Innovation for carbon reduction Award


Best innovation for carbon reduction is for a tourism business, association or organisation with an innovative and transparent approach to reducing carbon, or otherwise addressing the carbon intensity of travel.

Explained: The Best innovation for carbon reduction category is an Award celebrating ingenuity in the field of carbon reduction. With the Paris Climate Change conference, this Award focuses on the leaders and innovators providing clever solutions to carbon reduction through or alongside tourism.

What the Judges want: The combination of surprising ingenuity and genuine effectiveness - real examples of innovation that works in addressing the challenge of carbon reduction. The ability to demonstrate achievement over time, and provide examples that could be replicated by other organisations, are desirable.

2015 winners

GOLD AWARD: TUI UK and Ireland

Gold award: TUI UK and Ireland
TUI UK & Ireland operates in 180 destinations worldwide and employs around 77,000 people. As well as having an impressive commitment to sustainability, this award focuses on the innovative work they have undertaken to reduce carbon emissions within their retail outlets and offices for all of their brands, which include Thomson and First Choice, with a total of over 600 shops. Blue skies thinking from a company that likes to promise blue skies to all its travellers.

Communicating an energy reduction strategy to 5000 members of staff stretches way beyond changing lightbulbs, or making sure the computers are switched off at the end of the day. Using their own 'TUI Turtle Dashboards', which operate a simple traffic light system to indicate an individual shop's progress against energy reduction targets, they have achieved a 25% reduction in carbon emitted in a single year and, between 2010 to 2014, the company achieved a 40% reduction in carbon emitted from all offices and retail shops. This reduction was also as a result of innovative new technology, such as replacing air conditioning systems with newer, climate-friendly gas alternatives, installing voltage optimisers to deliver power at a reduced voltage from the mains supply, installing building management systems to monitor and adjust consumption and refitting shops with energy efficient lighting.
Silver award: Airport Authority, Hong Kong
In an area as complex as carbon reduction, data monitoring is crucial to showing real results. And the Airport Authority, Hong Kong proves that it has top airport control when it comes to watching exactly what is coming and going. Which is vital, given that they were pioneers in setting a 25% carbon reduction pledge by 2015, something many airports can watch and learn from when it comes to cutting carbon across the board.

What makes the Airport Authority, Hong Kong stand out, is that it does not just monitor its carbon emissions, but also those of its suppliers. The APU, or Auxiliary Power Unit, ban, which means that airplanes can't leave these engines running unnecessarily, has helped enormously. Solar run escalators and loading vehicles are environmentally sound too. As is the more efficient air con systems and the electric vehicles used in the airport. But in fact, given that 60% of emissions are the responsibility of airport suppliers, not the airport itself, it is Airport Authority Hong Kong's efforts to get everyone on board that really stands out. They now have a Carbon Audit System that is used by its business partners, 46 participating to date, to help them monitor what their carbon footprint is, and also sharing best practice in making it lighter. Their business partners use this system, created by the Airport Authority for free, and receive invaluable training and mentoring in order to work towards this common cause. Showing this is no fly by night scheme. It is, in fact, flying high.

Silver award: North Sailing
Whale watching is a bucket list tick box for many people, but this company, that has been running whale watching trips for the last 20 years from the town of Húsavík in North Iceland, shows not only that is it so much more than a 'tick box' experience, but that it can be done in a responsible and carbon free way. Which not only saves the whales, but saves the planet.

North Sailing uses, not surprisingly, wind power, but has to use engines to take on the oceans too. And given that it aims to be the first emissions free whale watching company in the world, it has created a unique Regenerative Plugin Hybrid Propulsion system (RPHP) for this purpose. All on board a traditional Iceland oak schooner too. Running on renewable energy, it is not only clean but it is quiet, leading to a better experience for the visitors exploring these wild habitats as well as the whales. The aim is to convert their whole fleet of seven sailing vessels by 2020, a fleet that is already impressive given that they are the only active vessels of their kind along Icelandic shores. And soon to become the world's first whale watching company to offer zero carbon emission ocean sails too. All from a small town in the North of Iceland.

