NatureAir 100% Carbon Neutral Airline

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NatureAir 100% Carbon Neutral Airline

San Jose, Costa Rica
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Since 2004, NatureAir, based in San Jose Costa Rica, has been synonymous with a 100% carbon neutral aviation program. Making it the first airline to create a program of such magnitude. NatureAir offsets 100% of its greenhouse gas emissions to encourage reforestation of tropical forests in southern Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity zones of the Osa Peninsula. To date NatureAir has compensated for nearly 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide though the protection of more than 500 acres of tropical forests, offsetting more than 6,000 tons of carbon emissions each year. In addition, NatureAir recently helped develop Costa Rica’s first alternative fueling station through it wholly owned fueling ...

About You
Your idea
This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.
Street Address

Tobias Bolanos Airport

City

San Jose

State/Province

Costa Rica

Postal/Zip Code
Country
Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of stewardship of the destination.

Organization size

Medium (101 to 1000 employees)

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Year innovation began

2004

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Indicate sector in which you principally work

General tourism.

IDB/Fomin
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No deseo postularme.

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Consumidores (viajeros), Grupos comunitarios autóctonos, Atractivos naturales y culturales.

Indica cuales de estas tematicas cubre tu innovacion (elige todas aquellas opciones que apliquen)

Profesionalización, buenas prácticas y certificación de servicios turísticos sostenibles, Estrategias y herramientas innovadoras para la promoción y puesta en mercado de destinos y productos en turismo sostenible y geoturismo..

Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation? Please describe in one sentence the kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

NatureAir’s program limits carbon emissions and reduces company dependence on fuel in the air and on the ground.

Please write an overview of your project. Include how your approach supports or embodies geotourism or destination stewardship. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the map located on the competition homepage.

Since 2004, NatureAir, based in San Jose Costa Rica, has been synonymous with a 100% carbon neutral aviation program. Making it the first airline to create a program of such magnitude. NatureAir offsets 100% of its greenhouse gas emissions to encourage reforestation of tropical forests in southern Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity zones of the Osa Peninsula. To date NatureAir has compensated for nearly 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide though the protection of more than 500 acres of tropical forests, offsetting more than 6,000 tons of carbon emissions each year. In addition, NatureAir recently helped develop Costa Rica’s first alternative fueling station through it wholly owned fueling company, Aerotica. NatureAir fuels all ground equipment and vehicles with bio-diesel (a mix of recycled vegetable and cooking oils), collected from airline employees and local restaurants. It’s estimated this biodegradable fuel will reduce roughly 160 tones of CO2 emissions per year. The fuel costs five cents more per gallon but the sustainable impact to the environment makes it a worthwhile investment, according to NatureAir. These projects also provide other benefits, such as improved biodiversity through forestry projects and contribution to the renewable energy industry.

Explain in detail why your approach is innovative

NatureAir is one of the only airline companies to automatically offset a traveler’s flight, carbon offsetting is not voluntary. NatureAir’s vision is to conserve resources, protect the environment and keep the air we breathe cleaner and healthier. Climate change is a big problem facing our planet today, and preserving our forests remains a key part of the solution.

The airline industry contributes an estimated 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. At the end of the day, flying results in the emission of greenhouse gases no matter how efficient NatureAir is. Offsetting is an option that enables NatureAir to compensate for these emissions through government recognized environmental projects. For every ounce of carbon produced NatureAir purchases carbon credits from the government’s pioneering for environmental services payment program governed by the forestry department (FONAFIFO).

Furthermore, to help limit its emissions NatureAir uses a twin-engine fleet, conducts extensive flight crew training, improves flight plans regularly and schedules flight so that long taxi waits are avoided before take off. These adjustments improved its fuel efficiency by 7% in three years. Currently NatureAir is working towards an additional reduction of emissions by 4% per aircraft in 2010.

Impact
Describe the degree of success you have had to date. How do you measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the impact on sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How has it transformed or contributed to the power of place or demonstrated the sustainability of tourism? How does your approach minimize negative impacts?

For five years NatureAir has helped save endangered tropical forests and its habitat in Costa Rica. NatureAir uses carbon credits to ensure trees are not cut down for logging or timber purposes. To date the airline has compensated for nearly 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide though the protection of more than 500 acres, offsetting more than 6,000 tons of carbon emissions per year.

