Archive for Responsible Tourism

Carbon Offsetting… It’s only fair

 It’s only fair…

As you psyche yourself up for the challenge you have set yourself, focussed on achieving your goals and raising much needed funds for your selected charity, we think it’s only fair we ensure that you can rest easy with regard to your impact on the environment.

So, five years ago we made a decision to offset carbon emissions from all our staff and customer flights, helping to protect the environment and improve the lives of millions of people across the world. We are delighted to report that we have now offset over 10,000 tonnes of CO2, that’s like taking more than 3000 cars off the road for a year.

I hear the sceptics amongst you ask – does carbon offsetting really help the environment?

We are convinced that it does. Even with the most determined efforts to cut emissions, we are all still responsible for carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere. We can choose to ignore this and take no action. Or we can take responsibility and ensure that an equivalent amount of carbon is reduced elsewhere by carbon reduction projects.

And, as renowned environmentalist Jonathan Porritt recently said:

“If we are serious about tackling climate change – and the latest evidence from the Arctic underlines the urgency of doing so – then sound, science-based offsets should be a vital part of our toolkit. We simply cannot achieve the scale and speed of carbon reductions required by curbing our own emissions alone. But by investing in best quality offsets, we can start to make the sweeping cuts needed – while at the same time helping improve people’s quality of life in the here and now. It honestly should be a ‘no brainer’!” 

We work with industry experts ClimateCare to support projects that not only cut carbon emissions but save lives. How is that possible? Through offsetting emissions with world first, award winning projects like Carbon for Water.

This short video will tell you more in a few minutes than I could explain in the next ten pages, but in short, the project distributes simple gravity fed water filters, providing safe water to 4.5 million people in Kenya.

The filters mean women and girls no longer need to spend hours every day, collecting firewood to boil water and making it safe to drink. In this way the project cuts more than 2 million tonnes of CO2 a year. It also reduces waterborne diseases and reduces health problems caused by exposure to smoky fires.

Projects like this are made possible by money generated through sale of the carbon reductions to companies like us. And we are proud to support them on your behalf.

To learn more about all our charity challenges, and find out how else we get involved with responsible tourism you can read our Responsible Tourism policy here, and you can visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com . To keep up to date on all our challenge news, you can subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Getaway to a greener challenge!

So you want to raise money for a Charity that is close to your heart? But you are also very aware of Global issues and are determined to make a difference worldwide?

Then our newly launched Cambodia Jungle Trek, aimed at directly ‘giving back’ to the communities and Rainforest of the Cardamom Mountains, might be the challenge for you, as we looked at putting this challenge together with Community Eco Tourism especially in mind.

The Cambodia Jungle Trek starts and ends in the village of Chi Phat, located in the heart of the Southern Cardamoms Protected Forest, it is a location that has been severely affected by warfare, commercial logging and hunting.  Chi Phat is also known as the birthplace of the Community-Based Ecotourism Site (CBAT), an organisation that has set the standard in the country, providing a wide array of green activities

Preservation of the Cardamom Mountains requires working in close partnership with the communities living in the region. Decades of instability have left many families hovering around the poverty line. However, in providing for their families, many have engaged in activities that have actually put the region’s wildlife and forests at risk.

By participating in one of our Charity Challenges, it is not only your chosen charity that benefits, Charity Challenge also donates on your behalf to a project that directly benefits the local area of the trek. In the case of the Cambodia Jungle Trek,  we donate to the work of Wildlife Alliance.

Wildlife Alliance is the leader in direct protection to forests and wildlife in the Southeast Asian tropical belt.  Their mission is to combat deforestation, wildlife extinction, climate change, and poverty by partnering with local communities and governments.

So how do they do this?

Wildlife Alliance’s focus is directly on the people of the Cardamom Area performing everyday duties to sustain a living without destroying the rainforest, instead of training a few teachers to return to these communities to convey our ideas. On example of their good work can be foundhere  – After 18 months of campaigning, Wildlife Alliance has finally obtained the cancellation of a banana plantation that would have cut the Southern Cardamom Rainforest in half.

To check out their mission statement and find out more, follow the below link.  http://www.wildlifealliance.org/mission-strategy/

So what made Charity Challenge choose Cambodia and Wildlife Alliance?

