Every year on April 22, the world comes together to celebrate Earth Day. This day marks the anniversary of the first celebration in 1970, and so much more. It represents the birth of the modern environmental movement, the development of public consciousness about the need for climate action, and the recognition that climate change is threatening the planet we call our home.
It’s no secret that, here at EF, we believe the world is an amazing place worth protecting. That’s why, on March 9, 2021, EF announced Hello Zero—our vision and commitment to voluntarily offset all of our global carbon emissions. In addition to driving toward responsible travel, our goal with Hello Zero is two-fold: to be carbon negative every year starting in 2021, and to eventually become historically carbon neutral, removing all of the carbon we have ever emitted, directly or indirectly in association with our programs, since EF’s founding in 1965.
Here’s what our climate action plan looks like today.
“As scientists work to develop innovations to ensure a cleaner future, we, like all businesses, can and should do our part today. We’re proud to be among the first, if not the first, international education organizations to make such an ambitious carbon commitment, and we can’t wait to share our progress with the millions of teachers, students, travelers, and staff who work with us each year. We hope others, both in our industry and beyond, will join us in our commitment to become carbon neutral.”
—Dr. Edward Hult, CEO of EF North America
1. We’ve set a goal to be historically carbon neutral
Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. As they build up in our atmosphere over time, they trap heat—causing the planet to warm and disrupting everything from food production, to clean water availability, to weather patterns.
To combat this, we’re committing to making our travel historically carbon neutral. That means calculating the amount of carbon we’ve emitted from flying, driving buses, and even operating our offices since 1965, and removing the same amount from the atmosphere.
To achieve that goal, we’re aiming to be carbon negative every year moving forward. That involves removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than the amount we emit every 12 months.
The more carbon we can eliminate from our atmosphere, the closer we can get to preventing climate change from getting worse.
2. We’ve created the EF Forest Initiative
The EF Forest Initiative is the first step in our ambitious pursuit of annual carbon negativity, and one of the ways we plan to reach our Hello Zero goal for climate change action. This project creates and conserves forests around the world through partnerships and other initiatives.
For the first year of this initiative, we will plant trees with Eden Reforestation Projects. This nonprofit organization engages local communities in planting, maintaining, and guarding previously deforested areas. They will select sites to plant one million trees in Kenya, Madagascar, and Mozambique. Together, we will grow a series of forests that EF will sponsor.
Every seed planted is non-GMO and either harvested from other mangrove sites or purchased locally. The seeds grow into seedlings at the Eden Reforestation Projects’ nurseries before they’re planted at the sites.
The EF Forest Initiative will prioritize native trees that can withstand ecological stressors, perform an array of ecosystem services like sediment regulation and storm protection, and sequester carbon at high rates. That’s how we’ll create long-term environmental impact.
Like the trees, this climate change action initiative will grow over time as we add more partners and locations.
3. We’re always leaning into responsible travel
Our Hello Zero commitment to carbon neutrality complements our existing Responsible Travel commitments, including our landmark commitment to animal welfare and collaboration with World Animal Protection.
In 2018, we became the first international education company to develop protocols for animal welfare best practices across all programs. Our tours and educational programs avoid all attractions that don’t meet these standards.
This includes our elephant-friendly travel pledge. The elephant tourism industry is one of the biggest offenders of animal cruelty. Thousands of elephants across Asia are captured for elephant rides and other forms of entertainment, and the vast majority of these elephants are exploited, abused, and kept in unacceptable conditions. We have removed all elephant rides and performances from our tours, and we will never work with companies that offer them in any capacity. Learn more about our stand against elephant cruelty.
4. We’re rethinking our day-to-day operations
We’re also expanding our view of how to support climate change initiatives with these smaller efforts that, together, make a big impact.
- Sustainability-focused educational programs and experiences. We’re planning to introduce more programs, trips, and experiences focused around sustainability for travelers, students, and our own team members.
- Operational and supply chain changes. These improvements will reduce carbon emissions, too.
- Support for conservation. On our trips, we prioritize the health of our environment by providing no-impact tourism in fragile ecosystems, as well as learning opportunities at protected sites.
5. We’re providing more eco-friendly travel experiences
If you’re wondering how to get involved in eco-friendly travel, here are a few ways you can support climate action on tour.
- Plant a tree in Costa Rica during the rainy season. After a nature walk in the region’s spectacular Cloud Forest Reserve (where you’ll learn all about Costa Rica’s diverse ecosystem), you’ll head to Heliconia Ranch. There, you’ll learn about coffee production, plant a tree, and help with reforestation efforts. All of this helps reduce your carbon footprint. Get your hands dirty on our Costa Rica: Rainforests, Volcanoes & Wildlife tour in May through November.
- Support Kenyan wildlife at The Giraffe Centre. This preserve is completely dedicated to raising rare giraffes and educating visitors about Kenya’s wildlife and environment. Here, you’ll walk along the Nature Trail, see the world’s tallest animals up close, and even feed the giraffes by hand while supporting the nonprofit. Do it all on your trip to Kenya.
- Sip biodynamic wine in the Casablanca Valley. While on tour in Chile & Argentina, you’ll stop at a boutique, biodynamic winery for a tasting. Biodynamic wines come from biodynamic farming, which avoids pesticides and relies on compost rather than chemical fertilizer.
- Visit some of the most sustainable cities. Nordic countries always tops the list of the greenest places on earth, and it’s no wonder. From residents who bike everywhere to the countries’ commitment to climate-friendly design, there’s plenty for the eco-conscious to love about Scandinavia.
And this is just the beginning. We will add more partners and initiatives to our climate action plan as we continue on our journey. We’ll also introduce digital resources to communicate our goals, as well as regularly report on our progress.
In the meantime, you can explore our eco-friendly tips and tricks to minimize your footprint while traveling.
We hope that you’ll join us in experiencing the world through more eco-friendly travel. Together, we can create a more sustainable future for everyone.
Have you made any efforts to travel more responsibly? Tell us all about it on our Facebook page, or learn more about our environmental initiatives on our website.