In addition NatureAir helps keep local rivers free from pollution. To prevent restaurants from dumping oil down its sink drains, which may run into the rivers, NatureAir created a formula of bio-diesel. This alternative fuel is made up of recycled vegetable and cooking oils. The company pays local restaurants to collect its excess cooking oils, for the creation of bio-diesel. NatureAir then runs all of its ground equipment and vehicles off of this alternative fuel. The use of bio-diesel reduces approximately 160 tones of CO2 emissions per year.

Furthermore, NatureAir works with the local Rainforest Alliance chapter to better educate its staff members on how to live a more eco-friendly life. It encourages recycling at all of the airports and installed energy saver light bulbs at 80% of its airports.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your work, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

Local landowners voluntary participate in FONAFIFO and see the long-term value with keeping their forests alive, versus the quick cash of selling trees to logging activities. When Costa Rica's tropical forests are cut down, there is very little value left on or for the land. More importantly the wildlife, flora and fauna are impacted by this loss as much as the local communities.

In addition, NatureAir formed the Nature Kids Foundation, an organization built on the principles of providing education and environmental best practices to the rural communities it serves to provide better opportunities for the future.

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

Based on the nature of the business, an airline does not have many opportunities to guide a traveler to a local village or promote certain enthusiasms. However, with NatureAir’s company published Nature Landings magazine, the Rainforest Alliance is a constant contributor on best sustainable travel practices participate and how a traveler may add value and participate in communities within the region. The magazine also features local organizations that are working in environmental and social issues. This is one way to help educate passengers on how their travels can be more sustainable, and encourage involvement within a community during their stay.

Describe how your work helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area's cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues.

Education is also a strong part of NatureAir’s initiative. Through the NatureKids non-profit foundation formed by NatureAir, Costa Rican children and their families are taught English and environmental education for free or little cost.

The community experience is a vital piece of the NatureKids methodology. Teachers connect lesson plans to personal, family, community and environmental issues. They also take students into nature to learn language in the place they know best, their villages. Environmental programs are just as involved in the curriculum as English classes are, students learn recycling initiatives, participate in environmental workshops and activities.

Sustainability
How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

NatureAir’s carbon neutral program is not voluntary. The cost of its carbon-offsetting program is included in each traveler’s airline ticket price. Based on the flights flown in the previous 12 months NatureAir purchases carbon credits from the government’s pioneering payment for environmental services payment program governed by the forestry department (FONAFIFO). The emission amount is calculated by a detailed greenhouse gas life cycle assessment. The assessment figures out the amount of gas emissions used in all aspects of operations in the air and on the ground.

NatureAir has grown from flying more than 40,800 passengers in 2002, to more than 140,000 passengers in 2008. The company employs 150 part and full time employees.

Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? Is there a potential demand for your innovation?

As long as NatureAir is in operation it will continue to save trees, and limit its use of carbon emissions. Statistics have shown that travelers are willing to pay a little bit more to make their vacations more sustainable and eco-friendly. Based on NatureAir’s continued growth year after year the company has been able to show on a small scale how an airline can be sustainable. Larger commercial airlines have also started to follow suit. Some airlines now offer travelers the option to voluntary offset their flight.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

NatureAir does not feel it has any barriers to manage its program – just challenges.
One challenge the company faced was when it launched the carbon neutrality program in 2004 this was a new initiative that no other airline was doing. At that time the government ministry of FONAFIFO had been developed to work with only large non-governmental organizations and foreign governments that were forced to compensate its carbon emissions. Nature Air became the first private sector company to voluntarily ask to work with a government sanctioned program and compensate its flight emissions. Since this had never been done before the first challenge became finding an emissions program that would best fit NatureAir’s needs.

The second challenge was educating passengers. To cover the extra costs for offsetting NatureAir had to slightly raise its ticket prices. It was a struggle on what might be the best way to inform, educate and motivate passengers that carbon neutrality was a good thing. Fortunately since that time public discourse has increased substantially and most people understand why NatureAir is proud to stand behind this program, even if it might cost the passenger a few extra dollars.

What is your plan to expand or further develop your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

NatureAir’s goal is to become carbon positive. It is revamping its approach continuously on how its operations can become more sustainable. In the near future NatureAir is taking the appropriate measures to reduce its current emission production to an additional 4% per aircraft by 2010.

NatureAir's long term goals include continued growth so that it may have the capabilities to compensate for the entire company's carbon emissions, this includes emissions produced in its offices, supply chain etc.