The idea of raising awareness and helping our participants to experience firsthand the direct results of the work locally of Wildlife Alliance is an opportunity of a lifetime. If the experience of trekking in Prime Rainforests and sleeping amongst wildlife in their home territory is not enough we wanted to give you the opportunity to meet the beautiful people of Cambodia and help raise awareness of the effects of deforestation that is caused not just to the wildlife within the rainforests and the villagers surrounding the area but how cutting down the vital rainforests has an effect globally.

When you join the Cambodia Jungle Trek you will have the opportunity to visit two field sites of Wildlife Alliance and witness their good work first hand. You will stay in Homestays in Chi Phat and experience the local communities around the Cardamom Mountains but also on returning to Phnom Penh visit Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center.

If you’ve been inspired to take on the challenge of a lifetime with our Cambodia Jungle Trek and change the world for the better, you can learn more about and book onto the challenge here.

To learn more about all our charity challenges, and find out how else we get involved with responsible tourism. Please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com, and to keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Climate Care helps us beat the audit blues!

It’s audit time again, and our financial team are having end of financial year blues! I’m sure many of you out there can appreciate this feeling… it’s something that comes around once a year. Rather than experiencing the infamous post-Christmas depression, it’s that time of year when spreadsheets and number crunching starts to take over our lives, and the office turns into a frenzy of paperwork and reports…

That’s the bad news. The good news is that each year, around this time, we at Charity Challenge make our annual carbon offset payment to climate and development experts, ClimateCare, the excellent organization with which we work to offset the emissions produced from each flight, for every participant and staff member who has travelled with us the last year.

To put it briefly, over the last year we sent over 1500 participants on challenges around the world. For each person, we use ClimateCare’s calculator to calculate how many tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere on each overseas flight. We then make a payment at the end of each year, which goes towards ClimateCare’s projects which  not only reduce carbon emissions, but also deliver wider social, health and environmental benefits, making a real,  difference to people in some of the poorest areas of the world.

This year we are making a huge payment of just over £23 000! And in fact, the reductions made from 2008 to now have been enough to ground the equivalent of about 20 full flights (assumed 348 passengers) from London Heathrow to New York JFK.

We are amazingly proud and pleased to be affiliated with ClimateCare. As a company, ClimateCare develops emission reduction projects throughout some of the world’s less-developed countries[SB1] , with a particular emphasis on sustainable development. The offsets we purchase help to fund a portfolio of projects in many cases  situated in countries where we have challenges, such as Brazil and Indonesia. An example is the Wayang Windu Geothermal plant in Indonesia.  Carbon finance is funding the second phase of this power plant, which uses heat from under the earth’s surface, displacing fossil-fuelled grid electricity.

Responsibility in tourism is becoming more and more pressing, as scientists, environmentalists and experts within the travel industry continue to discover how detrimental a poorly operated travel expedition can be to the environment, societies and communities visited. Think about all the waste created by fast food; vast amounts of packaging; electricity and air conditioning left on in rooms; excessive use of water to rehydrate and cool down, and, obviously, the emissions given off in international flights. Added up this sounds difficult to combat. Why not just give up travelling abroad altogether? The fact is that tourism plays a huge role in creating jobs and bringing in money to local economies. Being responsible is a duty of all tour operators, in order to help to create better places to visit, as well as a positive experience for the local people by engaging them in our activities as much as possible.

At Charity Challenge this responsibility begins in transit, by helping to fund projects which fund clean renewable energy sources and improve energy efficiency in some of the countries we visit. More importantly, it helps us to repair some of the damage that we cause to the atmosphere when arranging international flights for our participants.

To read about the projects you can visit ClimateCare’s website, and to find out more about Charity Challenge’s dedication and commitment to making our operations more ‘responsible’, check out our Responsible Tourism pages and download our RT policy. These are soon to be revamped, so watch this space!

Back to Brazil

Our veteran Team Leader (and blogger!) Trevor Gibbs is going to Brazil this October to lead our Brazil Community challenge, and is thinking back to what he experienced there 12 months ago…

“I am off back out to Brazil this coming October, to lead a team of volunteers into the slums of São Paulo. Now many might see that as a testament to a mind laid waste by Larium and swamp fever, but to me it sounds like the start of a whole new adventure.

I was last in Brazil 12 months ago, working in the north-east of the country for a company called Charity Challenge. The job back then was to look after a pair of teams working on the renovation of two crèches in the heart of the São Francisco Valley, near a town called Petrolina. I remember us arriving at work that first day, to be greeted with a series of concrete shells that were overgrown with weeds and littered with the broken reminders of years of neglect. The scale of the work was daunting to say the least. The playgrounds were a tangled mass of weeds, rusting metal and old car tyres, whilst the classrooms themselves were little more than a dingy collection of sombre rooms filled with cobwebs and mosquitoes.

