Explore – inspire – act

Discover global climate expedition ToptoTop as they travel the globe, raising awarenes and changing people’s lives.

One child, one school at a time

Climate expedition ToptoTop works with schools around the world to raise awareness for climate change. Be inspired by their initiatives and start making change in your own life.

1 family, 1 mission: saving the planet

Explore climate expedition ToptoTop’s journey and get to know the project that Victorinox has been supporting for almost a decade.

Victorinox and the climate expedition
Top to Top

For almost two decades, the climate expedition ToptoTop has traveled our planet visiting the world’s most remote regions, conducting research and educating people about how to live a sustainable life.

For almost a decade, Victorinox has been on their side. Just like Victorinox’s founder Karl Elsener, the expedition team has had the courage to follow their vision despite all obstacles. We also share their philosophy: Victorinox has always felt an obligation to treat resources responsibly. Our commitment to family values is yet another trait that we share with ToptoTop. Just as Victorinox is a family owned business, the climate expedition ToptoTop’s core team are Dario and Sabine and their children.

Get to know their fascinating story and learn from what they have learned.

Discover the expedition

How it all started

Dario, a Swiss climatologist and mountain guide and his wife Sabine, a certified nurse, founded the climate expedition ToptoTop in 1999. As a climatologist researching glaciers, Dario witnessed the glaciers’ rapid decline due to rising global temperatures. That’s why they decided to dedicate their life to helping and educating people on how to respect nature and protect it for future generations. Dario and Sabine are not alone in their efforts to save the planet – their children who were all born during this expedition, as well as various experts and volunteers have since joined their journey.

What they do

The climate expedition ToptoTop has traveled over 100,000 nautical miles to more than 100 countries. Along the way they have completed around 100 projects. They range from cleaning up Everest Base Camp to installing solar panels to desalinate water on remote islands or reforesting coastal areas to prevent loss of land. Along the way they have given presentations to more than 100,000 students. They also have several assignments from research institutes to collect data and do field research.

Why they do it

“Climate change is a reality, we see it around the world” Dario affirms. These changes have devastating consequences. But the climate expedition ToptoTop also sees opportunity here. As Sabine says, “Never before have we had the opportunity to all work together as a big global family. Climate change is about connection, solidarity and the changes we all can make to help each other and our planet. And that’s what drives us.” How they do it? “We like to think small” Dario explains with a smile. “Because change starts with one child, one school, one village at time.”

Explore the expedition’s impacts

Teaming-up to cleaning-up

“Plastic has tremendous qualities. It is so flexible in its use. But it also produces harmful waste.” Dario states. “To raise awareness on how to use less plastic and how to recycle it properly, we organize clean-up projects and have collected over 50 tons of waste so far.”

Useful tips for not so useful garbage

For centuries, indigenous people have lived in harmony with nature and the concept of waste is rather new to them. The climate expedition ToptoTop explains what non-degradable waste is. For example these children in Huahine, Polynesia learn which materials can be recycled.

Knowledge creates action

In his workshops, Dario explains the basics of global warming, because he has learned that knowledge is a great way to inspire action in children. So Dario explains: “Sunlight turns into heat when touching the ground. Growing CO2 emissions build a greenhouse holding this heat back and therefore our planet gets warmer and warmer.”

Connection creates action

An important part of the climate expedition’s work is connecting students with nature. The children living in the virgin islands get a ride on the Pachamama to meet the dolphins and sea turtles just off their island. They come back filled with pride and the deep desire to preserve their habitat.

Planting Trees and growing hope

Saint Helena is a remote island in the midst of the southern Atlantic ocean, where deforestation is a threat to fertile soil. Together with ToptoTop, students plant new trees and take care of “their” tree throughout their school years. This protects the tree and teaches the children about caring and responsibility.

Sustainable sustainability: ambassadorship

In 2010 and 2014, the climate expedition ToptoTop gathered save-the-planet initiatives from young people around the world. The people with the best initiative from each continent were invited to Switzerland. But more importantly, they returned home to share their ideas with other students and therefore expanding the global network further.

Medical equipment for remote places

Sabine is a trained nurse and helps wherever medical support is needed. In this picture, she is treating an infection. Her patient is a Kuna Indian on the San Blas Islands, an archipelago near Panama.

Clean water cleans-up communities

Without drinking water you cannot survive on an island. When sea levels are rising, the ground water gets brackish. Desalination with generators using fossil fuels are no solution for self-sustaining villages with little financial resources. Solar panels are the answer and keep the communities independent.

Education makes communities strong

Handing out solar panels, planting a tree, cleaning up the region – these initiatives only help if there is a lasting effect. That’s why the climate expedition ToptoTop always trains the local people. Be it repairing a solar panel or recycling waste – the goal is always to empower the communities.

