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Sustainable Tourism

Our Sustainable Tourism Mission

  • Achieved ✔️ Reduce our energy consumption and become carbon neutral by the end of 2016.
  • Achieved ✔️Work towards Ecotourism Certification by the end of 2017.
  • In Progress ⏳ Continually re-assess all our processes to reduce our environmental impact across all areas of the business.
  • In ProgressEncourage our suppliers and other members of the tourism related business community in Ireland to adopt similar practices.
  • In ProgressContinue to nurture and respect Ireland’s landscape, culture and heritage by bringing and educating our small group, low-impact tours to rural Ireland.

Vagabond  – A Sustainable and Respectful Tour Company

We’ve been in operation 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.

Eco tourism Ireland gold award cert

We’re Proud to be Leaders in Sustainability

In 2017, we were awarded Ecotourism Ireland’s Gold Level Certification. We’re proud that Vagabond is the only tour operator to hold this certification.

According to Ecotourism Ireland, this award means:

“These Ecotourism approved experiences are at the forefront of the industry. They are provided by businesses dedicated to educating tourists about the natural world and local culture. They are striving to be environmentally innovative and socially responsible. Their ecotourism products have a positive impact on the environment, local communities, and their clients. They will invest both time and money to maintain positive ecotourism practices.”

Our co-founder and co-owner, Rob Rankin, said:

“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.”

Winner of the Green Tourism & Entertainment Award at the Green Awards 2018

We were recognised for our sustainable ecotourism efforts at the Green Awards 2018 by being awarded the Green Tourism & Entertainment Award.

This award further underlined our commitment as a tour operator to providing the most sustainable and environmentally friendly tours of Ireland for our guests, our suppliers and the communities we visit.

Carbon Neutral Adventure Travel Company 

Sustainable Tourism Ireland - Responsible Adventure Travel Company

M.D. of Vagabond Tours Rob Rankin planting trees with the Woodland Trust in  Brackfield Wood, Northern Ireland.

In 2016 Vagabond partnered with The Woodland Trust and the One Million Trees in One campaign to begin the process of offsetting our Co2 emissions. This means offsetting not just for 2016, but also retrospectively for previous years.

In 2017, we followed up the 2016 planting (of 110 trees) with the planting of a further 125 trees.

Our Sustainability Programme

We are very conscious of the energy consumed by our vehicles, our office and the air travel undertaken by guests to reach Ireland.

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:

Tree planting

Ireland based planting. Our aim is to plant on the island of Ireland, with the added bonus of reforesting one of Europe’s least forested countries (it was once covered in ancient hibernian forest). This will recreate natural habitats for Ireland’s flora and fauna.

Sustainable Tourism Ireland - Responsible Adventure Travel Company

Rob Rankin & son with members of the Woodland Trust.

Woodland Trust: After careful research and planning Vagabond decided to team up 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 125 trees in Brackfield Wood, Northern Ireland in 2017, adding to the 110 trees already planted in 2016. These trees in time will go on to absorb over 220 tonnes of CO2.

We will not only continue this initiative but are in the process of further expanding this project… Watch this space!

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.

Find more information on Brackfield Wood

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?

If it is the case that global warming is a myth, we will have at least planted trees and woodland for future generations to enjoy! So it’s a win-win.

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.

Off-set your carbon footprint here:

Reducing Energy Consumption and WasteSustainable Tourism Ireland - Responsible Adventure Travel Company

Environmental Awareness 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:

Electricity Consumption

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.

Solar Panels

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.

Water Consumption

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.

Office recycling

Almost everything that comes into the office is carefully recycled. We clean and separate 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!

Vehicle Related:

Fuel efficient vehicles:

At first glance to you might think that operating larger vehicles is not an eco-friendly way of visitors travelling around Ireland. 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).

On some tours, we still operate our older Land Rover Defenders with a larger 2.5l turbo diesel engine. But even these are very fuel efficient per person, as they can carry 12 people at a time.

Sustainable Tourism Ireland - Responsible Adventure Travel CompanyDriving practices

Our drivers are trained by experts 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.

Off-road driving

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.

Water-free vehicle washing

It is estimated that a car wash uses about 200 litres of water. 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:Sustainable Tourism Ireland - Responsible Adventure Travel Company

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.  

Respect wildlife:

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

Zero Waste Week

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.

We are so proud of our Vagabonds, Driftwooders and VagaGuides for showing Ireland some TLC. Thank you!

Small local communities:

dingle Sustainable Tourism Ireland - Responsible Adventure Travel Company

Beautiful Dingle Harbour

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.


Local suppliers

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

sean daly - Sustainable Tourism Ireland - Responsible Adventure Travel Company

Local Dingle supplier Sean Daly, gives a demonstration of crystal cutting in his workshop.









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 – ‘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.’ – 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.

Award winning Tours - Some of our latest awards

graphic showing three awards won by Vagabond ToursSEE MORE..