How a South Australian adventure tour company is offsetting their carbon in the local community

From 2016 to 2019, Calypso Star Charters, in South Australia’s Port Lincoln, was a carbon neutral tourism business. But when their carbon auditing and offsetting provider stopped offering carbon offset services in mid-2019, the company knew it was time to think outside the box.

With a clear personal investment in the local community – Calypso Star Charters is a family-run business – the idea arose to start a local environment fund. This fund would provide an opportunity for the company to invest the same amount as was previously put towards carbon offsetting schemes, many of them overseas, into local community projects instead.

“We didn’t know what to do, initially,” explained part-owner/operator Andrew Wright. “But then we thought, why aren’t we spending the money locally?”

From September 2019, the Calypso Star Charters Local Environment Fund has been receiving funds equal to the cost of former offsets (emissions are audited regularly, and the funds adjusted annually) and distribution has begun to local groups and projects that can demonstrate tangible environmental benefits.

Coast Care Group school project 2

Photo credit: Calypso Star Charters

One such project has been working with the local Lake Wangary Primary School and the Lower Eyre Coast Care Association to assist in revegetating Greenly Beach, 60km west of Port Lincoln. What began as a tree propagation day involving year 5, 6 and 7 students in 2019 will continue as a tree planting day in 2020, in line with World Environment Day.

Andrew said it’s been great seeing the younger generation actively engaged in environmental management programs and being able to pass on the importance of caring for nature.

A second project already completed thanks to the new fund is the installation of LED lighting at Port Lincoln’s local gymnastics club.

“My kids go to the club and I kept thinking – do these guys know how much money they could be saving if they switched to LED?” Andrew said. With the support of the South Australian RESS (Retailer Energy Efficient Scheme) and a $3,114 donation from the Calypso Star Charters Local Environment Fund, the change was made possible and it’s now anticipated the club could reduce its energy running costs for lighting by about 60%.

“That will save them about $4,000 a year,” Andrew explained.

Port Lincoln gym lights 1

Photo credit: Calypso Star Charters

So, what else is on the agenda for the Local Environment Fund?

Andrew told us that the it’s the newest project on the agenda that he’s most excited about: a composting solution that involves a former concrete mixer, a friend with a gardening business and leftover bait that previously got sent to landfill.

What will happen to the compost?

“Not sure yet – we’ll most likely sell it for beer money!” Andrew laughs.

One thing’s for sure – new ideas keep emerging from Calypso Star Charters, and with so many benefits flowing back into the local community, that’s definitely something we can all toast to.


For more news and updates on the Calypso Star Charters Local Environment Fund, visit the website.


When the Gospers Mountain bushfire threatened the Lithgow community in New South Wales in late October 2019, no one could have predicted the heartache that was still to come.

The mega fire, which is said to have started from a single ignition point, ended up decimating an area seven times the size of Singapore. It was the biggest forest fire from a single ignition point that Australia has ever experienced.

For Kristie Kearney, founder and owner of award-winning and Advanced Ecotourism certified local tourism business, Wolgan Valley Eco Tours, the fire’s impact was as direct as it was devastating.

Firefighter image credit John Spencer NSW Parks and Wildlife Service FB

Photo: NSW firefighter / Credit: John Spencer

“Our business was impacted massively by the Gospers Mountain Fire here in the Lithgow region,” she told us. “Our place of operation is in Wollemi and [the] Gardens of Stone National Park – both decimated by the fires.”

“To say we are heartbroken for a World Heritage area that has given us so much is an understatement,” said the business’ Facebook page in December.

Kristie said whilst thankfully her home and office survived, the severity of the fires and the resulting closure of the national parks have meant that Wolgan Valley Eco Tours has had to cease operations until these areas reopen, hopefully in June.

The beautiful Wolgan Valley before the fires 2 with boots credit Wolgan Valley Eco Tours fb

Photo: Beautiful Wolgan Valley, before the fires. / Credit: Wolgan Valley Eco Tours

“[The park closures are necessary] to allow for essential recovery of the fragile environment and to allow for repairs to trails and visitor facilities,” she explained.

Having gone through such an ideal with no immediate improvement in sight, one would think it would be tempting to wallow in despair. But Kristie’s courage – like that of many other tourism businesses impacted by bushfires and other emergencies all over Australia – shines through.

“[Going through these types of experiences] brings communities together through shared experiences. I’m incredibly proud of where I live and the community members that I call my neighbours and friends,” she noted.

“We just remind ourselves how incredibly lucky we are to have our family, our home and our community and that other areas and people have had to endure far worse than us. We can only begin to imagine their pain.”

Lithgow Community coming together credit Wolgan Valley fb

Photo: Community coming together in the Lithgow region. / Credit: Wolgan Valley Eco Tours Facebook

Thankfully, recent rains are beginning to bring life back to the region.

“We are starting to see the bushland respond with epicormic growth on tree trunks, fern fronds re-sprouting and the valley’s iconic wildlife slowly recovering after such a traumatic ordeal,” Kristie said.

Kristie is also making the most of the down time to stop and reflect, looking at ways in which she can improve the business and coming up with new products and packages she can offer to visitors in the future.

Eastern Grey Kangaroos returning credit WVET fb

Photo: Eastern Grey Kangaroos returning to the region. / Credit: Wolgan Valley Eco Tours Facebook

“[We’re thinking of] expanding to other areas of the Lithgow region,” she noted, and said the business might start offering products and packages that focus on iconic historical figures and key environmental events such as the naturalist Charles Darwin’s visit to the Lithgow region and National Bird Week activities in the Capertee Valley, which is an internationally recognised Important Bird Area (IBA).

Kristie also encouraged visitors to keep coming to the region even as it recovers:

“There are plenty of attractions and places to eat and stay that have not been impacted by the fires and are open for business. However, we do ask that visitors respect national park and state forest closures and allow our fragile World Heritage area time to recover.”

Reshooting growth credit wolgan valley eco tours FB

Photo: New growth. / Credit: Wolgan Valley Eco Tours Facebook.

For someone who has experienced the devastation of Australia’s latest bushfire season firsthand and who is now unable to operate her own business, Kristie’s focus on lifting up her neighbours and putting the recovery of nature first are admirable.

Keep up the great work, Wolgan Valley Eco Tours, and thanks for showing true leadership in adversity.


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