Rick Steves launches annual million-dollar commitment to carbon neutral travel

Rick Steves

Edmonds-based travel authority Rick Steves has announced a new Climate Smart Commitment aimed at offsetting the carbon emitted by its tour members.

In an announcement, Steves said he has seen the effects of climate change around the world, and he is passionate about doing what he can to slow those changes down. Starting in spring 2019, Steves’ company will donate $1 million annually to fund climate-smart agriculture, agroforestry, and conservation projects in underdeveloped countries. A portion of this money will also support advocacy organizations in the U.S. whose work is crucial to sustaining climate-smart efforts around the world.

Typically, private businesses that adopt an environmentally friendly policy purchase “carbon offset credits,” the announcement from Steves notes. These credits are managed by brokers to help fund clean energy projects, such as solar and wind technologies, often based in North America and Europe.

More background from the announcement:

Rejecting this conventional approach and the administrative fees attached, Rick Steves’ Europe has chosen to work with organizations that directly address the problem in developing countries — emphasizing projects that empower women to take leadership roles, protect their environment, and strengthen their communities.

Based on figures from scientists and development experts, it takes roughly $30 of careful investment in environmental initiatives in the developing world to mitigate the carbon emissions created by a single traveler on a Rick Steves tour. Each year, Rick Steves’ Europe takes about 30,000 travelers on its tours. Doing the math and then rounding it up, Steves estimates that $1 million annually is what his company “owes” to the environment. Drawn from the tour company’s profits — not passed along to the customer via higher prices — Steves’ investment in the environment is strongly linked to the company’s core value of demonstrating good global citizenship.

“We don’t see this program as particularly heroic,” says Steves. “It’s simply ethical. We believe every business should bear the cost to the environment of their activities. That’s just honest accounting. We hope this program will inspire everyone who buys or sells tours to practice the same environmental ethic. This way, long after we are gone, our children will be able to enjoy the same happy travels we have.”

For 2019, Rick Steves’ Europe has announced the first three recipients of the grant funding:

  • Project Concern International
    Works in developing countries to empower women and promote climate-smart agriculture.
  • Bread for the World
    Lobbies our government to adopt climate-smart policies.
  • ELCA World Hunger
    Works in developing countries to help small family farms be climate smart.

Additional partners will be announced later in the year. “Many of our projects will have nuanced goals,” says Craig Davidson, Chief Operating Officer of Rick Steves’ Europe. “We like to think of it as creating a diversified mutual fund of climate-smart projects where the primary investment is in people and the future.”

To sustain the long-term impact of this initiative, the company will revisit its portfolio every year to ensure that the most effective organizations are getting the support they need to make a difference, the announcement said.


  1. Sounds like a great idea. Hope other business around the world will be become more environmentally aware and proactive.

  2. What a wonderful commitment by one of our community’s greatest citizens. Thank you Rick for your support of our community and planet. Makes me proud to go on a Rick Steves tour.

  3. Very impressive! Also an important reminder about how air travel impacts the environment.

  4. I find it hard to believe that a trip to Europe creates the financial equivalent of a $33 carbon footprint.

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