Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of Earth’s oldest and most biologically diverse forests. It’s also home to half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. These descendants of ancestral monkeys and apes make their homes on the mist-shrouded slopes of thick, ancient forest, feeding on leaves and shoots, residing in family groups, and sharing their nests for warmth.
But like most places worldwide, Bwindi and its wildlife residents are feeling the effects of climate change. Rising temperatures are destroying the forest’s vast biodiversity and forcing its gorilla inhabitants to look for food outside of their natural habitat—sometimes in local farms and laboring communities—and heightening the animals’ stress levels in the process.
While this is just one example of what the over-exploitation of natural resources is doing to our Earth, it also highlights the many reasons Nat Hab is continuously investing in life-changing initiatives to save our planet. Among them is Tomorrow’s Air.
What Is Tomorrow’s Air?
Tomorrow’s Air—Direct Air Capture is a company that utilizes a carbon-removal process that extracts carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere and permanently stores it.
Co-founders Christina Beckmann and Nim de Swardt began Tomorrow’s Air in 2019 to combat the effects of climate change by cleaning up the air and encouraging travelers to become part of the solution. Overseen by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), a for-profit network of adventure travel leaders coming together to “change the world” through travel, this global collective—in partnership with Climeworks, a Swiss company specializing in direct air capture (DAC) technology—is taking tangible climate action through uniting the travel industry, and it’s only just getting started.
“We want direct air capture to be something everybody can do,” says Court Whelan, Nat Hab’s Chief Sustainability Officer. On the surface, it may seem like a lofty goal: DAC is still in its beginning stages, and with relatively few companies working in the sector, the process remains costly. However, a surge in interest and investment over the past few years, coupled with increased energy efficiency, could lead to reduced costs.
“At Nat Hab, we’re always trying to raise the bar,” says Whelan, “and this includes the projects that we choose to invest in. You can’t rely on decarbonization or carbon neutrality alone,” he says. “It’s about combined intervention.”
How Does it Work?
When businesses or consumers purchase carbon removal from Tomorrow’s Air, their money goes toward one of two options. The first is sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), a biofuel made from renewable waste resources, such as cooking oil and food scraps, that can be used to power airplanes and has an up to 80% lower carbon footprint than conventional jet fuel.
The second is carbon dioxide removal via direct air capture and permanent storage. In addition to its partnership with Climeworks, Tomorrow’s Air also works in unison with DAC suppliers Pacific Biochar, which removes CO2 from the atmosphere by stabilizing natural processes of decay in organic matter and storing it safely away in the ground, and Eion, utilizing a process known as enhanced weathering to clean the air.
Unlike most DAC companies, Tomorrow’s Air makes signing on and signing up to make a difference easy—even for individuals. Whelan says this kind of accessibility has always been a missing link.
“DACs like Tomorrow’s Air have existed,” he says, “but often, they’re looking at building their clientele on a massive scale. For example, DAC companies would traditionally turn to a large corporation like Proctor and Gamble for a multi-million investment. It was never really practical for them to collect 40 dollars here and 200 there. But Tomorrow’s Air allows people to contribute on a much smaller scale.”
Both businesses and consumers alike can invest in DAC equally, either by making a one-time purchase or buying a monthly subscription.
Where Does the Money Go?
Every $20 you invest in a Tomorrow’s Air package funds an order for 44 lbs of CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere and stored away permanently—a process that typically takes one to two years.
Each purchase breaks down as follows: 60% of your fee goes toward pioneering solutions for clean air and storage, and 35% is for education and outreach—everything from social campaigns to supporting Airrows on Air, a Tomorrow’s Air podcast exploring the personal histories of artists, adventurers, and storytellers like Nat Hab Expedition Leader Colby Brokvist and registered nutrition therapist Joyce Bergsma—and 5% supports the company’s administration costs.
Investing in Our Future
From our long-running partnership with World Wildlife Fund to our in-house philanthropy—which includes investing in local enterprises like Uganda’s own Ride4aWoman, an NGO empowering women in Buhoma, Uganda, who are struggling with things like poverty and domestic violence—Nat Hab’s overall goal remains creating a conservation culture.
“As we look to a more robust carbon action plan,” says Whelan, “we want to continue ramping up our contributions as we can.”
Whelan sees Tomorrow’s Air as a sort of mother-nesting doll. Open it up, and you’ll find all of these other components tucked within, like direct air capture, sustainable aviation fuel, education and storytelling. Each of them is another step toward making a difference.
“We love what Tomorrow’s Air stands for,” says Whelan, “and we believe that they’re moving the needle and making a noticeable change.” Nat Hab is a vehicle for influencers, he says. “Not the Instagram influencers, but rather the people who are going out and exploring, and then coming back with these robust worldviews and making decisions. To be able to influence them with initiatives like Tomorrow’s Air, I think it spreads and makes a disproportionate impact.”
It takes time for these things to happen, says Whelan, but he’s confident they will.