It's easy to see how a person might develop a deeper appreciation for Mother Nature by hiking the Alps or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Then again, that traveler...

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It’s easy to see how a person might develop a deeper appreciation for Mother Nature by hiking the Alps or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

Then again, that traveler would contribute to global warming by getting on an airplane and flying across the world.

What to do? It’s a question that REI, the Kent-based retailer of outdoor gear and apparel, asked itself after examining its impact on the environment.

The retailer’s REI Adventures unit sells vacation packages to people who are interested in exploring faraway places while cycling, kayaking, hiking, climbing or taking photographs.

REI Adventures accounts for nearly one-third of the retailer’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, mostly because of the air travel involved with getting vacationers to and from their destinations.

That’s a dilemma for the member-owned cooperative, which has pledged to become “climate-neutral” by 2020.

Combined, employee commuting and product transportation generate fewer carbon emissions than adventure travel, according to a new report by REI. (The report will be posted this week on REI’s Web site under the “Stewardship” heading.)

Kevin Hagen, who oversees REI’s social-responsibility programs, says the company will stay in the adventure-travel business, whose revenues and profits it doesn’t disclose.

But for the second year in a row, it also will buy energy credits called “Green Tags” to support solar, wind and other renewable energy projects.

REI takes a three-pronged approach that begins with finding cost-effective ways of eliminating emissions, then “greening” its energy sources. As a last resort, it considers purchasing offsets, such as those from the Green Tags program by the Portland nonprofit Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

Excluding the offsets, REI Adventures generated more carbonemissions last year than in 2006, the first year for which calculations were made public. The total for 2007 was 30,822 tons, a year-over-year increase of 23 percent.

“My suspicion is that it was just more people traveling,” says Hagen.

In the end, REI concluded that the adventure-travel business does more good than bad. Travelers to a rain forest, for instance, are likely to make sure it remains a “tourist destination as opposed to a source for timber,” says Hagen. “We hope people who go to these wonderful places come away as stewards.”

What’s more, travelers represent an economic shot in the arm to many of the stops on their itineraries. “We think the benefits outweigh the negatives,” he says.

— Amy Martinez

No rice crisis here, says Costco chairman

As some consumers started hoarding rice amid rising prices and dwindling supplies last week, Costco Wholesale Chairman Jeffrey Brotman seemed amused by at least one aspect of it all.

“People were coming into Costco and buying rice at X, then going on eBay and selling it at 3 times X,” Brotman said Wednesday during an event for his daughter, Amanda, who was promoting a new line of purses at Mario’s in downtown Seattle.

“You can get panic buying on anything, I suppose.”

Although some Costco stores have been putting limits on purchases of rice, Brotman said there are no “actual” shortages in the countries where the Issaquah-based retailer does business. If rice supplies run out one day, he said, they get replaced the next.

“Rice is there; we just have to move it to where demand is highest on any given day,” he said. “It will settle out, because people will calm down.”

— Amy Martinez

Comments? Send them to Rami Grunbaum: rgrunbaum@- or 206-464-8541