Lindblad cruise pioneer carbon neutral

Lindblad Expeditions has unveiled plans to become the first
carbon-neutral company in the cruise business, raising the ante in the contest
among some cruise lines to become the most environmentally progressive.

While many companies have taken steps to be carbon neutral,
few of them are in the transportation business where fossil fuel combustion is
a high-volume source of carbon dioxide emissions.

Sven Lindblad, CEO of Lindblad Expeditions, said the company’s
annual carbon emissions from all sources totals 50,000 metric tons, an amount
he said is the equivalent to the exhaust of about 9,000 cars.

The company plan is to make investments in clean-energy
projects that offset not only the fuel burned by its 13 ships, but also by
carbon produced by all land excursions, employee travel and offices in New York
and Seattle. 

“It’s everything we can identify,” Lindblad said
in an interview. “We are going to offset the entire enterprise,” he

Lindblad said his company worked with consulting firm South
Pole, headquartered in Zurich, to identify six projects to invest in. The
investments focus on renewable energy (both solar and wind) and reforestation
in three countries visited by Lindblad-National Geographic ships: Mexico,
Vietnam and Peru.

In three other countries — India, Zimbabwe and Rwanda —
Lindblad will invest in cooking stoves that burn wood and charcoal more
efficiently, leading to a reduction in carbon emissions.

The company did not disclose the size of the investment
required to offset the 50,000 metric tons it produces. But Lindblad said the
investment would be made so that the offset will be retroactive to Jan 1, 2019.

Asked if Lindblad-National Geographic fares would rise as a
result of the investment, Lindblad conceded they could, but added, “If we
raise our prices too much, it would hurt us, so we’re going to be very careful
about that.”

“Everything we do has a cost attached to it,”
Lindblad said, but he said some costs are necessary. “Nobody is going to
prosper in a degraded world,” he said.

While Lindblad is the first to declare carbon neutrality,
other cruise lines have taken similar steps on a smaller scale, most
prominently Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which invested in a 200-megawatt wind
farm in Kansas operated by Southern Power Co. intended to offset 12% of its
carbon emissions.

Like Lindblad, RCCL did not disclose the cost of the

Other cruise lines, such as Hurtigruten, are equipping new
ships with large battery racks that can be employed to reduce peak loads on
engines, saving fuel that would otherwise produce emissions.

Bio-diesel fuel and shore power are other cruise line
initiatives that hold down carbon release.

Some carbon-offset programs have drawn criticism for being
ineffective, or for exaggerated claims. Others are a work in progress. 

For example, a 2016 study published in an environmental journal
found that more efficient cooking stoves provided to 21,000 families in India
made no “statistically significant difference in wood use.” 

The stoves are designed to be 67% more efficient than
traditional ones. But the study found 40% of Indian women used them alongside
traditional stoves rather than as a substitute for them.

Lindblad vice president of conservation, education and
sustainability Amy Berquist said that South Pole requires independent
third-party verification and regular monitoring of all projects in their
portfolio to ensure they deliver the stated impacts and adhere to the highest
international standards. 

She said South Pole ensures emission reductions are
accurately measured and verified to deliver “transparent annual public

In addition to being carbon neutral, Lindblad in the next
month or so will introduce a carbon calculator on its website that passengers
flying to meet their cruise can use to estimate how much carbon dioxide their
airline flight will produce, and what it would cost to offset.

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