Our key sustainability policies
Upitrek offers tourists a range of products in harmony with Finnish nature. The basis of all our operations is to provide a well-balanced, respectful connection with nature as well as minimising any environmental impact. We are privileged to live and operate in an area where we can still find pristine, unpolluted nature. The air is amongst the cleanest in the world and there is no plastic pollution in our waters. We pride ourselves in diminishing our business’s environmental impact and we support our subcontractors and partners in considering their sustainability and environmental footprint. We also encourage clients to make ecologically friendly choices by providing some tips prior to their arrival.
ECOLOGICAL SUSTAINABILITY – MIMIMISING THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
We are specialists in small group tours. Typically, our group size would be 12-16 passengers. This is an ideal number as we can ensure we create as small an impact on the surrounding nature as possible.
Flights are not included in our tour programmes. We appreciate most of our overseas clients have a need for International flights and that these are the biggest contributor of carbon emissions related to our tours. However, we do provide information about carbon offset schemes and recommend they book direct flights to Helsinki, even though an onward flight is (almost) always necessary. We do give all the relevant information re alternative onward transport from Helsinki by bus and/or train.
We buy all transfers from bus companies. For each group the most expedient vehicle is chosen according to the group size. The tour price includes return group transfers from/to the nearest airport. If possible, groups are combined e.g. if there are several groups going to the same destination due to arrive at the same time, they will be transferred in one vehicle. This is factored in when we are scheduling tours, e.g. ski and snowshoeing groups arrive on the same day, thereby enabling shared transfers.
The use of cars is necessary for transportation of luggage, equipment and other - service drives - in the area. Journeys are planned to minimise distances. In winter, electricity is needed to heat the engines. Excess heating is avoided, if necessary, timers are used.
Out and about
We hike and ski along marked trails. This avoids unnecessary noise so as not to disturb wildlife and leaves little trace of us having been there. Clients are given information about local environment and culture, multiple uses of forests and nature protection programmes, with a focus on regional characteristics.
Upkeep and maintenance of routes
When selecting cross-country ski routes, special attention is paid to the terrain to reduce maintenance costs. Where possible, we follow ski tracks which are maintained by the municipality and follow border guards’ snowmobile tracks. Upitrek works in cooperation with the service providers who maintain the ski track network; the maintenance party is informed of our tour dates in advance, this allows them to organise the upkeep in an energy-efficient way. In summer, we use only marked hiking trails.
Picnic lunches around open fires are an essential part of our tours. We only use official fire places maintained by Metsähallitus (Finnish forest and park services) to whom we pay a set fee per participant. The guide is responsible for not making the fire any bigger than necessary and taking adequate measures for putting out the fire. Open fires are not permitted during forest fire alerts.
Whilst outdoors in the woods, composting toilets are preferred. If these are not available, we ensure not to contaminate water supplies. Paper is buried deep under the soil and when the ground is frozen, it can be burnt.
When shopping, the volume of waste is minimized by ‘bulk’ buying. We never buy plastic carrier bags. For our picnic lunches, we use reusable plastic dishes and cutlery. The use of disposable plates and cups is avoided.
We abide by a strict environmental, “leave no trace” policy. All litter is removed. Only easily biodegradable waste, such as coffee grounds, are composted or disposed of by means of "distributed composting". Back at base the waste is sorted and recycled (plastic, metal, glass, carton, bottles, batteries, medicines, etc.). We advise our clients to sort and dispose of even the smallest waste, e.g. cigarette butts, correctly. Nothing is discarded in nature whilst on our tours or during any outdoor leisure time.
We recommend our fresh tap water for drinking. We advise our clients to bring a reusable drinks bottle which can be refilled daily. (Bottled water is not accessible most days). For cooking, only tap water is used. At the wilderness huts, the water is taken from a well. We encourage everyone to use water sparingly.
Our programmes never include motorised activities, e.g. snowmobiles or quad bikes. Clients arriving on a fly/drive tour are encouraged to choose the most appropriate car, (not too large) and to practise Eco friendly driving to maximise efficiency whilst minimising harmful emissions. An electric car is currently not an option due to limited number of charging stations.
Accommodation and meals
We sub-contract our accommodations and most of our meals. All our accommodation choices offer locally produced food and food from nature. (Berries, mushroom, game, fish, etc.) It is not unusual to have freshly baked bread made from local grain. There is limited availability of imported fruit.
Picnics are coordinated by Upitrek. We only purchase Finnish meat, milk products, bread and vegetables. Wherever possible, for whatever merchandise, Finnish products are always a primary choice. The amount of food is calculated according to the size of the group, therefore minimising the amount of waste. Excess food is always used for the next group. Any fresh produce likely to perish are given to the staff. Food waste is composted.
