We really value our wide open and sparsely populated spaces, fresh air and clean water. We are lucky enough to live in an environment that is relatively free of rubbish and pollution, and we would like to keep it that way.
It is also a great privilege of ours to be able to share this environment with our visitors from both NZ and overseas. Our aim in doing so is to minimise our environmental footprint as much as we possibly can, so that we can play our part in preserving and enhancing our environment for our tamariki (children), mokopuna (grandchildren), and all future generations.
Cycling in itself is a sustainable activity that treads lightly on the planet. The nature of an organised supported cycle tour also means that a whole group (of up to 14 people) travel together, in one vehicle, rather than everyone self-driving to a location to experience an area. It is car-pooling at it’s best and it is not only good for the planet but it also provides the participants with a great opportunity to get to know each other along the way and build a sense of camaraderie.
PureTrails New Zealand has signed up to the New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment. To deliver on this, we must achieve ambitious economic goals while sharing the overwhelming benefits with supportive host communities, contributing to restoring, protecting and enhancing our natural environment, and continuing to be a high quality destination of choice for domestic and international travellers.
PureTrails operates 3 commercial passenger vehicle buses which all tow our purpose built cycle trailers. We monitor the diesel used on every tour and compare fuel efficiency between the vehicles. Our newest vehicle, a 2016 model Mercedes Benz Sprinter bus, is an example of just how much more efficient newer, modern vehicles are compared to the older buses we first started operating in 2003. Each season we run a competition between our guides to see who can be the most fuel efficient driver for each vehicle which generates some interesting results!
Over the last 3 years we have travelled between 71,000 – 78,000 kilometers in our vehicles over our 8 month season and used between 10,000 – 12,000 litres of diesel. Our average litres of diesel per 100kms has dropped from 15.21 in 2017 to 14.61 in 2019.
We monitor the power used at our office/depot facility each month via our power bill. Computers, printers, our coffee machine(!) and other appliances are only turned on when required. We recently changed our power supply to a company called ‘Ecotricity’. Ecotricity is New Zealand’s only 100% CarboNZero certified energy provider. They source their electricity from sustainable and certified renewable electricity generation including carboNZero Certified hydro and wind from the Monowai and shortly Roaring Meg hydro dams and Flat Hill Wind Farm. You can log onto your account and see how many kgs of carbon emissions you have avoided each month. By supporting Ecotricity we are supporting the development of new renewable generation projects.
Water is a very precious resource in Canterbury and much of the eastern side of the South Island. Christchurch receives around 650mm of rain annually. Our drinking water is pumped from gravel aquifer’s tracking underneath the Canterbury Plains from the Southern Alps. With global warming and increasingly common El Nino weather patterns, droughts are becoming more common. In September 2018 we installed a 2000 litre water tank to harvest rainwater from our warehouse roof that we use to wash our bikes, thereby eliminating our reliance on council water sources.
In the 2018/2019 season we harvested more than enough rain water (9000 litres) to wash 619 bikes, using an average of 14.58 litres per bike. We also learnt what conditions used more water than others (hot windy days) so will attempt to avoid these conditions when washing bikes going forward.
With around 600 bikes hired each season, we have a lot of bikes to wash. Each bike gets thoroughly cleaned and serviced between every hire. Visitors to our Christchurch depot are often intrigued by our innovative ‘bike wash’ system. Bikes are washed in a big purpose built bath tub with the water, once it reaches a certain level, being recycled through a filter and pumped back into the hose to get reused, thereby minimising water use. Once the washing is complete the water is fed back through the filter to remove contaminants and into the waste water system. The remaining wet dirt is left to settle in the bath tub, dry out and evaporate in the sun, before being swept up and discarded into the general waste bin.
The days of having promotional material printed on glossy paper in large-scale print runs are long gone. All PureTrails brochures and booking confirmation paperwork are provided in electronic format unless otherwise requested. Our operation requires high levels of organising of logistics so we do generate lots of checklists and forms (for health & safety auditing purposes also) that are printed. We only use 100% recycled paper and everything is printed double-sided or in booklet format to minimise paper use, before being discarded into recycling waste. In the future we would like to have an app with all the tour maps and paperwork available in one easy place so that everything can be kept in your hand on your smartphone.