2014 winner

Gold award: Thomson Airways

Best Aviation Programme for Carbon Reduction

Gold award: Thomson Airways
Thomson Airways is the UK's third largest airline with 57 planes to its name. It also flies under the flag of one of the largest travel companies in the world, TUI Travel Plc Group, which launched a Sustainable Holidays Plan in 2012. This was a three year vision covering all areas of the business, just one of which was flying. The Plan gave Thomson permission for take-off on a journey to become Europe's most fuel efficient airline.

Consequently, Thomson Airways improved airline carbon efficiency by 7.4% in the last three years, not only though investing in new aircraft, such as the 20% more efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but by fitting fuel saving winglets to their aircraft, which reduce fuel burn by up to 5%. Working in close partnership with Boeing on its ecoDemonstrator programme, Thomson plays a central role in future sustainable aviation innovation. Carbon efficiency has also been achieved by improving on-board operations, such as using lighter catering trolleys, and optimising the amount of fresh water and other goods on board. Operational efficiencies such as single engine taxiing when landing and increased direct routing have been put in place. Aircraft maintenance also has carbon efficiency in mind, with the use of lighter paint as well as a surface sealant that reduces drag on the aircraft by stopping dirt adhering to it. What is surprising, however, is that there are few other runners in this field of carbon reduction by airlines. There were no 'silvers' awarded in this category, with Thomson proving a straight out winner.

Previous winners


Best carbon reduction inititiave

An organisation or programme with a replicable and inspiring approach to reducing the carbon intensity of travel.

Winner: Sawadee Reizen

Dutch small group adventure tours company Sawadee Reizen have identified that changing to direct "point-to-point" flights is the most effective way of reducing the carbon footprint of trips, resulting in a reduction in carbon emissions by an average of 10%.

The judges were impressed by the clarity of Sawadee's understanding of the issue, their acceptance that tourism contributes to the problem, and their willingness to begin to address the issue.

Highly commended:
  • Beechenhill Farm, UK
  • ITC Sonar, India.
Winner: Eurostar International Limited, UK

"No stranger to the Awards, Eurostar impressed the judges this year by refusing to sit on their laurels, instead finding new ways to save energy and encourage their passengers to do the same. Since 2007 they have reduced their waste to landfill by 40%, and in 2009 started working with 'Worn Again' to upcycle old uniforms into new saleable products. 15% of each supplier tender is scored towards the company's environmental behavior, and the new phase of their 'Tread Lightly' campaign aims to reduce supporting business CO2 emissions by 25% by 2015. They have even launched the "Eurostar Ashden Award for Sustainable Travel" to encourage further innovation in sustainability."

Highly commended:
  • Intrepid Travel, UK
Winner:, UK

"No stranger to the Awards, has proved invaluable in the last year not only to those who knew they want to travel by train or ferry but also to those who didn't. Strikes, airlines collapsing and volcanic ash forced many travellers to turn to Mark Smith's remarkable site with up to the minute information for travellers. The site has grown from 6.5 million to almost 10 million users and been instrumental in the growth of rail travel bookings."

Highly commended:
  • Ltd, UK
Winner: Alcatraz Cruises, US
While the Hornblower Hybrid provides a convincing flagship vessel for Alcatraz Cruises’ innovative approach to sustainable tourism practices (an energy efficient vessel, constructed from a reused diving vessel, and with fuel savings of over 29,000 gallons per year) it is their commitment to the reduction of carbon use across the rest of their product range, decreasing particulate and NOx emissions by 95 per cent with the installation of Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) units, that proves their commitment to minimising their environmental impacts.

Highly commended:
  • Swiss Travel System, Switzerland
  •, UK
Winner: Bycyklen - The Foundation City Bikes in Copenhagen, Denmark

With more than 2,000 city bikes for free public use by locals and tourists alike, Bycyklen demonstrates the potential scale and replicability of an initiative which reduces carbon emissions in the city and promotes exercise. The Foundation works with non profit organisation Incita to provide local people with skills and enable them to gain employment.

Highly commended:
  • Bugbugs Media Ltd, UK
Winner: Eurostar, UK

For developing the comprehensive ‘Tread lightly’ programme to reduce Eurostar’s negative environmental impacts across the whole business, on the rails and at the terminals; using biodegradable and recyclable disposables; recycling water; reducing energy consumption and setting a whole business example which airlines could follow.

Highly commended:
  • NatureAir, Costa Rica
  • greentomatocars, UK
Written by Justin Francis
Photo credits: [Page banner: TUI UK and Ireland]