Over the coming days though we cleared the jungle and removed the rubbish, built walls and sandpits and began to transform the walls of the crèches into canvases of colourful murals. We overcame heat and dust, giant toads and limping tarantulas. We cleaned floors and windows, tiled bathrooms and inflated enough balloons to launch a small car. We also had fun! Our mission had been to help create an inspiring and safe environment for the children and by the end of the project we were a mass of grinning smiles and grubby, tear-streaked faces.

There are few things in life more likely to raise the spirit than the sound of a child’s laughter, especially when that child has grown up in a community denied the basics that most of us have grown up taking for granted. I still recall my last day there, looking down at the grinning face of a small child covered in face paint and clutching a smiley balloon…

…Twelve months on and I have no idea what faces me in São Paulo, but if last year was anything to go by, it promises to be interesting…”

To find out more about Trevor and his adventures, please visit his website at www.agamaconsultants.co.uk. To learn more about our Brazil Community challenge, and all the treks that we offer, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Fighting back against organised crime with our Etna Volcanic Adventure’s responsible tourism policy

Sicily is best known for Mt Etna, Europe’s most active and explosive volcano – indeed we regularly take teams of trekkers up there on our Etna Volcanic Adventure, and second most well known for its heritage in Greek mythology and it’s beautiful untouched landscapes.

The third association on the list is not so pleasant. The era of ‘Gangster Rackets’ may seem long past to us, but unfortunately for the people of Sicily it is still very much a reality as around 80 per cent of Sicilian businesses pay up a “pizzo”. “pizzo” is the term used for ‘protection money’ paid by a business to the Mafia, usually coerced and constituting extortion. Businesses that refuse to pay the pizzo may suffer extreme harassment.

In return for the “pizzo”, businesses receive “protection” and can enlist the neighbourhood “Mafiosi” to cut through bureaucracy or resolve disputes with other tradesmen. Collecting the pizzo keeps the Mafia in touch with the community and allows them to “control their territory”.  According to Antimafia police estimates, organized crime collect about €30 billion a year in pizzo, not just in Sicily but in Calabria, Naples and the North.

However, there are organisations out there that are fighting back against the God Father mentality! One such organisation is Addio Pizzo, an anti-racket focussed charity who works to create a new way of thinking for Sicilian entrepreneurs and break the mafia hold. It also looks to protect local companies who may be victims of the Mafia and raises awareness so that more companies and local people in Sicily are not affected by this.

For every trek that we operate, we donate approximately $20 per participant to a local community project to help with education, the environment, or healthcare. So by participating in our Etna Volcanic Adventure; you are making a vital contribution to Addio Pizzo. So by signing up this amazing trek, not only do you get the chance to summit Europe’s most active volcano! You also get to effectively “stick it to the mob”. What more reasons could you need!

To learn more about all our charity challenges, and find out how else we get involved with responsible tourism. Please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com, and to keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Earth Day – Why not make it every day?

I saw a funny picture on the Internet yesterday. It was an immense tornado circling over Kansas just last week. The caption read ‘A new poll suggests the public feels Global Warming is real’.

Considering that fears about drastic climate change due to the overheating of the planet were first expounded by scientists over 100 years ago, how is it possible that ‘The Public’ have only just realised that this theory is very much a reality? Sunday the 22nd of April 2012 (yesterday)  marked the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day, a celebration designed to educate the world’s population (using the catchy slogan ‘Mobilise the Earth) on the catastrophic effects of climate change and global warming. It is now the biggest civic observance in the world, working hard to convince ‘The Public’ to take their heads out of the sand.

The crew at Earth Day are mobilising billions of people across the world to participate in activities and contribute to their ‘Billion Acts of Green’, which is an amazing way for a regular Joe Bloggs to do anything, something, to make a change. But how far does this go? Are people using Earth Day to make themselves feel better about the rest of the year when they don’t cycle to work, don’t eat locally sourced produce and leave the tap running while washing up?

