Peace and understanding
through travel and hosting

SERVAS take steps to reduce its climate footprint

Servas take steps to reduce its climate footprint

The global board of Servas International – SI Exco – has accepted the 22 recommendations from its Ethical Travel Team regarding what Servas response should be to the climate crisis and in particular the threat that air travel poses.  Servas International has as its mission Peace and Understanding through Travel and Hosting.  The 2015 Servas International General Assembly decided to promote the idea of Travelling Peacefully and Walking Lightly on Earth.  The Servas International Ethical Travel Team (SIETT) was asked to advise on how to implement those principles.  These include recommendations on measuring carbon footprints at international and national level for organizational and individual and recommendations about offsets, reporting of this, and education.

The United Nations body Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5°C Report states that to avoid a 1.50C scenario would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems. Air travel causes a small part, but growing, of the increase in emissions. Air travel has become such an accepted part of modern life that it is often not easy to think of ways where alternatives exist. Air travel should be avoided, but if it cannot be avoided, then the travel should be limited as much as possible and the emissions should be offset.

A carbon footprint is the total output of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organization, event, product or person. Buying an offset means buying a credit that has been verified as having reduced, or prevented the release of emissions elsewhere.  The report makes a number of recommendations at individual, national and international levels about using a certified calculator and offset provider to calculate one’s footprint, and purchase offsets to compensate for the increase in emissions through travel.

Purchasing offsets should not stop the efforts to stopping or minimizing the cause of emissions that lead to the need for offsetting in the first place. For example, investigating carrying out meetings with electronic communication for international conferences, and considering regional meetings (for example, Asia, Europe, North America, Central America, South America, Africa, Australasian) but linked electronically. And reform the way in which SI operates to minimize membership of committees and meetings and stream-line decision making, to reduce travel requirements.  This should include taking steps to identify the major risks from extreme weather events in one’s region/country, and help to prepare to cope.

The report also recommends that at least annually, reports be made of the footprints and ways that the organizations internationally and nationally, are taking to minimize the impact.  This reporting should also include Board members and their personal footprint.

Education is an important action adopted by the Executive. For example, at the National body level when someone applies for membership, steps should be taken to inform them of the threat of climate warming.  It could be a requirement that the applicant commit to carrying out a footprint assessment.  The Executive also adopted the recommendation to publish stories of Servas members who are the best examples of walking lightly and to publish stories of the Servas countries that are in the lead for becoming the most eco friendly.

The full Report is available at here

Photo: “Dia da Terra: o melhor vem a seguir

 Questions about the report can be emailed to Robert Howell, convener of Servas International Ethical Travel Team (SIETT): 


Robert Howell

On behalf of SIETT