Live a little Greener

For 2020 and beyond, we have made the conscious decision to work towards becoming a sustainable business. To help us on our journey, we’ve partnered with sustainable consultancy, ecollective, who are committed to improving the positive impact businesses can have on local communities and the planet. And we believe in it too, which is why we want to lead the way in positive and sustainable changes in the travel industry.

Our Mission

“We believe in doing more and finding extraordinary, which is why we are committed to becoming the most environmentally progressive villa company in the world. By taking urgent action on climate change, our goal at Oliver’s Travels is to become carbon-neutral and be a force for positive change in the travel industry, and wider communities.”

Our 2020 Sustainability Goals

  • To become a carbon-neutral organisation
  • To reduce the CO2 output per villa by 10%
  • To encourage customers to make more sustainable choices and make it easy for them to do so. 

 

#LiveALittleGreener

Our journey so far >

Why did we embark on this journey?

It’s no secret that the travel industry has a significant impact on the environment, from the amount of CO2 being released from flights to the effects of overtourism – when you look at it from this point of view, it sounds like a losing battle. But it’s not, and it shouldn’t be a case of never travelling and experiencing new places or going on a much-needed family holiday… travelling has many benefits when it comes to injecting much-needed funds into local economies, supporting communities, enriching minds and bringing cultures together.

So instead of cutting off travelling altogether, we should be aiming to travel more sustainably, whether that’s offsetting our flight emissions, travelling by train, visiting lesser-known regions, and putting money back into local towns and villages by visiting independent shops, restaurants and tour companies.

There are small, simple changes that can be made to ensure that we all travel and #LiveALittleGreener – it’s not about saying you can’t do something, it’s about looking at better ways to do it.

Read more about sustainable travel.

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Our Sustainability Efforts So Far

We all love a holiday but sometimes the planet doesn't feel quite the same. That's why we've set off on our sustainability journey to make Oliver's Travels more eco-friendly in a number of different ways. From our eco-friendly villas to our tree-planting initiative, we've been taking step by step action on our mission to become a zero-carbon producing villa company. Check out each part of our journey so far:

Our work with Ecollective

We worked with a sustainable consultancy who audited our entire business to work out our carbon footprint; we aim to reduce our score year-on-year to achieve our goal of becoming a carbon-neutral villa company.

Tree planting initiative

We have partnered with TreememberMe, a tree-planting company in Iceland working to reforest one of the worst deforested countries. We will be offsetting our CO2 emissions, as well as planting a tree for every booking in February.

Giving back to the community

We’ve been donating 1% of our profits to CHICKS since 2017 – CHICKS is a charity that provides week-long respite breaks to disadvantaged children, whether they are suffering from neglect, poverty, abuse or living as carers. 

Sustainable collection

Based on our villa audit, we found out what owners are doing in the sustainability space and developed a criterion in order to create a sustainable villa collection.

Villa holidays by train

We pulled together a list of villas that are easy to get to by train – our criteria for this is a journey with a maximum of two trains from London and only a short drive from the train station.

Educating owners and customers

We’ll be encouraging owners to make simple and small changes to be more sustainable and reduce their carbon emissions. We’ll also be encouraging customers to #LiveALittleGreener on their villa holiday and in their everyday life.

Our work with ecollective and our journey

As a business, we are carbon-neutral, the aim is to be a zero-carbon producing business in the future and until we do that, we offset all the carbon produced by our business (which is verified by ecollective).

In our office in London we use a renewable energy provider, and no waste from our business goes to landfill (the waste company we use has a zero landfill policy), we’re working to improve our recycling rates and in the process of banning single-use plastics and coffee cups in the office; we also have a cycle to work scheme.

Villa Nebbiosa in Umbria is carbon neutral.

Our partnership with ecollective

To help us measure the carbon footprint of our business we partnered with ecollective, their approach goes further than global CO2 calculating protocols and helps to highlight the areas which we can improve.

Not happy with just basing our emissions on assumptions, we undertook an audit of our properties to see and hear what is happening on the ground, which is so important, especially when the properties are as unique as the ones we partner with.

Including all the different aspects of a property that can impact greenhouse gas emissions from air conditioning, electricity usage, and heating the pool all the way to whether they have a food composting available on site. For those properties who are yet to get back to us, ecollective used their industry data and government guidelines to give us a worst-case scenario score to give us a total amount of CO2 produced each year.
 
It's not just our lovely villas that have a carbon footprint, we do too, so our office and business travel was included, with policies in place already to reduce this as well as making sure we send nothing to landfill.
 
As part of the study we had to draw the line somewhere, so some items were not included such as transport our customers take to and from the properties as well as employee commuting as per the advice we were given.
 
This project is not over though, it has only just begun. The aim for this year and going forward is to work to reduce our carbon footprint as well as improve the data we have to calculate these scores. Through smart and innovative techniques that not only help the climate but also improve your holiday experience at one of our beautiful villas, we hope to make doing the right thing easy.

 

Why did we start working with ecollective?

We understand the massive impact the travel industry has on the environment, and we want to do something about it – to be a force for positive change in an industry where it doesn’t always seem possible.

We are just at the beginning of our journey, and we know a lot of work needs to be done, but the first step was recognising we needed to make a change.

Villas vs Hotels – which is best?

