate waste containers to facilitate recycling. All recyclable material is returned to Vagabond HQ at the end of each tour for commercial recycling.
In 2018, we challenged ourselves to take part in Zero Waste Week. Out on the road, our VagaGuides got creative to spell out the impact that responsible tourism can have:
At VagaHQ in Wicklow, the office team cooked for each other to reduce lunch waste. We also educated ourselves on climate change at the Cool Planet Experience in Powerscourt.
6. Reducing Water Usage
In 2017, we changed how we clean Vagabond tour vehicles.
These eco-friendly cleaning products are applied with reusable micro-fibre cloths. Back at Vagabond HQ, the cloths are washed with Ecover eco-friendly tablets and stored in washable cloth bags.
We calculate that this saves in excess of 48,000 litres of water per year.
7. Green Vagabond HQ
We have replaced all fluorescent office lighting with LED panels. All our electrical outlets are timed so that no power usage occurs outside of office hours. Our heating system operates on a carefully monitored timed programme. These changes led to a 27% decrease in electricity and gas consumption in 2017.
Each toilet cistern has been fitted with 2x 500ml water bottles, reducing the amount required per flush. This simple initiative has reduced water usage by 5,000 litres per year.
All waste generated in the office, along with that brought back to base by our guides, is separated and recycled. This includes:
- Office paper
- Card and Cardboard
- Hard and soft plastic. And Polystyrene
- Batteries, phones and printer cartridges
- Metals and glass
We also have a food waste bin.
We have reduced non-recyclable waste significantly. In fact, it’s been a few months since we actually put the rubbish bin out!
8. Reduce Paper Usage
No Vagabond Tours brochure has been printed since 2006. All Vagabond customer correspondence and booking confirmations are sent by email. All Vagabond office paper is carefully recycled. In addition, all credit card payments are now processed online, again reducing the need for paper credit card rolls.
These efforts save paper resources and, ultimately, trees.
9. Improve Vehicle Efficiency
You might assume that operating larger vehicles is not a responsible way of showing visitors Ireland. However, there are several reasons why we think it’s one of the more efficient methods.
We continue to invest heavily in our fleet. Almost all of our tour vehicles use the very latest Volkswagen 1.9l turbo diesel or Mercedes 2.2l turbo diesel engines.
Our vehicles can carry up to 17 people plus luggage. The CO2 emitted per person is a relatively small amount when compared to, say, 2 people driving a rental car with a 1.3l engine.
Our drivers are trained by experts to drive in a smooth, safe and considerate way. This is vital for safety and passenger comfort. But smooth driving also significantly reduces fuel consumption.
Vagabond is extremely strict as to where its vehicles can be taken off road. Any driving on beaches is done very carefully to avoid damaging dunes or other sensitive ecosystems. Other off-road routes follow manmade tracks. We never cross ‘virgin land’. Local consent and advice are always obtained before driving off road.
10. Bird Life
We are proud members of Birdwatch Ireland and maintain both bird feeders and nesting boxes at Vagabond HQ.
11. Litter Picking
As part of their training, our guides routinely litter pick while hiking on tour. Our Vagabond HQ staff go on regular local litter picks in Wicklow.
In 2018, however, we took this proactive approach one step further.
Partnering with Pure Project, we adopted a section of woodland near Glencree, in County Wicklow. Our staff members successfully returned what had become a frequent dumping ground, to its original, unblemished state.
We're delighted to have won the 2018 Pure Mile Clean-Up the Uplands Award for our efforts at reinstating our patch of…
We’re Proud to Have Been Recognised as Leaders in Responsible Tourism
In 2017, we were awarded Ecotourism Ireland’s Gold Level Certification.
We’re proud that Vagabond Tours is the only Irish tour operator to hold this certification.
We won the Best Environmental Tourism Innovation at the Irish Tourism Awards in 2019.
— Irish Tourism Awards (@Awards2019) February 1, 2019
We won the Green Tourism & Entertainment Award at the Green Awards 2018
— Green Awards (@green_awards) February 20, 2018
Calculate Your Carbon
We are all conscious of the carbon footprint we create in our travels. Climatecare is a non-profit organisation which raises awareness of climate change by supporting humanitarian and environmental projects globally.