Vagabond – A Sustainable and Respectful Tour Company
Vagabond Tours has been in operation for 15 years since 2002 bringing our guests around the country we love and respect. Sustainable tourism plays a big role in what we do. We are committed to a code of best practice in all aspects of our business, including our relationship with, and effect on the environment and the communities that we visit. Few business sectors rely on the natural environment in the way that tourism does, so it is very much in our interest to preserve the natural world. We believe it is our responsibility to be constantly monitoring our business methods to make sure that our environmental impact is as low as possible.
2017 – Vagabond became Ireland’s first Tour Operator to achieve
Ecotourism Gold Level Certification.
Vagabond Tours founder and owner, Rob Rankin, was presented with the Gold award by Eco Tourism Ireland’s, Mary Mulvey. Speaking at the presentation, held in conjunction with ‘Leave no Trace Ireland’s’ AGM at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Rankin reaffirmed Vagabond’s commitment to sustainable tourism and the multi-faceted role played by the company. “As a company, We have always been very aware of our environmental and social responsibilities, that we are one of many caretakers of Ireland and have a responsibility to practice sustainability to ensure the landscape, the Irish culture and traditions are protected for future generations and visitors alike to enjoy and experience’. In a recent exercise with our team, being environmentally aware was universally adopted as one of our key company values.
Our Mission :
- To reduce our energy consumption and be carbon neutral by the end of 2016 – Achieved!
- To work towards Ecotourism Certification by the end of 2017 – Achieved!
- To continually re-assess all our processes to reduce our environmental impact across all areas of the business
- To encourage our suppliers and other members of the tourism related business community in Ireland 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.
Carbon Neutral Adventure Travel Company
In 2016 Vagabond partnered with The Woodland Trust and ‘One Million Trees in One’ to begin the process of offsetting our Co2 emissions, not just for 2016 but also retrospectively for previous years. We are very conscious not only of the energy that we consume in our own operation of vehicles and in the office, but also that by encouraging travel and tourism generally, we are creating the generation of further CO2 emissions from air travel etc.
Our CO2 Emissions:
We carefully examined our diesel, electricity and heating consumption and then calculated our CO2 from business related flights. The total came to about 106 tonnes, which we rounded up to 110 tonnes. (In all our calculations we added a margin of error). To offset these emissions we have begun the following sustainability programme.
Ireland based planting. Our aim is to plant in Ireland to have the added bonus of reforesting one of Europe’s least forested countries (it was once covered head to toe in the ancient Hibernian Forest). This will recreate natural habitats for Ireland’s flora and fauna.
Woodland Trust: After careful research and planning Vagabond decided to team up the the Woodland Trust. A UK based charity that plants trees across the UK, including Northern Ireland. We funded, and took part in, the planting of 110 trees in Brackfield Wood, Northern Ireland on the 12th November 2016. These trees in time will go on to absorb over 110 tonnes of CO2, but of course it won’t happen immediately.
The Woodland Trust are planning to plant 40,000 trees at Brackfield Wood, which is also a First World War Centenary Wood. So there is the added poignancy of paying tribute to those who lost their lives across the island of Ireland during the First World War, so that we can have the freedom that we enjoy today – including the freedom of travel.
The new planting will bolster nearby woods, helping the valley’s precious wildlife to thrive, providing a home for kingfishers, dippers, red squirrel and otters.
We are paying!
We would like to stress that the cost of our tree planting and environmental programs is coming from our own profits. We have not adjusted the pricing of our tours in any way to include it.
We don’t think it is but what if global warming is a myth?
In that case we will have at least planted trees and woodland for future generations to enjoy! So it’s a win win.
We are all conscious of the carbon footprint we create in our travels. Vagabond is satisfied that Climatecare is an appropriate non-profit organisation which provides a means to help balance this. Since its foundation in 1997, it has supported numerous humanitarian and environmental projects globally. So, if you’d like to off-set your carbon footprint, you can do so here:
Reducing Energy Consumption and Waste:
At Vagabond HQ
We have introduced a series of measures to reduce our energy and material consumption and to improve our purchasing procedures in the following areas:
We have recently replaced all 85 of our fluorescent ceiling light panels (each with 4 X 18 watt tubes) with about 50 energy saving LED panels, which use less than half of electricity than the the old lights – and yet give out more light.
Our current project is installing PV (electricity generating) solar panels to produce the majority of electricity needs. And at times to export to the grid.
We have reduced water consumption with a few simple steps: By placing 2 X full 500ml plastic bottles in each toilet cistern. Instantly reducing water consumption by one litre per flush. We have also fitted aerators to sink taps which reduce water output.
Reducing paper usage:
For several years now Vagabond has been reducing its paper consumption in various ways:
Not printing brochures: No Vagabond brochure has been printed since 2006, thus saving paper resources and money. Not only does this have environmental benefits but it means that we were able to invest more effectively in other marketing media.
Email: All Vagabond customer correspondence and booking confirmations are sent by email.
Office paper: All Vagabond office paper is carefully recycled. Also all credit card payments are now processed online, again reducing the need for paper credit card rolls.
We are committed to responsible marketing and accurately communicating our products and services.
Almost everything that comes into the office is carefully recycled. We clean and seperate all possible materials and take them to the nearest local recycling plant. 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.