The Story
Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

Alex Khajavi, CEO and Chairman of the Board of NatureAir Holding Company SA, and Naturegate -a sustainable tourism development company, carries an extensive background in international finance, tourism development and ecotourism consulting. Mr. Khajavi has worked on sustainable development projects in the Seychelles, Egypt, Fiji, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Belize, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Panama, Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, and Kenya.

Mr. Khajavi has lectured on conceptualization, sustainable design, and tourism planning for the Ecotourism Society, UNESCO, United Nations and contributed to several books and papers on sustainability. He has also worked closely with the Ecotourism Society as a premier supporting member.

What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.

NatureAir wanted to make a difference, help save the planet, and better assist the communities it serves. NatureAir Founder Alex Khajavi has dug his hands in many sustainable projects across the world for nearly 30 years. In addition, he’s known for being an advocate to encourage developing countries to adopt ecotourism as a financially and environmentally sustainable tool for development. Therefore, it was no secret when he and his colleagues began researching a way for NatureAir to limit its carbon emissions. It was understood that for an airline to become sustainable it would be challenging but not impossible. In creating a 100% carbon neutral aviation program Mr. Khajavi was hoping to make a spark, which might lead to a more sustainable aviation industry worldwide. In 2003, when NatureAir began researching this issue of carbon neutrality, there was very little understanding in regards to the public and private sector of involvement. Although, Mr. Khajavi felt his company could change this and add exposure to the issue. He wanted to get people talking about the possibility of airlines becoming carbon neutral.

Furthermore, this program would also benefit the local communities along the bio-diverse zones of the Osa Pensinsula. NatureAir joined forces with Costa Rica’s Government Forestry Financing Program (FONAFIFO). The backbone of Mr. Khajavi’s program is for every ounce of carbon emissions produced in the air, and on the ground NatureAir purchases carbon credits from FONAFIFO. NatureAir provides data each year to FONAFIFO based on its fuel consumption for the previous year. From there, NatureAir reviews the projects and locations of landowners that have applied for the Forestry Financing Program. The participants have voluntarily agreed to conserve their land in exchange for yearly financing which can be used how they wish. 20% of NatureAir's carbon offsetting financial contributions goes toward administration, analysis and auditing of the lands, while 80% is paid directly to the landowners for guaranteed protection of their privately owned tropical forests in Southern Costa Rica.

To continue with Mr. Khajavi’s mission and cut back on more emissions each day, his colleagues found a way to limit CO2 emissions from ground vehicles. Through NatureAir’s wholly owned fueling company, Aerotica, a formula of bio-diesel was produced. While Mr. Khajavi realizes it’s nearly impossible to entirely eliminate emissions in the air, he has found one way to cut back on the carbon produced from ground vehicles. Bio-diesel is cleaner burning than petroleum diesel: studies show combustion of bio-diesel emits 40-60 percent less greenhouse gas emissions.

All of these program work together to further continue on with Mr. Khajavi’s mission to live in a more environmentally sustainable future.

Describe some unique tourist experiences that your approach provides. Be specific; give illustrative examples.

Flying a NatureAir plane gives travelers the satisfaction that they are helping to save trees and its local habitat in the rich biodiversity zones forests of Southern Costa Rica. Thanks to its customers NatureAir is able to guarantee the protection of more than more than 500 acres of tropical forest.

NatureAir’s efforts help protect the biological corridors between the Corcovado National Park and Pidras Blanca National Park by ensuring wildlife is not threatened by deforestation. These parks are home to 400 species of birds, 140 species of mammals, 116 species of amphibians and reptiles, over 500 species of trees and more than 6,000 species of insects. The park also protects endangered animals such as the jaguar, puma, crocodile, tapir, poison dart, golden frogs, and the harpy eagle. The regions beaches are also major nesting sites for sea turtles. Without these forests travelers would never have the opportunity to witness nature at its finest. These parks are very important for medical research, animal behavior and evolution studies.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

The company has adopted an integrated approach to the issue of global warming by forming an internal sustainable tourism committee to ensure the NatureAir Sustainable Tourism Policy is innovative and implemented in the best capabilities. NatureAir understands it’s important to work with groups that support sustainable practices on a global level. The company is affiliated with the Rainforest Alliance, the World Heritage Alliance, the International Ecotourism Society, and the Climate Neutral Network. NatureAir supports the work of these companies and is proud to lead the fight for a more sustainable future on all levels of tourism.