Christopher Warren on Sustainability in Tourism, understanding your Carbon Footprint & breaking through the Green Ceiling

Christopher Warren is an award-wining industry expert on sustainability, dedicating his time to better understanding how we as humans can significantly reduce our carbon footprint.

Born in the UK, with a background in marketing, Christopher’s passion for sustainability came about somewhat by accident. His passion sparked during a local debate over the future of a tree lined road in the small Australian village of Kangaroo Valley, where Christopher had recently moved to start his accommodation business, Crystal Creek Meadows. Community members looked to Christopher for guidance as he stood, microphone in hand, on the day many of the 90+ trees were to be cut down. Bewildered by the sheer amount of people who turned up to support Christopher in his objection to the councils intended action, he realised that there aren’t enough people willing to take the first step when action is needed. Christopher observed that people were prepared to stand up for what they believe in, however, they were unsure of how to do so, and waited idly for direction. On this day, Christopher also realised there was a large void of inaction in the area of sustainability and decided to step up and make his own contribution.

Sustainability in Tourism

Christopher explains to listeners in this week’s episode, that working in the Middle-East before the internet was readily available, meant he was not sufficiently educated on the impact businesses and individual’s actions have on the environment, especially in the Tourism sector. When he arrived in Australia people were talking about environmental impacts, a topic that was once reserved for activists exerting their political position. Fast forward to today and many countries have signed the Paris Agreement, which stipulates that our goal, as a global entity, is to achieve zero net emissions by 2050, in an attempt to avoid a climate disaster.

The responsibility for reaching this target exists at a global, national, regional, local and individual level. It’s not enough for each of us to ‘do a bit’, rather, everyone will need to do a great deal. Unfortunately, the scale of what actually needs to be done is so large that politicians often avoid addressing the real issue. Christopher explains that the way forward questions the way we have been living, with extreme changes needed to achieve the goal of zero emissions. It can be very overwhelming at an individual level. Most people think turning off the lights when you’re not using them and taking a shorter shower is enough to see a lasting positive effect. While these things do help, Christopher explains that it will take significant adjustments to our lifestyles such as our diets, as well as the way we travel and experience the world, to really have the lasting effect needed.

Understanding your Carbon Footprint

During our chat, Christopher provided me with a fantastic analogy about how back when our grandparents generation were growing up it was a lot easier to understand how one’s actions impacted the planet. If water was needed, people would draw a bucket from the stream or well, knowing this action had an impact of one bucket of water. Similarly, when light was needed, consumption was measured by the number of candles used. Horsepower referred to how many horses needed to perform a manual activity. Consumption and the consequential impacts were extremely transparent.

Compare that to today and the invisible and often instant supply of services, such as the flick of a switch for electricity that’s carried through underground cables, or the turn of a tap for hot water from pipes hidden within the walls, and it’s easy to see why people in today’s society do not understand ­­the scale of their own consumption. ­­­­During the podcast, Christopher provides some examples of everyday actions that cause carbon emissions, some that I am sure listeners would not have considered in their day to day life. Christopher urges us as individuals and responsible business owners to audit our own carbon footprint, taking time to truly understand how much carbon emissions we are personally responsible for. Once we are aware of our impact, we must work hard to continuously reduce it.

Breaking through the Green Ceiling

The Green Ceiling refers to the limit you reach after conducting normal emission saving activities. You may have done everything you consider is within your power, with the resources available to you, to reduce your carbon footprint, but your actions are still producing carbon emissions.  You may have replaced the light globes throughout your house, installed water saving shower heads and perhaps even installed solar panels. In doing so you have exhausted your carbon reducing budget but also feel like you have ‘done your bit’. The thing is sometimes it’s not only about installing new items to help reduce your emissions, but rather looking at ways to stop or significantly reduce consumption of a resource altogether and making sure those around you are doing the same.

Christopher explains that if we work with guests in the accommodation industry, together we can break through the Green Ceiling. Through his program My Green Butler, Christopher, a qualified trainer, is teaching visitors of his guest cottages at Crystal Creek Meadows how to conserve resources, educating them on effective ways to significantly reduce their carbon footprint. Through his program, Christopher has shown that knowledge is key and when properly educated, guests are very willing to do their best to conserve resources. So much so that since implementing the program, My Green Butler has resulted in a saving of over 30% on electricity, 20% on water, 38% on firewood. This has been achieved by guests who are choosing to use less. Another exciting realisation for Christopher was that over the years that the usage has decreased, the cottages ratings on TripAdvisor and Google reviews has increased, as has the price guests are willing to pay to stay at the cottages.

There’s a common misunderstanding when it comes to sustainability in Tourism, which focuses on people taking punitive environmental actions. In truth, Christopher urges, the correct course of action is one that offers a holistic social experience for guests, a positive economical result for businesses and a carbon reducing result for the environment. As stated by Christopher, we share a very small planet and it can no longer be about ME, instead it needs to be about US and all life around us. Working together we can keep on raising the Green Ceiling and hit the 2050 target of no emissions, ensuring a healthy world for generations to come.

In this week’s episode, Christopher and I also chat about:

  • High expectations driving over consumption
  • Generational changes and sustainability
  • Tourism’s role in sustainability
  • The history of holidays
  • The future of short haul flights
  • Designing experiences that better meet individual needs
  • The Green Butler Program on a global scale
  • How accommodation businesses can make instant changes to reduce their carbon footprint
  • Three stages of reducing emissions

You can listen to the podcast episode here.