Measuring your carbon footprint

To be able to lower emissions, you first need to measure and identify your carbon footprint. This article shows you why measuring your carbon footprint is good for business and how you can start measuring your footprint yourself.
Measuring carbon footprint

The carbon footprint of tourism

Of all emissions worldwide, 5 to 8% is caused by the tourism industry. When people drive cars, take flights or stay in accommodations, their activity produces greenhouse gases. Also expressed as carbon dioxide (CO2). The carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced as a direct or indirect result of these activities. The more CO2 is produced, the more we contribute to global warming. Direct effects that we all experience are heavier storms, flooding, serious droughts, higher risk of fire and extreme heats.

All over the world, we are seeing major disruptions for local communities, natural resources and our tourism industry. Want to know more about our carbon footprint and the consequences for the tourism industry? Read our article: Managing your carbon footprint.

Measuring and identifying your carbon footprint

To protect the future of our planet, and therewith the future of the tourism industry, we need to cut down our carbon footprint. To be able to lower emissions, you first need to measure and identify your carbon footprint. Only if you gain deeper insight in your emissions and identify your largest sources, you will be capable of lowering your carbon footprint and making a change in your business.

Good for business

Understanding your environmental impact is essential when becoming a better tour operator. Taking responsibility for the environment and combating climate change. Every tour operator has a carbon footprint, the only question that remains is how large it is.

By measuring your emissions, you will find out all factors that contribute to your carbon footprint and identify the actions to reduce operating costs. It also helps you to:

  • Track and set goals to reduce emissions
  • To build on community and government relations
  • Develop brand recognition and credibility
  • Improve stakeholder relations
  • Raise awareness among employees and customers
  • Create positive impact

Being aware of your carbon footprint enables you to set goals and to act from there. As a tour operator, you do not only have emissions of your own office and business travel, but you are indirectly responsible for all emissions of your travelling customers. Gaining insight in the emissions of tours, activities and transport of the products you are selling is essential to make an actual change in your overall carbon footprint.

Calculating your carbon footprint

Your carbon footprint is a calculation of all greenhouse gases released due to the existence of your business. All the activities you undertake, direct or indirect, emits CO2 into our atmosphere. The calculation for carbon dioxide equivalent is as follows:

Business activity x emissions factors = tCO2e

Before you start measuring, you need to define your measuring period. It’s advisable to do this on a yearly basis. Thereby, you’ll also need to define your scope. Which activities are you going to include? As mentioned before, as tour operator you are indirectly responsible for the emissions of the tours you sell. To what extent are you including this footprint in your calculations?

Different scopes of emissions

To measure your carbon footprint, it’s important to know the different scopes of emissions. You can identify the scopes relevant to your business and measure accordingly.

Scope 1: Direct emissions

Direct emissions are emitted on-site or by company vehicles. These emissions are only relevant if you own company vehicles, otherwise it’s seen as indirect emissions (scope 3).

Scope 2: Electricity emissions

This is by far the easiest scope to measure, as it focuses on the emissions of heating and cooling, lighting and electrical use. By looking at your electricity, gas and water bills you can easily discover your emissions.

Scope 3: Indirect emissions

This scope measures all indirect emissions from other sources such as business and staff travel, paper, waste, but also the emissions of the tours and activities you offer.

Tools to measure your carbon footprint

Measuring your whole carbon footprint will most likely seem like an enormous challenge now you are aware of the different scopes and calculations. Luckily, carbon calculators have been developed to make this task a whole lot easier.

If you have emissions from scope 1, you can easily select any online tool to calculate the emissions of company vehicles by entering the type of car and the total number of kilometres. For emissions from scope 2, consult your monthly or yearly electricity, gas and water bills.

Carmacal carbon calculator

Scope 3 is more difficult as you are aiming to measure the offset of the tours and activities you offer. Exclusively for tour operators, the carbon calculator Carmacal has been developed. Carmacal calculates the carbon footprint of complete holiday and travel packages and is with its high level of details a sound base for carbon management for tour operators.

Especially the high level of detail is unique, as you are able to measure and manage every carbon footprint aspects of your products in detail. The emissions of flights are specified up to the level of airline and type of planes. Carmacal also differentiates the footprint of 25 modes of transport and 21 activities and gives exact distance calculations. It also has a database of the carbon footprint from over 500.000 accommodations worldwide.

Interested in learning how the carbon footprint can be easily calculated in Carmacal? View the video below.

Most compensation schemes have their own calculator tools to measure your carbon offset, although none of them will be as specific as Carmacal due to its focus on tour operators.

Taking further action

Understanding and measuring your carbon footprint is only the first step of taking responsibility and protecting the tourism industry by slowing global warming. To actually start lowering your emissions and slowing down climate change the next steps are reducing and compensating your carbon footprint.

Steps to take action

Step 1: Measure and identify your carbon footprint

Step 2: Reduce to minimise your carbon footprint

Step 3: Compensate your remaining carbon footprint


  1. This topic is really broad. I would want to understand on how we can reduce our carbon emissions especially from our tour vehicles? Would encouraging more walking during excursions be one of them?

    1. Hi Immaculate, yes it’s indeed very broad but also because there many ways to reduce your carbon emissions. It depends on your type of business and (local) possibilities. For Ugandan safaris, yes more walking (or biking) is definitely a great way to reduce your emissions.

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