Nature is in trouble. The climate is changing, landscapes are shifting and species are disappearing. Deforestation, loss of biodiversity and climate change are just a few of the serious environmental concerns facing the world today. Despite the lack of major progress on these global issues, public awareness is growing, corporations are beginning to support environmentally responsible business practices, and many countries have made significant progress in some areas, such as in reducing air pollution. Change is possible, but we must all contribute in our own way.
Down Under Discoveries is an Eco Accredited Tour Operator committed to conducting our nature based tourism experiences in an environmentally sustainable manner. We aim to comply with the environmental protection standards and by the principals of sustainable tourism.
What is Ecotourism Certification?
The ECO Certification program is run by Ecotourism Australia, a not for profit organisation focused on inspiring environmentally sustainable and culturally responsible tourism. Their program certifies tourism products (tours, accommodations, attractions) with a primary focus on nature. It assures travellers that certified products are backed by a strong, well managed commitment to sustainable practices and provides high quality nature-based tourism experiences.
The ECO Certification Program is a world first and it has been developed to address the need to identify genuine nature and ecotourism operators. ECO Certification is product-specific— this means that operators need to answer the criteria as it applies specifically to each of their products.
The ECO Certification Program is divided into three levels:
Nature Tourism, EcoTourism & Advanced EcoTourism
Down Under is proud to have all of their experiences certified under EcoTourism as part of their commitment to Environmental Sustainability.
"Tourism in a natural area that focuses on optimal resources use, leaves minimal impact on the environment and offers interesting ways to learn about the environment with operators that use resources wisely, contribute to conserving the environment and help local communities."
Ecotourism Australia's certification schemes are independently assessed and audited, ensuring a high standard for quality and compliance. ECO certification provides recognition for consumers to be assured of the operators commitment to environmental best practice, quality experience and customer service.
For more information please head to the Ecotourism Australia website via the link here.
What is climate change?
Climate change is a change in the pattern of weather, and related changes in oceans, land surfaces and ice sheets, occurring over time scales of decades or longer.
Observed changes over the 20th century include increases in global average air and ocean temperature, rising global sea levels, long-term sustained widespread reduction of snow and ice cover, and changes in atmospheric and ocean circulation and regional weather patterns, which influence seasonal rainfall conditions.
These changes are caused by extra heat in the climate system due to the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The additional greenhouse gases are primarily input by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), agriculture, and land clearing. These activities increase the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The science behind climate change is supported by extensive scientific research performed and reported across the world. Past and present climate information is collected from observations and measurements of our environment, including trapped air in ice from thousands of years ago. Climate models are used to understand the causes of climate change and to project changes into the future.
Many of the impacts of climate change pose risks to human and natural systems, in the form of more frequent and severe heat waves, coastal inundation due to sea level rise, disruptions to rainfall patterns and other effects. Analyses of a range of climate scenarios indicate the most severe risks of climate change can largely be mitigated if carbon dioxide emissions are reduced to the point where carbon dioxide is no longer accumulating in the atmosphere.
WE MUST ACT NOW!!
Environmental Aims and Objectives
We have incorporated the following into our business to be able to run a sustainable tourism operation:
Comply with all the relevant laws, regulations and standards in the interest of protecting our environment.
Identify and minimise all possible environmental risks associated with the operation of our experiences.
Incorporate environmental interpretation into our experiences as a means of educating visitors on environmental issues, impacts, climate change and associated risks and conservation.
Develop environmental standards and incorporate measures to achieve those standards.
Work actively with government, industry groups and the community to develop appropriate solutions to issues, formulate environment goals and provide comments on proposed laws and regulations that affect the industry.
Encourage staff and contractors to develop a sense of responsibility for environmental protection by providing training and information on environmental matters.
Reduce waste by lessening our use of one time plastic and increasing our use of recycled containers.
Promote and maintain natural, social and cultural diversity essential for long-term sustainable tourism, and create a resilient base for our industry.
