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    Sustainable Tourism

    Caring for the places we love

    Making the Right Choices

    In deciding to travel with Wilderness Ireland, you’ll be travelling with an adventure travel company that believes in the development of Ireland’s sustainable tourism sector. We focus on developing sustainable operational practices and supporting the local tourism economy in the small, often remote communities in which we work.

    Through our Wilderness Conservation and Community Fund, we provide financial support to various environmental and nature conservation charities, focusing on our collaboration with the Burrenbeo Trust. Our office and guiding teams continue to innovate 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 enjoy, understand and experience the fantastic landscapes and habitats we are lucky enough to call home. It is our hope that our Irish adventure vacations will open up a more sustainable travel experience for our clients while allowing them to appreciate the value of the natural world.

    What is Wilderness Doing?

    As a result of our carbon labelling project, we’ve been able to not only measure the carbon impact of the entire business but of each and every trip. This work has been and will continue to be essential for monitoring our progress and identifying ways in which we can continue reducing our impact year on year.

    Our Road Map to True Net Zero

    • By 2030 we commit to reducing our Scope 1 & 2 emissions by 90% and Scope 3 emissions by 50%.
    • Between 2022 and 2030, where we can’t reduce, we will invest in projects that remove, avoid or reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Our goal is to achieve True Net Zero Status by the end of 2030, investing solely in projects that permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere for those emissions that remain.

    What Does This Mean For You?

    Our offsetting and removal efforts address the impact of each individual trip, so you can book your adventure holiday with the knowledge that your carbon impact is already being mitigated.

    Want to Do More?

    The impact of your trip is already taken care of but if you want to do more, please take a look at our Wilderness Conservation & Contribution Scheme. We ask all of our travellers to donate a small amount at the time of booking. This is entirely optional but the funds go to conservation projects in Ireland, as well as carbon removal.

    Wilderness Climate Emergency Declaration

    Our business was created to share our passion for the inspiration, spirit and value of the natural environment. What we didn’t know when we started our business many years ago, was how significant the threat of a changing climate would become. While we have always sought to run an environmentally sustainable business (and have been independently recognised several times for doing so), we feel the time has now come to ramp up the action, work harder and act more creatively to respond to the climate emergency with renewed focus and energy.

    The Tourism Industry

    Alongside other industries, tourism plays a contributing role to the climate crisis and we acknowledge this requires an urgent need for change across the industry. The paradox is that travel and tourism can be an amazingly positive force for good. Well managed, sustainable tourism supports local economic development, sustains local communities and traditions and shines a light on nature and wildlife conservation.

    Built upon this philosophy, our mission is to maximise these positive benefits of tourism while seeking to minimise the negative impacts. Climate change is happening now and that is why we became one of the founding signatories to the Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency and the Glasgow Declaration. Our commitment to reducing emissions is the response we feel is needed across the travel industry. Backed by science and with expert independent input, we have committed to reducing our carbon emissions by 90% by 2030 (9% per annum for 10 years from 2020). For those emissions we cannot eliminate by 2030, we undertake to permanently remove the carbon equivalent from the atmosphere by investing in reforestation and afforestation projects. Through this approach our goal is to achieve “True” Net Zero status by 2030.

    Carbon Labelling

    Our work over the past few years has taken us a long way to this net zero goal already but there remains a lot of work to be done, which will arguably be the hardest work of all. Over the coming years, we’ll continue to push harder and respond faster to make further reductions to both our direct and indirect carbon emissions drawing upon the most extensive measurement and benchmarking exercise we have ever done.

    You can read more about our approach to Climate Change on these pages, including details of how we have measured our carbon footprint and developed one of the world’s first carbon labelling schemes for travel. We hope such labelling will become the norm allowing us all to make more informed and better decisions on where and how to travel. We will report on our progress on an annual basis and share this on our website and in communications with our clients.

    Learn More at Tourism Declares

    Making a Difference

    We focus on supporting local towns and communities such as Sligo town.

    Support Local Communities & Economy

    A key focus of Wilderness Ireland is interaction with the local community.

    • We commit to working with local people and businesses for all aspects of our trips.
    • 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 and activities.
    • We provide authentic experiences, as well as ensuring a genuine and warm reception wherever we go.
    • To avoid overtourism, we promote tours in places that generally see less tourism.
    • Where possible, we try to work with accommodation providers that are accredited by the Green Hospitality.ie Eco-label & Awards.

    Traditional tweed weaving has fallen out of widespread practice but there are still a few weavers using traditional looms.

    Protecting Local Traditions & 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. We ensure that we use some Gaeilge in communications in the office, with suppliers and even our visitors.
    • 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 as well as ways of life.
    • Our tours provide meaningful and genuine opportunities for visitors to meet and interact with local people to learn their customs, traditions, language and beliefs, including traditions like tweed weaving, farming, traditional Irish music, sports such as hurling & GAA, sharing stories and folklore attached to the landscapes and more.

    We keep our groups small, and minimise travel distances by vehicle.

    Lowering Our Carbon Footprint

    We do our best to ensure that our business activities and logistics are planned to minimise environmental impact.

    • We encourage all clients to arrive at the start of the trip via public transport.
    • Limiting each departure to cover a maximum of 1,000 km, and less when possible
    • We aim to keep 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, using public transport, on foot or by bike or working from home.
    • 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).
    • Providing a carbon label for all of our trips to allow visitors to make an informed decision on your trip choice.  Learn more here.

    Keeping our water clean!

    Reducing Use of Plastics

    At the office, our entire team has decided to make an 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, from soap dispensers to storage containers.

    Leave No Trace cleanup.

    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.
    • 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.

    Office team members helping to release a seal back to the wild after rehabilitation at Seal Rescue Ireland.

    Animal Conservation

    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.

    • It is important to observe 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.

    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.

    To read Wilderness Ireland’s Sustainability Policy in full, please contact Darragh Devaney at [email protected].


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