Tackling the climate crisis through the Steppes Fund for Change – our ‘Trees & Science’ initiative formed part of an integrated approach in 2019 to support initiatives that put protecting the planet first.
Sustainable travel is at the heart of our ethos – and in autumn 2019, in response to the increasing concern about our carbon footprint as an industry, we launched the “Trees & Science” campaign.
We created and tailored this campaign in order that, perhaps unlike many carbon balancing and off-setting schemes, our effort can be unambiguous. Firstly, we began planting a 12-hectare wood near Scunthorpe and, secondly, we led the support of a post-graduate student working on nuclear fusion at the University of Oxford.
Why did we choose to plant a wood? Well, we know that the 4,000 trees that we will plant will create a significant carbon sink, while also being great for wildlife and people. Why Scunthorpe? Partly because Scunthorpe is known to have the most polluted air in Britain, partly because we found a willing farmer, and partly because Scunthorpe sits in the halo region of what is called the Northern Forest, a concept supported by Forestry Commission and DEFRA to plant trees across Northern England. Our small 12-hectare wood is now working to improve the local air quality, help the biodiversity and offer a route for walkers and bicyclists.
But it’s more than that. One of our key sustainability objectives at Steppes Travel is to set a standard to which other tour operators aspire.
The 12-hectare wood is a ‘flagship’ for a larger, longer-term project led by Steppes Travel and The Woodland Trust, which aims to include other travel operators and airlines in the creation of a 3,600-hectare forest around Scunthorpe. The model we have created (which will hopefully gain traction with others in the travel industry) functions whereby a ‘concession’ is purchased from a landowner, thereby unlocking the land for woodland-creation subsidies via The Woodland Trust. The 4.5 million trees required for the bigger Scunthorpe Forest will make a huge contribution to the government’s target to plant 11 million trees by 2022.
What about the science part of our Trees & Science campaign?
Nuclear fusion, the process that powers the Sun, can play a big part in our carbon-free energy future. As an energy source, nuclear fusion is theoretically safer than nuclear fission, with less radioactivity in operation and little nuclear waste. From September 2019, Steppes Travel is funding Nicolas Christen, one of 14 doctoral students working with Prof Michael Barnes in the Plasma Physics Group at the University of Oxford. By funding a student, we are adding brainpower to an already amazing team. Though the creation of power from nuclear fusion might be called the ‘Everest’ of current energy research, we feel that it is vitally important to try and conquer it.
Steppes Travel is proud to support important work into future energies, and along with the mission to create the Scunthorpe Forest, we feel that we are not just proving to be sustainable, but really contributing to Britain’s environment going forward.
Of course, we will always push on the issue of single-use plastics, which has been our focus for many years now. While our 2019 ‘Making A Difference’ programme will fund more than 20 targeted projects that support girls’ education, female empowerment and wildlife conservation in destinations worldwide.