Support local communities and organisations. Source local products and contribute to a range of local economic activities to protect these economies and decrease the environmental impacts associated with the transport of materials from other regions.
Down Under Discoveries believes that education is important for increasing awareness about the plight of the planet's environment and the role ecotourism can play in achieving sustainability. We are committed to highlighting potential threats and impacts to the environment surrounding tourism, as well as practices to prevent and mitigate these impacts.
Public awareness about the importance and value of sustainable tourism practices is growing and through our work, we help our clients learn about simple changes that can have a positive impact on nature, increasing conservation efforts in Australia and beyond.
We have also provided a list of sustainable travel tips to help travellers become more responsible and eco friendly. Check out our Sustainable Travel tips here.
Leave No Trace
The outdoors is there for exploration and discovery. Be mindful of the impact you have on others and the environment and enjoy it more sustainably for future generations. You may have heard the phrase “Leave No Trace”. Simply put, it’s the best practices we should follow to enjoy and protect our natural spaces.
7 Principles of "Leave no Trace"
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave What You Find
Minimise Campfire Impacts
Be Considerate of Your Hosts and Other Visitors
Down Under Discoveries embraces the principles and educates others accordingly.
The involvement of non-professionals like ourselves in scientific research and environmental monitoring, termed Citizen Science (CS), has now become a valuable mainstream approach for collecting data on earth processes, ecosystems and biodiversity. Modern BONs (Biodiversity Observation Networks) allow any citizen to assist with data collection and analysis which is essential to help government bodies in rural areas bringing benefits to their operations.
Down Under Discoveries uses the iNaturalist BON, recommended by the Friends of Porongurup Range as a fantastic biodiversity mapping tool for their projects dedicated to observation including:
Porongurup Twin Creeks Conservation Reserve
Southwest Australia Biodiversity Hotspot
We use the FrogID BON which is run by the Australian Museum. By recording a frog call with the app, we can discover which frogs live around us and help count Australia's frogs!
We also use the South West NatureGuide App from the Department of Parks and Wildlife. The app uses technology to help you build a deeper connection to the natural world, just like walking with a local expert.
All apps are available on Android and Apple available from the links on their websites below.
https://www.frogid.net.au & https://www.inaturalist.org/ & https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/connect/read/south-west-natureguide-app
These Biodiversity Observation Networks have been a valuable tool on our experiences and we enjoy sharing and educating our clients as to the benefits of each.
We aim to lower our carbon footprint where possible.
Administrative/home office space
Our home office is fitted with LED lighting which consumes up to 90% less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs, and have close to no UV emissions.
We also make sure lights are not used in office during the day.
All technology equipment is energy efficient and set to 'power saving' mode to reduce energy use.
All printed material is printed on recycled paper and all paper is recycled.
We maintain a no email print policy.
All equipment is turned off at it's source.
Our fridge for storing tour food is energy efficient with a five-star rating.
All of our organic waste is recycled to add to the worm farms, vegetable gardens or fed to our chickens.
Office electricity is on a Synergy Smart Home Plan
Our vehicles are cleaned with biodegradable cleaning products.
Our vehicles are kept in good clean condition, serviced and maintained regularly.
Our drivers are trained in fuel-efficient driving practices.
We arrange pick-up's/drop-offs in advance to ensure minimal vehicle use.
All camping equipment powered devices are powered using solar powered devices.
Solar powered headlamps used for our night activities
We purchase locally where possible to reduce emissions from transportation
We partner with climate friendly businesses/suppliers (see partnerships)
Bulk purchases are made to reduce waste
Marketing and promotional
We are currently working on reducing our printed marketing and increasing our e-marketing. Our brochure is available on the website and potential clients will be encouraged to scan or photograph rather than take it and add to waste later.
We calculate and review our total emissions on an annual basis via www.carbonneutral.com
Our carbon footprint is calculated and reviewed on an annual basis via www.carbonfootprint.com
We will continue to work on reducing our carbon footprint where possible and are currently working on a Carbon Offset Program to offset our remaining carbon emissions. See more info here.