Caring for the Places we Love
Wilderness Ireland is committed to the development of Ireland’s sustainable tourism sector. We focus on developing sustainable operational practices and we endeavour to support the local tourism economy in each of the areas in which we work. We also provide financial support to a range of environmental and nature conservation charities. We continue to innovate in order to improve our environmental performance in the communities and habitats in which we work and in implementing best-practice standards both in our office and in the field.
We see tourism as a key player in helping people to enjoy, understand and experience the amazing landscapes and habitats which we are lucky enough to call home. It is our hope that our Irish adventure holidays will open up a more sustainable travel experience to our clients while allowing them to appreciate the value of the natural world.
Tourism and Climate Change
A lot has been written on the effect that air travel and the effect carbon emissions are having on climate change, we have given considerable thought to the issue in order to develop our policy accordingly. However in our view, simply giving up air travel is not an option.
- This view does not take into account the fact that tourism is the world’s single biggest industry and to halt all air travel would have disastrous economic and social consequences worldwide.
- There would also be untold impact on various ecosystems and habitats currently protected on the basis that the tourism revenue that they generate out-weighs their value as a material resource.
For a country with a population of only 5 million (with another 1.9 million in Northern Ireland), tourism is one of Ireland’s largest economic contributors. From an Irish perspective, tourism is vital to its communities:
- In Ireland (the Republic), the estimated revenue from tourism in 2016 was around €7.832 billion.
- The tourism sector supports 148,300 jobs in the accommodation and food sector alone, and overall employment in tourism is estimated to be in the region of 220,000.
- And these numbers don’t take into account Northern Ireland, a region that heavily relies on tourism. In the north, tourism currently sustains over 40,000 jobs and is nearly 5% of Northern Ireland’s GDP.
- Tying into this is the fact that tourism jobs often occur in regions and small, remote communities that have little other economic activity.
- Therefore, the development of sustainable tourism in Ireland is key to the country’s future.
We believe that we can operate on a middle ground, where we take as many significant steps as we can to minimise the environmental impact of our operations while still allowing our clients to experience the more remote areas of Ireland in the fullest possible way. We operate on the following principles and operating policies.
Protecting our Environment
We aim to provide immersive and engaging experiences, allowing our clients to directly interact with the environments and communities in which we operate. We feel strongly that through these types of positive tourism experiences we can foster an increased connection with landscape and wildlife and promote a more sustainable lifestyle as a result.
Before everything else, our adventure tours are about great experiences and fun so there won’t be any lectures and workshops on sustainability. However, you’ll find that our knowledgable and informed guides will help you to develop an understanding of the wonderful natural environments in which you will find yourself and they will help you understand the history, culture and economy of rural Ireland.
Lowering Our Carbon Footprint
We do our very best to ensure that our business activities and the operations are planned in such a way to minimise environmental impact. This is by:
- Encouraging all clients to arrive at the start of the trip via public transport
- Limiting each departure to cover a maximum of 1000 km, and less when possible
- Keeping the use of vehicles to a minimum and encouraging human power (i.e., on foot, bike or kayak)
- Limiting our tours to 8 people and avoid the use of large coaches
- In the office, we encourage the use of green transport whenever possible, such as carpooling or travelling and commuting by public transport, on foot or by bike.
- In the future, we aim to change to electric vehicles as soon as viable (currently not possible due to lack of charge points in Ireland)
Reducing Use of Plastics
At the office, the entire team has come together to make a conscious effort to reduce our use of plastic.
- We have eliminated single-use plastic water bottles on all trips
- We always ask guests bring a reusable bottle
- We provide locally-sourced Glencar spring water to guests to refill their bottles from large refillable containers. Fresh potable tap water is also available and easily provided in refillable jugs.
- We are committed to encouraging guests to reduce single-use plastic and plastic bottled water by providing the above alternatives, and by having our guides lead by example by not using them either
- In the office, we have made a conscious effort to avoid purchasing supplies made of plastic, and instead choosing other materials – anything from soap dispensers to storage containers
Supporting Local Communities, Economies and Traditions
While we take our environmental actions very seriously, a key focus of all our Wilderness Ireland adventure vacations is interaction with the local community. While the Irish are famed for their friendliness, we consistently receive feedback from clients who are taken aback by the relationships and encounters with local people, be they spontaneous or organised.
- We promote a commitment to working with local people and businesses
- As best as possible, we ensure that economic benefits are distributed in a fair and meaningful way throughout the communities in which we work
- We prioritise working with local businesses based in small communities, such as owner-run and Irish-owned hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, activities and farm tours
- By working with local partners, we provide an authentic and real experience to our clients – as well as ensuring a genuine and warm reception wherever we go
- To avoid overtourism, we try to promote tours in places that generally see less traffic and tourism as well as showing clients popular landmarks and regions through another prospective
- Where possible, we try to work with accommodation providers that are accredited by the Green Hospitality.ie Eco-label & Awards
Supporting Local Traditions & Protecting the Irish Language
- We work with small communities to help to ensure that local traditions, culture, cuisine and most importantly, the Irish language, are protected and passed down
- Many of our guides and office staff speak Gaeilge, the Irish national language. Our guides are proud to share the language, customs and beliefs of the Irish people with visitors.
- In the office, we ensure that we use some Gaeilge in our communications with each other as well as with suppliers and even clients
- Many tours visit the Gaeltacht regions (Irish-language-only communities found in remote areas of the country). We aim to responsibly bring tourism to these small communities in order to assist them with the continuation of their way of life and to teach travellers about the Irish language.
- On our tours, we provide meaningful and genuine opportunities for our clients to meet and interact with local people to learn their customs, traditions, language and beliefs
How we support nature conservation in Ireland
Leave No Trace
- Wilderness Ireland is an active, participating member of Leave No Trace Ireland, an outdoor ethics programme designed to inspire responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships.
- Our Head of Guide is Leave No Trace certified and runs regular Leave No Trace workshops
- Many of our guides & staff are Leave No Trace trained or Leave No Trace trainers, and we actively practice their seven principles to reduce the impact and damage caused by outdoor activities on all of our trips.
Our Conservation Contribution Scheme
- Wilderness Ireland collects voluntary ‘Conservation Contributions’ from clients booking onto Wilderness Ireland trips. These contributions are then donated to the BurrenBeo Trust. The BurrenBeo Trust is a leading conservation charity “dedicated to connecting all of us to our places and our role in caring for them.”
- Each year we share the proceeds of guests’ voluntary contributions between BurrenBeo and a few other selected grass-roots environmental charities that are dedicated to the preservation and conservation of Ireland’s natural landscape, environment and wildlife.
- Another charity we support at Christmas is Choose Love, which provides clothes and amenities for refugees.
- Wilderness Ireland employees each have 2 paid days a year that they can spend volunteering for their preferred charity events & organisations. Some of the charities Wilderness Ireland staff have supported in the past are: BurrenBeo Trust, Seal Rescue Ireland, Darkness to Light for Pieta House, Liquid Therapy, Leitrim Cycling Festival & Cycling Without Age, and tree planting to name a few.
All of our guides are trained in the principles of Leave No Trace, and one of the pillars of LNT is to Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife, such as by:
- Observing wild animals and birds from a distance and avoid disturbing them, particularly at sensitive times: mating, nesting and raising young (mostly between spring and early summer)
- Keeping wildlife wild by not feeding wild animals or birds – human foods damage their health and leave them vulnerable to predators
- Remembering that farm animals are not pets; remain at a safe distance