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By harnessing the natural powers of the ocean, we can reduce carbon emissions: Meet Vesta

aerial view of the ocean and coral reefs

Global warming is still on the rise and while it’s easy to get stuck in a loop of negative news about the effects of climate change, it’s also important to look towards the light and learn about some of the amazing projects working to take real climate action.

Enter Vesta, an incredible and innovative project which aims to safely remove and store carbon dioxide from our atmosphere by working with nature. Contiki’s non-profit foundation, TreadRight, has partnered with Vesta to support their valuable efforts, and it’s about time we share the incredible progress with you.

We spoke to Parisa Pouramn from TreadRight, about our partnership with Vesta and exactly what this organisation does on behalf of the Earth.

Can you tell us a little bit about Vesta? How did the partnership with TreadRight start?

“Vesta is an organisation that is on a mission to harness the natural power of the ocean in order to remove carbon from our atmosphere.”

“TreadRight has always been committed to protecting the planet, its people, and wildlife. Since it was created in 2008, it has funded 60+ projects around the world, and in 2021 we partnered with Vesta. We knew that to take real climate action, we had to invest in nature-based solutions working to safely remove carbon from the atmosphere. So, this investment and partnership with Vesta is part of Contiki’s Climate Action Plan, specifically the 3rd point, which commits to restoring our planet.”

olivine stone

Image source:Contiki

What does Vesta do, exactly?

“In simple terms, Vesta works to harness the natural power of the ocean and olivine rock to capture and store carbon. Scientifically speaking, this is done through the ‘carbonate-silicate cycle’ which is an ancient natural process.”

“The way that Vesta does this is through Coastal Carbon Capture: Vesta takes a naturally occurring mineral called olivine – a gorgeous green and black rock – and grinds it down to sand. They then distribute the sand to coastal areas, which have been designated as part of this project.”

“There, the sand gradually dissolves in the sea water, which also has an added benefit of reducing ocean acidity, and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing it in the olivine.”

“This research is 30 years in the making and a very promising, affordable, and scalable solution to removing carbon from the atmosphere. According to Vesta, this process captures up to 20 times more emissions that are created from extracting and transporting the olivine. They predict that deploying this olivine sand in just 0.1%-0.25% of shelf seas around the world could potentially remove 1 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, which is incredible!”

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What are some of the negative effects that carbon emissions have on our world? Why do we need to remove it from the atmosphere?

“Climate change is directly linked to an increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) or carbon emissions that are released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity. So, basically, every action we take adds to our carbon footprint and emits carbon into our environment, and we are simply producing an excessive amount of carbon for our atmosphere to naturally handle.”

“This increase in emissions results in the warming of our climate, resulting in escalation of extreme weather cycles – and this is not sustainable for the animals or humans living on earth as it negatively and greatly impacts ecosystems, food crops, etc. Scientists have laid out that in order to mitigate the climate crisis, our priority should be reaching net zero by 2050 – which Contiki has already committed to with verified science-based targets. That’s why it’s so important to reduce our carbon footprint.”

sea turtles in Hawaii

Image source:Contiki

What are nature-based solutions?

Nadine Pinto, our Global Sustainability Manager, adds the following: “Our primary focus is to reduce emissions, but also remove excess emissions – this is where nature-based solutions come into play.”

“The Earth has a natural carbon cycle that absorbs and releases carbon. Unfortunately, that cycle has been thrown out of balance due to deforestation, production of fossil fuels, and the degradation of our natural spaces. Restoring our wild places, through reforestation efforts like Trees for Life or Rainforest Rescue for example, so they can return to doing what they do best (absorbing carbon) is so important.”

“Nature-based projects work for and with nature to store carbon within the Earth, and that’s why Contiki is so excited to be partnering with multiple nature-based solutions across the world.”

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Are there any benefits to the specific methods that Vesta uses?

“Vesta is a perfect example of harnessing the earth’s capacity to store carbon in the ocean using the natural occurring mineral, olivine. Olivine is an abundant resource and it naturally occurs near our shelf seas. As a natural resource, this makes the project easily replicable and scalable and the use of olivine will not have negative impacts on the environment like the use of finite fossil fuels, for example,” says Nadine.

How is Contiki working to reduce its own carbon footprint?

“Our number one priority is reducing the emissions of our business and trips. We’re doing this through tactics such as reducing our food waste at our Château and Schöneck properties, using renewable energy at our properties and in our offices, opting for trains over planes where possible, using HVO biofuel for our coaches, and more!”

“This is why we try to also show our guests ways to reduce their own footprint, like through our MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Checklist.”

“Once we’ve reached our long-term and net zero target – which is to reduce our emissions by 90% by 2050 – we’ll address those emissions left over, the ones we can’t avoid, by removing the same amount of emissions from the atmosphere through projects like Vesta, resulting in net zero. Nature-based solutions that do this have a major role to play in taking climate action.”

cape town beach in South Africa

Image source:Contiki

Does Vesta get local communities involved in this project? If so, how?

“Yes! At TreadRight we believe that nature-based solutions must take into account and include the local and Indigenous communities who know the land the best. Vesta engages with the local community at all potential deployment sites before ocean studies begin.”

“They prioritise building relationships with people from the local community, taking into account their perspectives and expertise, and involving them in decision-making through predetermined processes.”

“In addition to this, Vesta also employs other skilled workers to manage their research station by funding local conservation non-profits to undertake collaborative scientific research. They also support local science students by offering internships so that they may learn new techniques and potentially join the crew one day.”

How can people support Vesta’s efforts?

“Vesta takes donations, however these tend to be on the much larger side. So, you can support endeavours like Vesta and climate action by finding ways to reduce your own carbon footprint at home and in your everyday life, and engaging with your own local community to kick-start some large-scale sustainable action in your area.”

“And, by travelling with Contiki you are also supporting Vesta as a portion of our revenue goes to funding them.”

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If you want to travel more sustainably, we have several articles on the topic, as well as guides to sustainable eating on the go, sustainable fashion, and sustainable tourism in various locations. The biggest thing you can do is make the first step and inspire those around you to take it with you.

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