Our Five Minutes with… this month is with Nico Nicholas, CEO and co-founder of Trees4Travel.
Tell us how and why you founded Trees4Travel?
My wife and I were about to launch a new travel company called Sun Searcher, which was about using the weather to find the best place to go for your travel dates. My wife said if this is about climate, we should plant a tree for every client. Having been in travel a long time, I said, “We know a lot of people in travel, they might want to do the same thing”. That’s how Trees4Travel was born – Sun Searcher hasn’t seen daylight; it’s fully built but we just don’t have time for it!
We started off just planting trees and calculating CO2 and now every tree we plant we aim to offset 13 of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals. It’s always about trees and rewilding. We plant in developing countries and ensure future communities can live from the trees – they can collect leaves for medicinal purposes or grow fruits; it’s giving them a reason to look after their forests.
Every tree absorbs 164kg of CO2 and we also invest in renewable energy projects, and we’re also looking to invest in the development of Sustainable Aviation Fuels. We are a Business for Good, not a charity, two-thirds of our revenue goes into tree planting etc. When I travelled frequently, I never ticked the offset box because I never trusted where the money went, whereas we show them where the trees are and the benefits – planting 10,000 trees will employ six people.
How bad is corporate travel for the environment?
It’s not the biggest culprit, – 25% of emissions comes from power generation, coal, gas, electricity. Another 20% comes from deforestation, 8% from travel. Travel is a soft target because it’s perceived as something you can do without; the reality is it’s incredibly important. You can’t do everything by Zoom or Teams, it just doesn’t work. Travel is a wonderful thing that helps so many other communities. It helps you become more tolerant of other cultures and nationalities. People will always travel, so the thing to do is use it to benefit other areas, travel more mindfully, rewild and invest in renewable energy. An offset usually works out at under 1% of ticket price. We really need all hands on deck; we can’t expect the planet to keep repairing itself.
What steps can individual travellers take?
They can go to our website and log their own trips. They can see where their trees are and monitor their progress, and on the corporate side, we can also now offer employee programmes. Employees can also input their private trips – your boss won’t see them.
On your website you talk about mindful travel and the need to mitigate against the negative aspects. What are your top tips?
It’s not just about carrying on as normal and paying to offset, although that’s better than not paying. Mindful corporate travel is about making a lot more appointments and spending longer in location, so you don’t have to go back as often. Toing and froing just for a meeting isn’t a good thing. If you’ve been planning a holiday in New York and must go for a meeting, just extend the trip. Also, if you can take the train, take it, if you can walk somewhere, do. These are tiny things, but if everyone did it, it would be really helpful.
Has there been more engagement since the return to the office?
We’ve had enormous adoption of our systems and this has given us the ability to grow our teams. I’m really pleased and proud of the way corporations and the travel industry, both leisure and corporate, have taken to us to improve our planet.
Previously, we didn’t know we were doing bad; CO2 is like invisible rubbish, we had ‘don’t drop litter’ campaigns when we realised we shouldn’t drop it. This is a way of teaching people that when you fly, you’re leaving something behind and it needs to be cleaned up. It’s a very simple lesson we need to teach.
What’s the future of sustainability?
I think it’s a mixture of everything. It’s education, technology, renewable fuels. Whatever we’re doing requires education, which is where I think the connection to tree planting is so important, because if you just pay for offset, it’s almost too easy. The engagement helps to educate. Managing carbon, planting trees, is one thing, but education is long-lasting.
What’s next for you and Trees4Travel?
We’re working on a really cool calculator to help companies decarbonise their offices. It’s an easy measurement tool and a nice way for people to get started. Getting started is the most important thing, because a lot of businesses don’t really have a plan or know who to turn to. We’re making it as easy as possible for them. We’re also working on a meetings and events tool and one for hotel stays. Corporates are run by normal people and they want to do good, but everything’s so over-complex, so we’ve really simplified that.
To find out more about how Meon can help you meet your sustainability goals please contact us by email at [email protected] or by telephone +44 (0)116 264 5270.