Carbon Audit 2014

Carbon audit of Touring programme, 2014


Last year, we carried out a rather crude carbon audit on the 2012 touring programme, making some gross assumptions and this gave us a baseline for discussion and action. It showed that, in 2012, the 10% of our activity to remote destinations creates slightly more carbon dioxide than the 90% to European destinations.

For this year, we have some real and more detailed information for the 2014 Touring Programme. Each tour leader was asked to complete a short web-form report on how members travelled to the tour, and we've just completed the analysis of this information.

As it happens, we've been unfortunately successful in reducing carbon emissions for remote destinations this year, mainly because several planned remote trips didn't take place! Through misfortune, we've achieved the result in 2014 that we aspire to achieve in 2015, but it will be harder to maintain this in 2015, with a more complete programme.

For European trips, 61% of us travelled to tours by air, but more than 15% of us chose to make  low carbon journeys. In 2014, we estimate that the average net carbon emission for each tourer was about 350 kg per trip, compared to an estimate of 500 kg for 2012. For the remote trip, the carbon emission per tourer was about 2500 kg, but this was offset to zero through the purchase of carbon credits.

Carbon Audit - approach

This year, we asked tour leaders to complete a short web-form, after the tour, asking how members travelled to the start of the tour. We tried to keep this as lightweight as possible, and leaders could complete this online, send a paper or email summary later, or delegate it to a tour member. We had a heartening 67% response rate from tour leaders, so a big thank you to all those who carefully collected the information.

The rest of the report analyses the information that members have given us, and we haven't included any estimates for unreported tours. Analysing the numbers, and converting to carbon is not an exact science, and different carbon calculators give different absolute results. None of the conclusions in the report would be affected by these differences.

We shall be seeking feedback on how to improve the process for 2015.

Carbon Audit – overall results

Last year, the most interesting information was the comparison between European and remote trips. This year, we can compare the utilisation and carbon emissions from different modes of travel.

Several adventurous and remote trips were planned for 2014, but most of these  didn't take place, for various reasons. The tour that did take place, the Central Rockies Traverse, actually offset all its carbon emissions, so the net impact of our remote trips was zero this year. However, this goes against the recent trends, and the programme for 2015 includes a number of trips that go outside Europe.

The first chart shows a breakdown of the number of members who travelled by each mode of transport. It also includes a category for those who offset their travel, and these are not included in the other totals. Not surprisingly, the great majority have travelled by air from the UK. About a quarter of members travelled by car, and this is discussed in more detail below.

It is encouraging to note that more than 15% of us have chosen to make a low carbon trip. This includes members travelling by rail or coach, offsetting their travel or driving with a full car.

For completeness, we include a comparison between remote and European trips, for the 67% of trips for which we have travel information. The European totals includes tours to Norway and Slovenia, of course. The chart shows the total number of tourers and the gross total of the Carbon emissions; we also show the net emissions after allowing for the purchase of any offsets.

Carbon Audit – European tours

We can analyse the information from European tours in more detail. We have estimated the carbon emissions for each journey (more than 200) where the details have been provided through the Carbon tour audit, and making a few simplifying assumptions. The following chart shows the averages for the journeys made by Eagles, for different modes of travel.

A typical return journey by air emits about half a tonne of carbon, whereas a return rail trip is less than 50kg. Travelling by car can vary enormously, depending on the car and number of passengers, but our estimate of the average is roughly half the emissions from flying. This average conceals a large variation, clear even from the limited data that we requested.

In the first place, cars very enormously in their emissions, and this is reflected in vehicle taxation. A large car carrying only the driver can have a higher carbon cost than an economy flight. On the other hand, a more modest car with four passengers can emit less than 100kg for the return journey – though this is still two or three times that from travelling by rail.

We wanted to keep the survey simple, so we didn't request carbon emission data. From the information you did provide, most car journeys carried two people, as indicated by the average figure above. There were a small number of very full journeys, and a smaller number of singletons.
The superficial survey didn't probe very deeply, and the true average may be much lower. In particular, many Eagles combine a number of tours and other holidays around one trip from the UK, and the survey didn't capture this.


Given the different bases for the analysis, there is only limited value in comparing these results with the 2012 survey. A more interesting exercise is to look at the results for European tours, and calculate the contributions that reduced our overall average.

If everybody had actually travelled by air, our average carbon emission would have been about 450 kg. Some people travelled by rail, more people travelled by car, and a few people offset their carbon emission, and the result was an average of about 350kg. The contributions to this reduction are shown here:

Each of these choices by members has made a difference to the average for the club. We will continue to encourage members to choose low carbon options.
Steve Wright
July, 2014
Climate Care, Eagles