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How Cubania Travel is Reducing Carbon Emissions

April 21, 2021 | by Lucy Davies

Cubania Travel makes further commitment to protecting Cuba’s environment

When it comes to the planet, we are committed to protecting it.

We all emit too much carbon and we are on a mission to reduce our emissions and lower our carbon footprint year on year.

Carbon foot-printing our tours is the latest step taken by Cubania Travel, and it allows travellers to accurately measure how sustainable we are when it comes to organizing your adventure in Cuba.

In fact, Cubania has made responsible travel part of everything we do since we first started organizing trips to Cuba; from the local ground staff we employ to the family-run restaurants and B&Bs we use, we aim to ensure that your money leaves a positive impact on the environment and the local economy in Cuba.

Our main focus is offering cycling tours in Cuba but, over the years, we’ve discovered that not everyone is prepared to get that sweaty! So, we have found other sustainable ways of showcasing this extraordinary country and offer  trekking trips and kayaking holidays or cultural holidays which explore Cuban culture in depth.

Carbon Foot-printing our tours.
Why we did it and why it makes a difference.

What , you might ask, do Tour Operators do when a pandemic grinds the industry to a halt, while the world’s airports are closed and travel for leisure activities is illegal for Brits and impossible for most of the world? It’s a good question, and it was one we asked ourselves many times…

Once it became clear that foreign travel was not coming back soon, we decided to make the most of our enforced break. Like you, we reduced our driving and hopped back on our bikes ( easy for us, it’s what we love! )

Like you, we rediscovered the joy of cycling along streets empty of commuter traffic and so quiet that, even in Central London or busy Havana, we could hear birdsong rather than the dull roar of traffic.

In the meantime, our newspapers and social media were packed with stories about the positive effects of lockdown on the environment. Air quality improved in our cities and skies as both air and terrestrial traffic disappeared. The enforced sudden change in our lives made us take stock – it seemed like everyone was talking about climate change and committing to make real adjustments to the way we live.

A year on and the climate emergency may have been pushed off the front pages by the immediate challenges of the pandemic and the politics of mass vaccination, but that doesn’t mean to say that it has gone away. We are still facing the same climate emergency and we need to act now to ensure that future generations will not look back and wonder why we were so blind and so incapable of taking action when action is clearly vital.

Lockdown has offered us an opportunity to stop and take stock. People across the world have found silver linings in our reduced lifestyle and rediscovered the joy in the simple pleasure of going for a walk with a friend, or taking a bike ride into the countryside. It turned out that less really is more and we reconnected to the natural world , we learned to appreciate the great outdoors a little more and we made commitments to protecting and preserving it for future generations.

And it got us at Cubania thinking.

What more could we do to play our part in the fight against global warming and how could we make sure that Cubania holidays are even better, and even more sustainable, once we start travelling again?

Our vision of future travel

 

We believe that people will want to travel again as soon as they can, but we also believe that there has been a big shift in the way people want to travel. We think that many will think twice before hopping on a plane and when they do take a flight, they’ll save flights for the Big Trip, perhaps once a year instead of taking multiple flights annually. This makes sense to us, and it’s why most Cubania tours are 1-2 weeks long, so that you can enjoy a more structured exploration of the country and still have time to kick back and go with the flow once you’ve finished your active Cuban adventure with us.

We believe that people will want to visit places with lower tourism density. Lockdown has given birth to a rediscovery of open spaces and made us a little more cautious of crowded places and over-tourism. We’ve learned to appreciate nature again; we’ve all fallen back in love with the great outdoors and out of love with over-tourism, those tourism bottle necks where it’s hard to breathe for so many people. This is music to our ears because Cubania has been showcasing Cuba’s untouched wilderness through cycling, trekking and other active adventures for the past 20 years. Yes, we do visit bucket list places like Havana, Viñales and Trinidad but human powered travel allows us to get under the skin of Cuba, visiting hidden corners of untouched nature, invisible to those travelling by bus or by car.

More than anything, we believe that more and more people will want their holiday to have a positive impact on local communities and environment. We understand how connected we all are and we can see the damage done by holidays where huge all-inclusive hotels overuse resources such as clean water and energy in countries which often have limited supplies of both.

Most travel companies are not as sustainable as they would like you to think. Many businesses talk the talk but do not walk the walk. The inconvenient truth is that flying creates a lot of carbon emissions, natural sights are struggling from over-tourism and people are not actually feeling refreshed when they come home.

We believe in change.

We employed experts to measure and reduce our carbon footprint using science-backed methodology.

We decided to use the downtime to really study what effect Cubania trips have on community and the environment. When it comes to the planet, we are committed to protecting it. We all emit too much carbon and we are on a mission to reduce our emissions and lower our carbon footprint year on year.

We talked to experts on climate change, we read lots of books and invested in the expertise and research of ecollective, a sustainability consultancy which specifically focusses on the travel industry, to help us quantify the carbon foot-print of every single Cubania tour.

The results ( and our methodology ) have been published on our website so that you can accurately measure our holidays in terms of sustainability. We now have a page dedicated to our commitment towards sustainable holidays and the carbon footprint of every tour has been measured so that you can see the daily emissions should you join us on one of our trips. If you wish to learn more about our methodology , you can also download a pdf which goes into the fine detail of how we calculated our figures.

