Many times, a company will write a mission statement, use a few buzzwords, and go about their business. These days, it seems organisations everywhere are using the word sustainability. It is in marketing materials, advertisements, letterheads, websites, mission statements—it’s hard to miss. But for us, sustainability isn’t a buzzword, it’s our way of life. As a single product operator, our fortunes are closely linked to exceeding the expectations of our clientele, and we are constantly endeavouring to become the name that everyone talks or hears about within the industry—a tourism operator that appreciates nature and gives back the environment. The Great Barrier Reef is not “What we do” but rather “Who we are.”
In 2013, Passions of Paradise contacted the Australian Rainforest Foundation about becoming carbon neutral as part of an upgrade to our eco-tourism certification. We were interested in working with a local organisation to offset our carbon footprint, and in turn promote our commitment to the environmental sustainability and conservation of ecosystems in Far North Queensland. The Australian Rainforest Foundation, our chosen partner, began in 1996, and is an incorporated not-for-profit company that promotes as its core values the protection, extension and recovery of Australia’s natural areas, with particular focus on our region’s remarkable rainforests. These core values are pursued through land acquisition, rehabilitation and resale to forest guardians, re-vegetation of critical forest linkages and through the training and education of people in conservation and land management.
In March 2015, after an 18-month carbon footprint impact assessment and carbon offset scheme roll-out, Passions of Paradise commenced regular payments to the Foundation, and in turn the Foundation agreed to plant carbon offsetting rainforest trees for at a rate of $5 per tree.
A site at Mission Beach named “El Arish” was initially chosen for the planting; this was a rainforest block which had been partially cleared for agriculture in the past and was subject to rehabilitation by the Foundation. As of December 2015, the Australian Rainforest Foundation has planted 2,000 native trees for Passions of Paradise at this site. As part of the project, the Foundation engaged unemployed men and women from the Daintree area to undertake the site preparation and planting. Ten of these were trained and graduated in a Certificate III in Conservation and Land Management; of these trainees, two identified as Indigenous, and we are happy to report that one of these Indigenous men has since gained casual employment with Foundation to maintain the planted area.
The funds for these trees are covered by Passions of Paradise as a company, and we do supplement this fund with donations from our passengers. With a goal in January 2015 of $400 per month as a donation from our guests, we got off to a slow start; however once the crew understood the significance of working with such an amazing organisation, promotion increased, and we are happy to report that we are regularly meeting our monthly goal. If you are travelling with Passions of Paradise to the Great Barrier Reef, a voluntary $1 donation is all it takes to make your trip completely carbon neutral.