We are exceptionally proud to have our managed hostels be the first accommodation network in the world to be Toitū carbonzeroCertTM certified!
What does "carbon neutral" mean?
Being carbon neutral is a term that's thrown around a lot, but the idea is that for an organisation, product, or event, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted equals zero. This might seem impossible, but it can happen through a process of measuring greenhouse gas emissions (including carbon dioxide), reducing them, and offsetting any residual emissions. This is where Toitū carboNZeroCertTM certification comes in.
How did we do it?
First, we brought Enviro-Mark Solutions on board to help us with the difficult process of measuring our greenhouse gas emissions. They looked at our National Office and managed hostels to find out where we're producing the most emissions. This lets us know where we're at currently, and where we can focus our efforts to make the greatest reductions.
We've committed to a 5% annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for YHA's managed hostels and National Office. We've now beaten that target for the third straight year, with a total reduction of 21% over the three years.
We know that gas and electricity are our biggest sources of emissions, which is why we continue to invest in solar and geothermal energy. Replacing lights with LEDs, and double-glazing and insulation upgrades all help to shrink hostels' carbon footprint.
Offsetting our greenhouse gas emissions means putting our money where our mouth is and purchasing carbon credits to offset what we do produce. There are a number of carbon credit providers both in New Zealand and overseas, but we've chosen to stay local via an accredited offset programme supporting the regrowth of native forest on Banks Peninsula.
We don't make our guests pay for our offsets either. It is our responsibility to do the right thing. If you want to do even more we also offer guests the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint further through the Green Footprint Project.
Can we prove it?
Sure can! We get a snazzy certificate to show off the fact we're Toitu carbonzeroCertTM certified, we're listed on the Enviro-Mark Solutions website, and we have a disclosure statement available for anyone who's interested in the nitty-gritty of our carbon measurements. If you've got any bright ideas we might be able to implement in our reduction, let us know!
What are our emissions?
Since becoming certified in 2016 we have reduced our emissions 195 tonnes CO2 equivalent. That's the equivalent to the emissions of 27 Kiwi households for a whole year! Slashing greenhouse gas emissions by almost 8% from 2018 to 2019 brings our total greenhouse emissions for the year ending 30 June 2019 to 698.81 tCO2e.
These reductions were particularly pleasing with the addition of a new, larger property to the network in April 2019. YHA Lake Tekapo, a state-of-the-art 128-bed development, is fitted with photovoltaic panels and solar hot water heating.
For the 2017/2018 year we dropped our total emissions by 7% (over our goal of 5%) to 853 tCO2e. Lots of this drop was due to our hard work with solar power and hot water systems in 3 of our hostels. Our managed hostels and National Office emitted 914.06 tonnes of carbon dioxide for the 2015/16 measurement period. That's about 254 times the average emissions of one vehicle per year, so this baseline year certainly had room for improvement!
Why did we do it?
First and foremost, we did it because it's the right thing to do. Climate change is one of the biggest issues facing the world today and it's our responsibility to do what we can to help. YHA New Zealand was founded on a love of the outdoors, which means we're pretty determined to protect the awesome environment New Zealand has to offer too.
We really like that our Toitū carbonzero commitment mirrors this triple bottom-line:
Can other organisations get involved?
Heck yes they can! This is something we actively encourage (challenge, even!) businesses to get behind and commit to. Get in touch with the folks at Enviro-Mark Solutions and they'll give you all the info you need to get started.