Overnights in wilderness cabins
Some of our tours include overnights in wilderness cabins. There is no running water, electricity or central heating. Cabins, as well as saunas, are heated with wood burning stoves. The guide is responsible for not burning more wood than is necessary. There is no waste disposal at the cabins so all discarded waste is brought back to base to be recycled.
At our small home-office, with two fulltime employees, ecologically sound choices are made throughout daily operations. The office is heated by wood pellets and to save energy the room temperature is adjusted as low as possible. We sort all the possible waste, in addition to all things previously mentioned, we recycle all office waste, e.g. inks and bulbs. We print only what is necessary. When we do print, we print double sided to save paper. All brochures and programmes are online and invoicing is done by email. Sheets and towels are washed at our office premises. We use ecolabel detergents and wash only full loads.
ECONOMICAL SUSTAINABILITY – SUSTAINABLE CHOICES
• We are committed to purchasing locally produced products whenever possible.
• We purchase high-quality, long-lasting products that can be repaired. Ecolabel products are favoured.
• We favour local stores instead of online stores. When some items can’t be bought locally, we endeavour to buy in bulk to minimize transportation and packaging costs.
SOCIO-CULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY - CLOSE CO-OPERATION LOCALLY
• We employ local guides whenever possible. All guides are trained in our sustainability policy.
• All our operations are based on the co-operation of a local partner network. We benefit local economies by using small, mostly family-owned accommodations, restaurants, transportation companies, etc.
ETHIC SUSTAINABILITY – FAIRL AND EQUAL
• We are fair and flexible partners and we adhere by our contracts.
• We make sure our partner companies and staff get paid fairly.
• We don’t accept any kind of discrimination or exploitation.
• Most of our tours are activity holidays that are not suitable for people with reduced mobility. On request, we will tailor tours for special needs groups if we have enough professionalism for the specific group.
SAFETY – FOR CLIENTS’ AND PERSONNEL’S BENEFIT
• Safety is a main priority throughout the implementation of a tour.
• For each tour, we prepare a safety plan according to official instructions. Guides must study the plan thoroughly prior to a tour.
• All guides need to have a valid first aid certificate (Level 2)
• We will make sure guides have been briefed in detail for the upcoming work, and that they have all the necessary equipment and gear. All equipment is checked and maintained after each tour.
Your role: 10 sustainability tips for your holidays
All human activities impact on the environment. Tourism is no exception. Take small acts for nature’s sake before and during your holidays and easily reduce your holiday’s impact on the environment. Thank you for your co-operation!
Before you travel
1. Pack with care. Pack only what is needed. Extra - just in case - items just weigh you down. Lightening your luggage reduces your carbon footprint as all extra weight adds to your flight's fuel consumption. However, when travelling in winter, do bring enough warm clothes. Check our gear list for guidance.
2. Rent, borrow, buy second hand. For your trip, you may need equipment or clothes that are useless in your normal life. Instead of buying, consider renting, borrowing or buying second hand. You can always advertise on local buy/sell online groups for any equipment/clothes you maybe short of.
3. Book direct flights and use public transport. If public transport to the airport is available, consider leaving your car at home. It is usually a far cheaper alternative, e.g. no car parking or fuel. Preferably book a direct flight to Helsinki, where a change is (almost) always necessary. From Helsinki, you can also take a train and/or bus to your destination. We are happy to help find you the best connections. If you want you can offset the emissions of your flight e.g. at Finnair’s Push for change -service or another similar service.
4. Make use of airport transfers included in the tour price. Extra transfers add to your cost and have an impact on the environment.
On your trip
5. Respect the nature. Leave no trace. When walking, stick to marked footpaths and avoid stepping on native flora and fauna.
6. Save energy. Switch off lights and devices when not in the room.
7. Enjoy our fresh tap water. Bring a reusable drinks bottle or thermos with you which can be filled on the morning for the excursion.
8. Avoid food waste. Eyes bigger than your belly is a common problem when using a buffet. Try and take only what you are sure you can eat. You can always go back for more as often as you want.
Note: Special and vegetarian meals are prepared for those who have booked them prior to tour. If you have booked a vegetarian meal, other options are not available for you. You must stay with your choice throughout the duration of your tour.
9. Use water sparingly. Don’t leave taps running, (e.g. when brushing your teeth or whilst soaping up). Consider whether you really need two showers a day or if one would sufficient. To clean the toilet a small rinse is usually enough.
10. Sort the waste. Make sure you speak to your leader and know what to do with any rubbish.
+++ On a hut to hut tour where the accommodation is changed almost daily, a lot of sheet and towel laundry is unfortunately produced. Unless you really need a clean towel every day, consider bringing your own. Lightweight microfiber towels won’t add weight to you.