Since our founding in 2007, thousands of teachers have traveled on GEEO programs. GEEO believes in the transformative power of travel to educate and inspire teachers and their students to make the world a more inclusive, just, and peaceful place. We believe that part of ethical travel must include efforts to mitigate the impact that travel has on the environment. That’s why this year we are collaborating with Trees for the Future to begin to offset the carbon emissions that our travelers create. We have already committed to pay for 100,000 trees to be planted and will continue to expand our offsetting efforts in the future.
Trees for the Future celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019 and is a trusted organization in the nonprofit industry. Their innovative Forest Garden Program is a simple, replicable, and scalable approach with proven success. By planting specific types of fast-growing trees, fruit trees, hardwoods, and food crops in a systematic manner over a four year period, Trees for the Future empowers families to positively change their lives forever. Forest Gardens consist of thousands of trees that provide families with sustainable food sources, livestock feed, products to sell, fuel wood, and a 400% increase in their annual income in four years.
On top of all the benefits for the families, ecosystems, and local communities where Forest Gardens are maintained, these projects capture a large amount of carbon from the atmosphere. According to Trees for the Future, through their Forest Garden Program the average hectare (2.4 acres) sequesters 62.8 metric tons of carbon. At a rate of 4,000 trees per Forest garden, this equates to an average carbon offset of 34.6 pounds of carbon per tree. By working with Trees for the Future to offset our carbon footprint, GEEO travelers link the local benefits of forest gardens (food and income) with the global benefits (carbon storage and climate change). Planting trees affects not only individuals and families – it has a positive impact on the entire global community.
While GEEO has kick-started the process of compensating for each traveler’s carbon footprint, we encourage you to adopt one or all of our climate-conscious travel tips below:
1. Calculate your carbon footprint and make a donation to Trees for the Future to offset your impact created by flying. Enter your roundtrip flight route here to see how many miles you traveled for your GEEO program. Then, calculate your carbon footprint here. Finally, donate via GEEO’s carbon offset team here. At the end of each school year, we will be able to see our collective impact of the number of trees planted and pounds of carbon offset for all GEEO travelers.
2. As you book your flights, try to take as direct a route as possible. According to a NASA report, 25 percent of airplane emissions occur during takeoff and landing. The more stops you have on your flight route, the more your carbon footprint will be. You can also book with an airline that has carbon offset or environmental standards in place.
3. Teach your students about the importance of environmental stewardship. Here is a great starting point with dozens of lesson plans on climate change from the New York Times. Trees for the Future has educational resources to use in your classroom as well, like their “Planting Out Poverty” simulation game. They also have a short documentary that tells the story of how Forest Gardens are improving lives, ecosystems, and the planet.
4. Contact your representatives and ask them to take action on climate change. Here’s a good place to start when calling, emailing, or writing letters to your representatives. This site offers a template for writing letters to Congress. You could even help your students write letters!
We hope to eventually make our travel programs completely carbon neutral. In the meantime, we’ll continue to offset our carbon impact as much as possible, partner with ethical tour operators around the world, and encourage our teachers to become climate-conscious travelers.