It turns out diving into a Sustainability Initiative is a lot like trying to backpack a long-distance trail. You start out thinking it is going to go one way, and quickly it looks and feels totally different than the Instagram images of what you thought it would be. Also, it takes longer than you planned.

When we turned our sustainability lens towards vehicle use, I knew exactly where I thought we needed to go. I wanted to add a hybrid or electric vehicle to our fleet. But after looking at prices, used car inventory, insurance requirements, and accessing the average size of our hiking groups that require transportation, it became clear that going small and hybrid/electric wasn’t a good option for right now. (Hopefully it will be in the future.)

Still, we wanted to cut down on gas use as soon as possible and so… we bought a 15 passenger van. I know, I know, it doesn’t make sense. At least not at first. But the more we thought about it and talked through it as a team, the more we became convinced it was the right choice for right now. So… how does adding another gas guzzler to our fleet cut down on consumption??

  1. Most of our backpacking trips require one, if not two, out-and-back shuttles to remote trailheads located an hour or two from our basecamp. By adding another vehicle it allows guides to self-shuttle their backpacking trips and keep a car at the trailhead. That decreases our driving time/mileage by half for most of our trips.
  2. If our groups have more than six participants, we have to pull in two vehicles for shuttles. By adding a 15 passenger van, we can now take one vehicle to the trailhead for our larger groups. The van gets approximately the same gas mileage as our two large SUVs, so once again this cuts gas use in half and we only take one parking spot instead of two.

With these two considerations, the hope is to decrease our gas use by 50% this year. A final consideration for our 2022 vehicle purchase was that we bought it from one of our guides who is planning to hike the PCT this year. We know he has taken good care of the vehicle – and we know that these funds will go to support his hike.

Another area where we wanted to try and improve is on our day hikes. Booking transportation on a day hike is an additional fee and so most guests with a vehicle in town opt to caravan. This was a great option during the pandemic when being in small, enclosed spaces increased the risk the Covid transmission. However, now that vaccines/boosters are out and numbers are down, many of our guests and guides are willing to carpool to the trailhead.

Carpools are completely optional, left to the discretion of guides and guests, and not covered by company insurance/permits. In order to make our guides and guests more comfortable opting in for this environmentally friendly option we created a waiver to state these facts and legally protect everyone involved. It was reviewed by a lawyer this month and is now available for use for groups who personally decide to hop in the same vehicle.

If End-of-Year finances allow, we will look at trying to off-set our carbon emissions on company transportation. And, if not this year, then we will try to make it work next year when we don’t have to shoulder the cost of an additional vehicle. In 5 years the hope is to have a hybrid or electric vehicle in our fleet and off-set all carbon emissions from company transport. We’re not we’re we want to go yet, but we’re headed in the right direction – and using less gas/fossil fuels to get there. And that feels good.