Perhaps instead of assuaging our guilty consciences by recycling for one day, we should take the time to think about the civic attitudes and environmental concerns that sparked off this global movement in the first place. It isn’t enough simply to say that we will ‘take shorter showers’, or, as I saw in one of the Acts of Green, ‘I will not flush the toilet for a day’. Fair enough, the water saved by doing this is pretty good, particularly if you live in a family of 3 or 4 people. But how sustainable is it? Wouldn’t it be better to, say, install a water-efficient showerhead as a more permanent measure, or instead of shortening your shower by 10 minutes for one day, make the conscious effort to shorten it for a minute or two permanently, saving you up to 150 gallons per month. Good for the water bill as well as the earth!

It’s just too easy to see Earth Day as a day where we can say that we are ‘environmentally conscious’. If you can walk to the shops instead of driving for one day, then why not do it every Sunday? Or every day? We can’t get complacent about this. This is especially true within the travel sector, where long-haul flights are massively detrimental to the environment. These flights are, unfortunately, an unavoidable part of running a tour operating business – this is why at Charity Challenge we have linked up with Climate Care to offset the emissions of the international flights of all our participants. By investing in development projects in areas like energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and forest restoration, we at least know that we are contributing something to the damaging effects that flying has on the environment. For more information on Climate Care and carbon offsetting, please click here.

To help foster understanding on the connection between Earth Day and the Charity Challenge mentality, we need to make all of our clients, charity partners and participants see that responsible tourism is not just a marketing fad for us. A good sustainability program can make a real difference to the planet, and most importantly, it really isn’t difficult to do. We source local guides and use locally produced food, which brings jobs and money into the economy in more than just a fleeting way. We strive to ensure that all the local accommodation used is ‘green’ and not wasteful of water, gas or electricity, and for each and every participant travelling with us, we make a donation to a local project or charity in the country they are visiting. These are just some of the things that we do – to read more on how Charity Challenge support Earth Day every day, and what you can do on your travels to contribute, please read the Responsible Tourism section of our website.

So to summarise, the crux of the matter is this – remember those cute but deadly Polar Bear babies in Frozen Planet? Imagine that the Polar ice melts and takes out Greenland in a deluge of water. No more fluffy bears, or Santa Claus for that matter. The weather in the UK turns weird… no wait, that’s happening already… and the price of fuel goes up. Oh, that one did too. All of these things realistically could and in some cases are happening! It may be too late to prevent it, but we need to try.

Join the global movement by visiting www.earthday.org/2012. And don’t stop there. Try to make Earth Day last EVERY day.

Turn off your lights for World Earth Hour 2012!

In the dark about World Earth Hour? You’re on the right track!

Hundreds of millions of people, businesses and governments each year unite across the globe to support the huge environmental event that is Earth Hour. For one hour a year, the world is urged to Switch Off. Lights, printers, computers, home equipment, televisions… anything that can leave its trace on the Earth’s atmosphere is shut down for just 60 minutes. Join the climate change revolution between 8.30 and 9.30pm tomorrow, Saturday 31st March, and make your stand on this inspirational day.

The WWF-sponsored initiative began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, and since then has continued every year to unite more-and-more supporters across the globe. The aim? To not only show support for climate change action, but to raise awareness of sustainability issues among corporate businesses and individuals worldwide, and to encourage world governments to act. In 2011 alone, more than 5200 cities and towns in 135 countries worldwide switched their lights off for Earth Hour, which has sent a powerful message out for action on climate change.

So what can we do to help?

  1. Before leaving the office, why not take the time to shut down your computer properly, as well as any attached printers, and disconnect from the plug.
  2. Make sure that all your colleagues get into the habit of doing the same. Lead the charge!
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate… tell your clients, partners, suppliers, colleagues and anyone else in your office block… spread the message! The more people who receive the information, the more the message will spread and be listened to.
  4. Go to the website at http://www.earthhour.org/. There is LOADS of information on what you as an individual can do to support the initiative.
  5. Remember, Earth Hour might just be for 60 minutes, but go ‘beyond the hour’ and carry on the good work. On The Earth Hour website you can read inspiring stories from across the world about the efforts, small and large, of different nations to spread awareness about global warming.

And remember – it takes 200 litres of water to produce one latte. How many cups of coffee do you have a day? Why not take a day off tomorrow. Although our office isn’t open on a Saturday, we at Charity Challenge are going to ensure that anything electrical is unplugged before home time this evening. Do the same, and encourage your friends and colleagues to join you!

To learn more about all our charity challenges, and find out how else we get involved with responsible tourism. Please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com, and to keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Responsible Tourism in Morocco With Charity Challenge

We currently run two challenges in Morocco, The High Atlas Summit Trek and the Sahara desert trek, and it’s a very rare challenger who doesn’t fall in love with the vibrant culture and panoramic landscapes of Morocco. So we wanted to give all our past, present and future Morocco challengers a bit more information as to on where their $20 local community donation goes and what a huge difference it makes.