Observing Humpback Whales

In collaboration with other researchers, the climate expedition ToptoTop scientifically tracks the paths of the humpback whale population. A whale’s fluke is its equivalent to a human fingerprint – it is the specific mark of an individual. And that’s how the teams around the world are able to track whale paths.

Measuring CO2 Levels

In collaboration with the Centro de Estudios Cientificos Chile, climate expedition ToptoTop volunteers to gather ice samples. The ice contains air which contains CO2. Measuring these CO2 levels provides insights into the climate thousands of years ago when the ice was formed, indicating that our current CO2 levels have risen in comparison.

Teaching at leading universities

The climate expedition ToptoTop is invited to teach at small schools as well as top universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their goal is to inspire the next generation of scientists and change makers to help save our planet.

Attending climate conferences

ToptoTop used wind power to sail their boat Pachamama to South Africa for the 2011 World Climate Conference in Durban. Here, Swiss Federal Councilor Doris Leuthard came on board to say hello before the family sailed to the UN Rio20+ conference in Brazil.

Follow their journey

Would you like to know the actual position of the climate expedition ToptoTop and their boat Pachamama? Follow their path on the real-time map. Find out where they are now and where they have already been.


Sustainability Tips

“Actually, we often learn from our hosts how to live more sustainably” Dario recounts. “Wherever we go, we get to know the most amazing tips and tricks about how people live in harmony with nature. Whether in the western world or in remote places, whether in big cities or tribal villages – we have learnt so much” he reflects.

Discover the expedition’s findings

Better than plastic: leaf baskets

The island Niuatoputapu is so remote, only once a year a transport ship with western goods stops by. That’s why the island’s natives live close to nature. When they need a basket, it takes a few leaves from a nearby plant, some skills and in under a minute, their fully degradable basket is ready.

Saving water – and time

The first climbers of Mount Everest, Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, built a fountain in the mountain village Khumjung. Yet due to its extreme altitude of 3,790 meters above sea level, water is scarce. So the villagers learned how to live with little water. For example, when washing clothes, they only wash the dirty spots and sweaty areas.

Cooling without power – the western way

A teacher invited Sabine and Dario to his home during the winter season where they discovered the interesting contents of his fridge: books! During the cold winter months, the teacher stores his perishable goods outside, thus saving a lot of energy.

Cooling without power – the Vanuatu way

The people on the archipelago Vanuatu have a fridge which works without electricity. Water is poured between the walls of a double walled clay pot. When the water evaporates, it uses energy which cools the food inside the clay pot.

No soap – no problem

During their travels, team ToptoTop they have learned that living with the mere basics is extremely liberating and is often much better for the environment. Instead of soap for example, they now use a mix of vinegar and soda.

Tin foil keeps oranges fresh

When leaving the Galapagos islands, the climate expedition ToptoTop was given lots of citrus fruit and one valuable tip: wrap the fruit in aluminum foil and it will keep fresh for about half a year. The same works for cabbage wrapped in newspaper – give it a few drops of water once in a while and keep it in the dark.

The power of trust

“Mountain climbers are bound together with a rope. If one slips, the other can come to the rescue. With this rope, you basically lay your life in the other person’s hands. And that’s what we have learned from climbing some of the highest mountains: Trust people, respect nature – and you’ll be safe.” advises Sabine.

A look behind the scenes

The climate expedition ToptoTop is not only a non profit organization with the mission to inspire people to act and live sustainably. Their core team is a family living stunning adventures and going on a breathtaking journey. Take a look at their daily life on board or in the villages around the world and follow their journey on Facebook and Instagram.

The power of family

When the expedition started, it was just Sabine and Dario. As we write this article in early 2017, they have five children with a sixth on the way: Salina, born 2005 in Chile, Andri born 2006 in Patagonia, Noé born 2009 in Australia, Alegra born 2011 in Singapore and Mia born 2015 in Switzerland.

“If the kids wouldn’t like it, we wouldn’t continue” says Dario. But they really do enjoy it. So much so that they actively participate in teaching. “When we started, we thought it would be too hard to do all these things with small children” Sabine says. “But actually, it is the opposite: they give us the will to go even further, teach even more, try even harder.” That is part of the reason why Victorinox as a company is so closely linked with expedition ToptoTop.

When Carl Elsener started in 1883, it was his mother Victoria who gave him the courage to follow through. And until this day, Victorinox is owned and led by the Elsener family. As a family, they hold together as a strong unit, in good and in not so good times. Alongside ToptoTop’s mission and vision, this close tie to family values convinces Victorinox to keep supporting the climate expedition.

Favorite destination
We have to confess that we like to be remote.

Favorite dish 
The whole family likes “Aelpler Maccaroni” best.

Favorite smell
The first tree after being in the Arctic for months.

Favorite Urban Escape
Find the nearest school.

Favorite Essential
A Swiss Army Knife. We cut the umbilical cords of all our five children with one.

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