For many years tourism was seen to be an environmentally friendly economic development option. Tourists consume experiences, not material goods, was the thought. They can travel lightly and responsibly, leave only footprints, support local cultures, inject valuable dollars into rural areas, and even (holy grail of holy grails) contribute to world peace through economic development and increased understanding between people of different cultures. When the calculations are done however, tourism’s impact is high, and rising.

An article in The Independent (07/05/2018) summarises the most recent (and thorough) study calculating the carbon emissions associated with tourism. The authors of the study have a piece in The Conversation discussing their research.


It’s basic findings are:

• Tourism contributes 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions
• Transport, shopping and food are the main contributors


To give some idea of the transport numbers, in 2013, international travel was responsible for 23% of the global carbon footprint of tourism (so domestic flights, and all other forms of transport are not included). A study by Mountain Riders calculated that 75% of CO2 emitted during a winter ski holiday in France is simply the transport (generally car or plane). Which means that the other 25% includes the ski lifts, heating the chalet, cooking the food etc. So if you want to tackle one key thing, transport would appear to be it.

But travel, but its very definition, involves transport. Is it possible for it to be otherwise? We can virtually travel (games, computers) but as we all know, there is simply nothing like actually moving and seeing with your own eyes, smelling, touching, breathing in another place. The more money we have, the more we travel, and our demand appears to be insatiable – we keep travelling more as we become richer (regardless of how green we think we are) and it doesn’t appear to taper off. What to do?


The authors conclude that flying less (and less distance) is the number one rule. And offsetting is the number two.

In the same way we have now come to understand the carbon emissions associated with using the internet are much larger than originally imagined, even though we again think we are only consuming an experience, travelling is an experience that is high in tonnes of CO2 emitted. While there are no magic pills, offsetting schemes provide the only way to minimise these impacts. A NY Times article here discusses travel and carbon offsetting.

Since January 2019 all our holidays have included an offset amount on the invoice. We donate this money to The Converging World who invest in reforestation and renewable energy schemes in the UK and India.


Some alternative options you might like to investigate independently are: Ekos (NZ)Greening AustraliaThe Good Traveller (USA).

This article from the Guardian gives some additional background to carbon offsetting. As does this article from Choice Australia.

We use The Converging World’s carbon calculator below to calculate the amount to add to your invoice. We convert it to Euros and round it up. At the end of each season we will make one donation of the total amount we have collected. Try it out for yourself!


The French Mountain Riders Association (of which we are a member), like the American Association Protect Our Winters (and its UK offshoot), work to raise awareness of climate change in the skiing and outdoor sports communities. Join up, support their projects, jump into action if you can… It’s all good. The following piste map from POW helps to think about how we can change our own actions and then go on to influence others…


Reduction in meat consumption

All the Pyrenean Odysseys team are pretty much on the same page here, all somewhere on the spectrum from “flexitarian” to vegan. One way I found is simply to not buy meat any more. I still eat meat – if I'm invited somewhere, and at restaurants if there isn’t a vegetarian option. If my husband and two meat loving teenage boys want to eat meat at home then they can buy and cook it themselves, but if I cook, its vegetarian. We all eat plenty of meat out and about so an easy way to reduce consumption is just to cut it out at home. Over the last 10 years the evidence has mounted and been confirmed, eating less meat is the number 1 thing we can do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Organic & Vegetarian breakfast and Wine Bar

At Hotel Les Templiers, breakfast is a meat free zone (we still have dairy and eggs). We have opened an organic bar with some bits and pieces to eat, also vegetarian. There are plenty of lovely things to drink, nice cheese, good hummus and cruditées in summer, and in winter, soup, hot potatoes, nachos. Just what the doctor ordered with a glass of natural wine (see here if you are asking “what is natural wine?”).

Offset donation

Starting for winter 2019 we are automatically calculating the carbon emissions for all Pyrenean Odysseys client’s transport for any holiday we sell. We will include it on your invoice and then make one big donation at the end of each season of all the money collected to The Converging World, a Bristol based charity investing in renewable energy projects in India and the UK. Transport is by far the biggest part of the total carbon emissions in a holiday package, so this is the largest item in our business’ carbon emissions. Even though we don’t sell air tickets we do incite people to buy them and come on holiday. So we need to offer a way to offset the carbon emissions generated. If you are already offsetting your emissions another way just let us know and we’ll remove the offset from your invoice. And obviously, if you come by train or bus your offset will be significantly smaller.


Our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint

To offset our own emissions we do a range of things within our own households and properties.

We have bought farm land here in France which has been taken out of the industrial farming system and now simply grows hay for the local farmer, and is fertilised with  only the manure from the cows that eat that hay. We have land in Australia that is simply regenerating forest. All our guides grow their own veges and most have chickens which recycle food scraps and supply eggs. Dan and Beccie have a full permaculture garden supplying a large part of their diet (and are launching a vegan food truck), Richard does plenty of things too numerous to cite, and we all buy locally and eat organically for the most part.

We pay into an offset scheme to offset our flights to Australia and offset any flights taken by guides as part of their work with us.

Work is ongoing in Hotel Les Templiers and Hotel des Cimes to improve heating and hot water production. We have insulated our attics, insulated our north and east facing external walls, have installed double glazing in all rooms, keep shutters closed and curtains in rooms to avoid heat loss in winter and to keep the rooms cool in summer, have insulated between radiators and external walls (this showed up on the thermal imaging as a factor) and all sorts of other bits and pieces. We are moving on to finding a replacement for our old fuel oil boiler. As we have no outside space, and are opposite a classified monument, solar, geothermal, gas, heat pump and wind are all out. In any case, over the next couple of years the old fuel boiler will be out the door! In the meantime we have installed three large hot water tanks with heat pumps so our sanitary hot water will be fully electric.

We have a small plot of land above the village and a friend is developing her permaculture garden there. She supplies us with vegetables for most of the summer, and also some bits and pieces for the café in the hotel. We hope to develop this over the years to come. The most excellent thing about this land is that it allows us to have a huge compost heap for all the scraps from the two hotels.

All fresh fruit and vegetable used in the hotel (and our personal supply) is organic and regionally sourced – which means southern and western France. This means we eat (and serve to our clients) only produce that is in season, and organic.

We recycle all that is recyclable.

We pick up hitchhikers around the valley, and we use car sharing and public transport for our personal trips, along with optimising our car trips every time we go somewhere making sure we do as many things as possible in one day rather than making multiple trips.

We design car free holidays to encourage people to come by train and bus.

What we need to do now is put more numbers on all this, rather than just calculating the transport part (which is easy). This is our aim for the next couple of years (2021-2023) so by 2025 we can safely say we are carbon neutral and know it is in fact as true as it can be.