In Morocco, we give your donations to the wonderful SOS Children’s villages, who help us to make sure the money is channelled to those that really need it; SOS Children cares for vulnerable children affected by poverty, disease, conflict, and natural disasters.  They provide orphans and abandoned children with a loving home and a family for life in their SOS Children’s Villages. They also provide support to families at risk of fragmentation in an effort to reduce instances of child abandonment and neglect.

In Morocco they have a village like this in Ait-Ourir, about 40km from Marrakesh at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, a place we actually drive past when on our way to High Atlas. The village was set up in 1985 to provide help for the communities living in the mountain villages and also from those living in the toughest areas of Marrakech. The village in Ait-Ourir has 14 family houses and provides protection for many orphaned and abandoned children from the area. It is a place where the children never need to fear that they will be thrown out and somewhere where they will receive continued support right the way into their adult lives. One of the most exciting things about the village is that, thanks to donations such as those from our participants, they can also provide the children with an education.

Education is a basic human right, but unfortunately there are still many places where access to education is a privilege – even though education is vital for breaking the vicious circle of poverty and goes hand in hand with development.

An SOS Nursery School and an SOS School also form part of the SOS Children’s Village in Ait Ourir, and are among the reasons why we are so proud of this project. The nursery, as with all SOS Children’s Villages, is also attended by children from the surrounding area, meaning, that those children growing up in the rural villages surrounding Ait Ourir are given a better start in life. In Marrakesh itself, there are also five SOS Youth Homes that are home to the older children, and aids them in making the transition from family life to independence, under the guidance of a youth leader.

We’re very proud to be supporting such a fantastic cause and making a real difference to the lives of many young people in the areas where we trek, and this is something that we couldn’t do without you, our fantastic participants, both past and present. So next time you are out training for your challenge in Morocco, reminiscing with your photo album, or thinking about the amazing funds you raised/are raising for your chosen charity, we hope you will also be proud of and  spare a thought for those in Morocco whose lives you have changed. A huge THANK YOU to you all!

To learn more about all our charity challenges, and find out how else we get involved with responsible tourism. Please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com, and to keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

World Water Day

We’ve heard about a very good cause that we thought we would post up on here for you all to get involved with – World Water Day. Which just happens to be today!

World Water day has been celebrated on the 22nd March ever since 1993 and is organised by the United Nations. It is the one day of the year when all UN member nations and NGO’s from around the world get together to discuss issues concerning world water resources and countries can speak frankly on water issues that specifically affect their regions and discuss how these can be resolved. On the 22nd March the day is entirely devoted to this subject.

The day is used by Charities and the World Water Council to highlight many problems around water we have at the moment. For example did you know that a billion people at the moment are living without access to any safe drinking water? The day aims to highlight these terrible facts to us all.

So what can we do to help – well the UN suggests the following;

  1. Stop wasting food and drink; did you know that 30% of the food we produce is wasted? That’s 1.3 billion tonnes a year of food and packaging that could have been put to a better use.
  2. Get a healthier diet; Did you know that an unhealthy diet is also a source of waste? Swapping to healthier, less processed and less packaged food you will be limiting waste packaging and reducing impacts on water.
  3. Try to eat and drink sustainably; a sustainable diet with organic or locally produced food will usually have a smaller water foot print and tends to lead to a healthier diet anyway.
  4. Get involved with protecting our forests; forests reduce the affects of flooding, droughts, prevent soil erosion, landslides and desertification. So if you know of a tree replanting project nearby or of a campaign to save a local forest – get involved!
  5. Try to reuse and recycle water at home; pop left over drinking water back in the kettle for tea, collect rain water to water your indoor plants and make sure taps are always fully turned off – there are many things you can do to make sure you are using water effectively.
  6. Don’t forget; there is also plenty you can do whilst you are away on a challenge, making sure that you don’t have your towels changed each day, keeping showers to a minimum in countries where you know water supply is a real issue etc.

In short there is lot that we can do and lots that we can learn, I know we here at Charity Challenge are open for picking up a few hints and tips and are looking forward to celebrating World Water Day!

For more information about how to get involved please go to; http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/

To learn more about all our charity challenges, and how else we get involved with responsible tourism. Please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com, and to keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.