One of the great joys of biking is the beauty of the places it takes you, which is why we have been living, working, and riding in the gorgeous countryside of Bolivia for over 14 years. Gravity is extremely conscious that despite running a bicycling tour company, we still leave a significant carbon footprint and as such we have been searching for years for a way to effectively offset our carbon emissions WHILE AT THE SAME TIME helping the communities we visit on our bike trips.
While biking down the World s Most Dangerous Road (Death Road) and noting that it is now almost completely devoid of traffic, and passing the locals in their seemingly idyllic lifestyles it may be difficult to imagine the change brought about by the opening and construction of the New Road is profound. It is a change they mark as a before and after, a reference in the timeline of the region. While the opening of the new road has significantly reduced the number of deaths on the World’s Most Dangerous Road, and made traveling and trade to the region much easier, there have also been many overlooked drawbacks from the massive changes brought about by the new road.
There are many communities along the old road which are slowly dying off, as the vein of their trade, incomes, access to transportation, schooling, etc, is no longer in use as a thoroughfare for transportation to the area. Some places that were once bustling with life are now ghost towns, while others are struggling to find ways to survive in the new paradigm this transformation represents. These people know the beauty of where they live, have grown up, and created the vibrant communities that make it such an amazing region.
Gravity has been dedicated to helping these communities for years. In addition to sponsoring events, supporting local industries, and our dedication to the local animal refuge, we have worked diligently to support local tourism projects with our time, money and advice in an effort to keep these vibrant communities alive and well. We are proud to support the regions newest project, while at the same time, making ourselves the first company in Bolivia to be Carbon Neutral. Working closely with Inti Illimani, and Servicios Ambientales S.A., Gravity will be completely Carbon Neutral by the end of 2012 and have helped several communities along the road produce their own solar ovens.
Gravity was assessed by Servicios Ambientales as producing 97.92 tonnes of CO2e per year for all our operations. This assessment was audited and verified by the Bolivian government body responsible for carbon emissions, IBNORCA. We knew from the beginning that to offset our emissions we also wanted do something that would benefit the communities we love to share with our clients. We were then made aware of the incredible work being done by Inti Illimani.
Throughout Bolivia, Inti Illimani have been very successful in setting up workshops to help rural communities finance, build, and learn how to use solar ovens. Many of these communities have little access to gas for cooking, and when they do, it is very expensive for them. Often these communities use wood stoves for the majority of their cooking needs, but for them this is very time consuming while contributing to deforestation and air pollution.
Inti Illimani judges the interest and needs of the communities via workshops in the area. In the workshops they demonstrate the advantages of Solar Ovens to the often sceptical communities and members of the community sign up to join the 4 day course, where they build the ovens, learn how to maintain them, how to cook with them, and basic information on nutrition. These courses are taught by Bolivians and focus on the particular communities’ wants and needs, using food grown locally to make dishes favoured in the area.
In addition to building the ovens the communities pay a small percentage of the cost of the ovens. These payments are made by community members in monthly instalments at the 4 monthly follow ups that the course instructors provide following the construction of the solar ovens. Through their involvement and monetary interest in the ovens, communities value them more which results in greater use and a longer lifespan for the ovens. With proper cleaning and normal maintenance these ovens can be regularly used for families delicious meals some 8-10 years, and in some instances even longer.
While the ovens cut the cost of gas, the time consumption of cooking with a wood stove and finding wood for it, as well as the air pollution created, they also offset an average of 2.25 tonnes of CO2 per oven, annually through cutting the carbon footprint of these two commonly used cooking methods. To offset Gravity’s carbon footprint we have started these courses with local communities in the Yungas Region to provide 50 families there with these ovens. This will completely offset our carbon footprint for the next 8-10 years that these ovens are in use, while providing families in the region with a safer, less time consuming, and free way to provide for their most basic needs.
Based on the success in the communities we have worked with for this program, Gravity would like to continue the cause with the help of its clients and the general public. Please spread the word about this program and let people know they too can help! By donating for an oven or a portion of an oven, one can offset completely their travels, or daily carbon footprint while providing communities with an opportunity to save money, time and better their local environments. Contact us now to see how you can get involved! firstname.lastname@example.org