Villas are an extremely sustainable choice of accommodation, from their level of CO2 emissions to how much they support local communities. A typical hotel night contributes 20.4 kg of CO2 per room per night (on average), and villas are around 4.8kg per room per night (on average), so just by choosing a villa over a hotel you’re already making the choice – consciously or not – to #LiveALittleGreener. 

A lot of villas support local communities, whether they’re locally owned and directly put money back into the economy of their destination, they preserve the local heritage, or they promote visiting local villages, shops and restaurants to encourage customers to live like a local.

Villas that are in rural and lesser-known destinations combat the issue of overtourism, putting more money into communities that aren’t benefiting as much from tourism. The other benefits of this is that the areas are less crowded and filled with tourists, meaning you get a more authentic and pleasant experience.

Cookie-cutter hotel chains deliver a completely different experience to villas – they’re not locally owned, they rarely promote living like a local, are often in built-up, heavily populated areas and don’t give you the privacy and independence you would get from staying in a villa with your family. Our villas are in amazing locations, offer up authentic experiences and give you and your group the space you need to enjoy a holiday together and make unforgettable memories in unique places – even looking at villa stays vs hotel stays outside of the area of sustainability, it seems like a bit of a no-brainer.

Our climate emergency plan

There’s no doubt about it – we’re in a climate crisis, and we need to take a stand. The IPCC has stated that we need to reduce carbon emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, the Arctic Council has said that the Arctic could be completely ice-free by 2040 if the current global heat trends continue, and the Scientific American says with the current rate of soil degradation, we have approximately only 60 years of farming left. This is beyond scary, and there’s no way of sugar-coating it… we need to push much further than just making sure we recycle more and ban single-use plastics.

That’s why we decided to join many other companies across the travel industry and declare a climate emergency with the Tourism Declares initiative. We love the industry we’re in and all of the benefits tourism brings, but we also know that it contributes greatly to climate change, so we’re committed to improving the impact our business has on the world, reducing our emissions, and educating others on how to do the same.

 

This is our climate emergency plan.

 

Measure: With the help of sustainable consultancy ecollective, we created a project to accurately calculate the estimated carbon emissions for all our properties around the world. Their approach allows us to continuously update and calculate our carbon emissions across our portfolio as we make improvements, as well as emissions from our office and business travel. The more information we have the more accurately we can measure carbon emissions. Therefore, we worked on a sustainability questionnaire and sent it out to villa owners to share energy usage as well as other factors such as water usage. For those who don’t get back to us, we use data we have to hand such as the location, size and amenities to provide an estimate calculation that we benchmarked against existing results as well as adding a buffer to over-estimate in order not to slow progress. Ecollective provided the relevant data and know-how to turn the questionnaires (as well as our office operations) into yearly carbon emissions for the business.

As we have properties all over the world we applied data from several sources including DEFRA, IEA & EEA.

We developed a five-point criteria, where properties either need to meet at least four of the checklist points, or three point of the checklist and have a score of 5kg or lower for the total carbon footprint per day, based on full occupancy, per bedroom. If a property meets this criteria then they will be added to our Sustainable Villa Collection, and get further promotion and benefit from more visibility through this.

Our hope is that as the message gets stronger and more villa owners become aware of our initiative and our sustainable collection, they’ll want to get involved and we’ll be in a position where we’ll have data for our whole collection. We’ll use this data as a benchmark to continue to reduce emissions YoY, and help by educating villa owners on how they can reduce their emissions.

Reduce: Our aim is to work to reduce the CO2 output per villa and across the whole business by 10% YoY, and we’ll aim to do this through education, recommendations and affiliate partnerships with companies such as renewable energy providers. We’ve invested in a tree planting initiative with TreememberMe  - we understand this isn’t a long-term solution to the growing climate crisis, however it does help us and our customers to counteract the emissions from flights. We’ve begun to promote train travel as a more sustainable way of travelling to some of our destinations, to hopefully reduce some of the emissions that we don’t have direct control/influence over. As time goes on we’d like to look at other rewilding conservation projects, or a measure such as donating a percentage of revenue to fund/impose a voluntary CO2 tax on ourselves per customer to invest in other sustainable projects.

Commitments: We will be surveying villa owners twice a year on their carbon emissions to accurately measure any changes, as well as include this as part of our listing process when we add new properties to our portfolio. We’re committed to keeping the climate crisis at the forefront of everyone’s minds with regular email communications, as well as educational content such as resources and guidance on a newly-developed ‘owners hub’ on our blog, and blog/website/social content for customers.

In terms of our portfolio, we will be adding more product within the UK and France to help us encourage greener modes of transport, and all of these commitments, measurements etc will help us on our goal to become a carbon-neutral organisation through a continued reduction in CO2 emissions.

In office: We were already quite a green office before we launched our sustainability initiative, ‘Live a Little Greener’ as our office block uses a renewable energy provider, a zero landfill waste company, and a cycle to work scheme. But now we have introduced office green ground rules, there’s remote working options, and we will be appointing a ‘green team’ to continuously brainstorm and regularly meet to discuss topics of interest and ideas. By no means do we profess to be experts in the world of sustainable travel, but we are starting our journey and look forward to learning more from our peers who have signed up to Tourism Declares, sharing knowledge, helping to fight this climate crisis together, and encouraging others to do the same.

From the blog...