In fact it has been a few months since we actually put the rubbish bin out!
Fuel efficient vehicles:
At first glance to you might think that operating larger vehicles is not an ecofriendly way of visitors travelling around Ireland. However we have invested heavily in our fleet over the last five years and almost all our vehicles are the using the very latest Volkswagen 1.9l turbo diesel or Mercedes 2.2l turbo diesel engines. When you consider that these vehicles can carry up to 17 people and luggage, this is relatively a very small amount of CO2 emitted per person (if you were to compare emission to 2 people in a rental car with 1.3l engine). We do still have our Land Rover’s which have larger 2.5l turbo diesel engines, but even these are very fuel efficient per person as they can carry 12 people at a time.
Our drivers are trained to drive is a smooth, safe and considerate way. This is not only vital for safety and passenger comfort, but smooth driving also significantly reduces fuel consumption and wear and tear on vehicles.
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 eco-systems. Other off-road routes are always along previously man-made tracks and never across un-broken virgin land. Local consent and advice are always obtained before driving off road.
Waterless vehicle washing
It is estimated that a car wash uses about 200 litres of water, and we wash our vehicles a lot. So now the lads are using ‘No H20’ spray instead. This is applied with a hand sprayer and then cleaned off with microfibre cloths. Its very clever stuff and leaves the vehicles looking great.
LEAVE NO TRACE – Low impact sustainable tourism
Vagabond Tours are a member of Leave No Trace Ireland. Our guides have all completed a certified Leave No Trace awareness course and adopt the Leave no Trace principles that relate to our tours.
We follow the Leave No Trace Principles on our tour.
Plan ahead and prepare:
We give all our passengers a Leave No Trace and Safety Briefing on every tour. Our guides will always do a weather check every morning and inform the passengers on what they’ll need for the day ahead.
Travel on durable surfaces:
We never hike on virgin ground & all our guides are familiar with our hiking trails. Regarding travelling on durable surfaces, this goes for our off-road vehicles too, and we never park or drive on untouched ground.
Dispose of waste properly:
Our guides all carry rubbish bags in their hiking kits. They will always remind passengers not to throw away anything, even biodegradable waste. In fact our guides will even pick up rubbish that others have left. This usually sets an example, and frequently the passengers will follow suit.
Separation of waste:
In 2017 all our tour vehicles will be fitted with separate waste containers to facilitate recycling of all possible recyclable waste. Coffee cups and lids which we carry on our vehicles are all fully compostable.
Leave what you find:
Our guides always stress the fragility of the local eco system. We’ll always remind our passengers to leave anything they find, and not to remove (or even move) stones, pick any flowers or disturb any insects they find.
Minimize campfire impacts:
We never use an open fire and only ever boil water using a Kelly Kettle. The reason for this is that Kelly Kettles are super eco-friendly and can burn fuel such as dead twigs and dried grass. We’d never break any twigs from live trees or pull any grass.
We always remind passengers to not disturb any wildlife, and to keep a good distance from roaming farm animals.
Be considerate of other visitors:
As our groups are small and no bigger than 16, our presence isn’t usually felt. However, we do emphasise to the passengers to be respectful of others, especially in places of great beauty and local communities.
For further reading please read the International Leave No Trace Blog
Small local communities:
We believe in treating the areas and communities we visit with the greatest respect and building strong relationships with local people. Our aim is to be a welcome sight when we arrive.
Towns and villages
Our tours are off the beaten track, bringing valuable tourism income to some less-visited areas of Ireland. The vast majority of our suppliers are locally-owned and so any revenue we bring to the areas we visit goes straight into the local economy. For example, the accommodation suppliers, activity providers and pubs and restaurants are all owned and run locally.
At Vagabond Tours we use small local activity providers for our biking in Killarney National Park, kayaking in the Dingle Peninsula, Horse Riding in Dingle – this provides direct business to these small locally owned adventure companies.
Cultural respect and awareness
A highlight of our tours is facilitating the meeting and interacting with the locals, all of our accommodation hosts are local and enjoying greeting our tours with a warm Irish welcome. In the evening our guides bring our guest to local music nights, we also bring our guest to meet and watch local craftspeople at work, for examples: Sean Daly cutting crystal, Eddie Doherty weaving.
Supporting local communities
In 2017 we are delighted to be sponsors of the Dingle rugby team.
Vagabond – Turais grúpa beag na hÉireann
Encouraging suppliers to be environmentally aware
We are very lucky to be working with some very environmentally aware and forward thinking partners. We will be encouraging them to adopt some of the same principles that we have to reduce their impact in all areas.
Other Environmental Partners
https://ecoclub.com/ – ‘Vagabond Tours are proud members of Eco-Club – International Ecotourism Club is the original ecological tourism portal and professional social network, established in 1999 in Athens, with the aim of promoting the philosophy and practice of Ecological Tourism. As a leading small group Tour Operator we believe in promoting sustainable and responsible travel.’
http://www.birdwatchireland.ie/ – One of the most respected wildlife associations in Ireland, Birdwatch do a fantastic job educating people of Ireland’s birdlife, as well as recording bird numbers and working to preserve their natural habitats. We are proud to be a member of Birdwatch Ireland.