We’re pleased to announce that the results are even better than we imagined… every Cubania Travel holiday has an incredibly low carbon footprint ( our average CO2e per person is 16.7kg per day ) and it’s likely that any day spent in Cuba with Cubania is going to have a lower carbon footprint than if you stayed at home ( average CO2e for a typical UK citizen ranges from 10kg-30kg per day)

So how come our scores are so low?

1.  We only use local guides on all our trips.
And why wouldn’t you? If you’re visiting Cuba, you’d want a Cuban to show you round, right? They are the ones who’ll show you their favourite corner of Old Havana, the drinking spots or that untouched beach. Not only is the use of local guides the right thing to do in terms of encouraging growth to the local economy, it’s also the right thing to do environmentally. Your guide will just get the bus to meet you, rather than needing a flight from another part of the world.

2. Most of our accommodation is bed and breakfast style.
We want you to do things the Cuban Way so our tours usually stay in small local hotels or in casas particulares, the Cuban take on AirBnB.
We want to invest and support local businesses and keep your money in Cuba so we avoid multi-national hotel chains which tend to overuse scarce resources such as clean water and energy. Foreign ownership means that profits leave the country rather than being reinvested in the local economy.

3. We use bikes, feet and kayaks to get around
Human powered transportation emits no carbon dioxide, so it’s the best way of exploring any country. As we have a fleet of well-maintained bikes in Havana, you can leave your trusty steed at home and use one of ours.
We use buses and taxis for long transfers between locations but try to reduce the use of these to a bare minimum.

4. We eat in local restaurants , often farm-to-table style
This seems obvious but it’s important. Some of the best travel experiences are made tucking into local food and drink specialities. Bring on those rum cocktails and a delicious plate of Cuban rice and black beans! Organic farming has been commonplace in Cuba for decades and many local paladares ( privately owned restaurants ) offer farm-to-table cooking.

5. We aim to reduce single use plastic to a bare minimum.
We encourage you to bring your own water filter bottle, like one of these , so that you can fill your bottle up from any tap and have clean drinkable water anywhere and reduce the number of plastic bottles you consume on a trip.
Consumer goods and even basics are extremely scarce in Cuba and the scarcity has turned Cubans into Masters of Recycling, Reusing and Repairing.
Cubans recycle EVERYTHING, so when we do use plastic bottles, they get snapped up by locals who reuse them to store juice, tomato puree, water, petrol…

6. Our tours showcase Cuban culture
Stuck out on a limb for decades, Cuban culture has been able to develop with fewer external influences. A melting pot of African, Spanish, Chinese, Jewish and Arabic cultures, Cuban artists have developed in an astonishingly rich culture and we aim to deep dive you into Cuban art, music and literature. Everyone knows Buenavista Social Club but our guides look forward to introducing you to every style which came before and which has come since!

7. Our tours protect endangered Cuban flora and fauna.
Cubania Travel strives to protect Cuba’s natural habitats, unmatched anywhere else on Earth. For many species of plant, bird and animal, Cuba is their last endemic habitat, the only place where they are protected and can thrive.

Cuba’s history has made it an accidental Eden, , but recent policies have also ensured that Nature has been preserved where elsewhere it has been irreparably damaged. After the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, Fidel Castro returned to Cuba and changed the Constitution and enshrining Environmental protection into the Law by adding Law 81 of The Environment which states that:

“All persons have the right to enjoy a natural environment that is healthy and stable.
The State protects the environment and the country’s natural resources. It
recognizes their close linkage with the sustainable development of the economy and
society to make human life more rational and to ensure the security of current and
future generations.”

Cuba should be just as famous for its sustainable policies and biosphere reserves as it is for its laidback lifestyle and catchy music.

 

Cuba has more Unesco Biosphere Reserves than any other Caribbean Nation  ( six,  since you’re asking,  and Cuba now has 263 protected areas, incorporating about 22% of the island’s total land. There’s a wealth of diverse marine life, wildlife, and plant life throughout the island, and so the conservation plans are likewise varied.

The travel business has had its fair share of challenges over the past few decades. Remember the Icelandic Volcano eruption of 2010 which disrupted European flights for a few weeks? Or the financial crisis in 2008? Like these, and now with Covid, it’s often the most challenging times that bring out the best in people. When things break, repair is an opportunity for improvement. A chance to reflect and importantly, a chance to choose where we go from here. The words Build Back Better come from that well-meaning place.

Carbon foot-printing Cubania trips is our response and our intent is to build back better, more sustainable adventure holidays in Cuba.  It’s the next step in our journey and we’ll be as honest as we can about how we measure our carbon emissions and how we continue to reduce our carbon footprint.

Travelling to Cuba isn’t for everyone, we get that.

It’s one of those places which can beguile you as much as it can infuriate you.  Cuba is different. But that it exactly what makes any trip to the island so worthwhile. Whether you are discovering the charms of Havana or ascending the heights into the mountains, active and sustainable travel is the best way to see and protect Cuba’s unarguable beauty.

Explore by bike, by foot, by kayak!

If you want to know more about how we ensure our trips are sustainable, please read our responsible travel policy, which outlines the commitment we make on caring for the environment, stimulating the local economy, and showcasing and respecting Cuban culture. And as proud members of ABTA, we actively take part in their annual “Make Holidays Greener” campaign.

Written by

Lucy Davies

Founder and director of Cubania, passionate about cycling, sea swimming and mojitos.

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