Running a bicycle fleet of 70 odd bikes that get replaced every second year means we tend to accumulate lots of spare parts. Every so often we do a stock take and box up everything we don’t need and donate it all to a local community group. In August 2017 we gathered up our latest collection featuring a plethora of bike frames, wheels, tyres, handlebars, saddles, brake leads, reflectors and more and delivered it to RAD Bikes, aka ‘Recycle a Dunger’. RAD is a central Christchurch based not-for-profit community bike shed run by volunteers. It is a workshop space where anyone can build or repair a bicycle for themselves and/or help restore bikes to give away. PureTrails were thrilled to been able to find a use for our random bike bits & pieces and we hope the parts can be recycled to bring someone else some joy on two wheels.
In 2017 PureTrails established a relationship with the Ohau Conservation Trust. The Ohau Conservation Trust was established in 2004 by people living in the Lake Ohau Basin in Mackenzie Country, with an aim to protect its special natural values. Significant work to control wilding trees and other weeds is undertaken by the Trust, as well as replanting natives and undertaking possum trapping projects to protect the native mistletoe found in the beech trees. PureTrails has donated $10 for every person on our tours to help the trust carry out it’s activities.
Since 2017 this has amounted to over $18,100 and as long as it is sustainable to do so we hope to continue with this program. As a company that we feel it is important to develop long term relationships with conservation groups so we can contribute some of what we earn from visitors, back into the places we visit on our tours.
Perhaps one of the most rewarding things about being a tour operator over the years has been the ability to visit and spend money in some of the smaller provinces of the South Island, many of whom have not traditionally benefited from the tourism spend. On many of our tours we stay in very small communities (with populations of 50 people or less) where the accommodation we stay at is owned by locals, and all the places we eat or obtain picnic lunches etc from are owned by small local businesses. In NZ one of the biggest economic success stories for the provinces has been the Otago Central Rail Trail which has moved the local economy from a subsistence based farming economy to a world class tourism destination in under 20 years. It is incredibly rewarding to bring our guest to the provinces and see first hand the economic difference that it makes to the local communities.
Currently we use plastic and melamine reusable coffee cups for our morning and afternoon teas served on the trail. We now encouraging our customers to bring their own reusable coffee cup with them on the tour so that it can be used not only for our trail side coffee stops, but all the latte stops in cafes along the way as well rather than using non-recyclable coffee cups which are a growing environmental problem. So far the uptake has been very good (particularly from our guiding team, who drink a lot of coffee!)
Up until 2019 we have always supplied our customers with a high quality drink bottle (for free) for the tour which we hoped would get taken home and used on other outings. Sadly, after seeing so many of our bottles discarded in the bus after a tour, we no longer provide them. People can still purchase a bottle from us to take home, though we are encouraging people to bring their own bottles instead. We have been surprised by how many vintage PureTrails drink bottles have starting appearing on trips in 2019!
Tiaki means to care for people and place. The Tiaki Promise is a commitment to care for New Zealand, for now and for future generations, which has been created by the NZ Government in response to irresponsible visitor practices such as freedom camping outside of permitted areas and toileting in the open. The Tiaki Promise has a set of guiding principles for visitors to follow, showing people how to contribute to preserving and protecting our land. By following the Tiaki Promise you are making a commitment to New Zealand.
‘While Travelling in New Zealand I will’;
1. Care for land, sea and nature, treading lightly and leaving no trace
2. Travel safely, showing care and consideration for all
3. Respect culture, travelling with an open heart and mind
You can care for New Zealand by following these simple steps: Drive Carefully; Be prepared; Show respect; Protect nature; Keep NZ clean
Here at PureTrailsNZ we take pride in the relatively unspoilt beauty of our country and feel privileged to call it home. We believe Tiaki is a great initiative to keep NZ beautiful.
Our next project is to investigate the possibility of offsetting the carbon emissions generated by the volume of diesel we use. We hope this will be feasible and that we can get involved with a local project in order to make this happen.
With smartphone technology today it is possible to have all our tour paperwork and maps etc stored in an app which our customers and guiding team can access via their phone. We are currently exploring options to make this a reality.