BECOMING A CONCIOUS TRAVELLER WHILST FUELLING YOUR WANDERLUST
Travelling the world broadens our horizons, brings us new experiences, introduces us to new cultures and ways of life. However, it is no secret that the carbon footprint of flights is damaging to the environment and developing tourism in itself can be detrimental to remote communities – increased waste in an infrastructure that can’t handle it, greater stress on water supplies and loss of culture. However, us eco-warriors are free in our hearts and sticking to one country forever feels like being chained down. So how can we experience the amazing world around us, whilst still being mindful of the environment?
Beware the ‘Eco-friendly’ label.
The trend for ‘eco-tourism’ has been growing over recent years, with many people preferring to visit resorts or do tours that says they are ‘eco-friendly’. Businesses have caught onto this fact and sadly many will plant the term ‘eco’ in their name without actually being so. Take time to educate yourself about the business you choose to do your activities with. There are many agencies that will assess businesses and give reports and whether they actually promote sustainable tourism or not.
For example, in South-East Asia a company called Green Fins asses dive centres on their impacts. This not only encourages dive centers to be accountable for their actions, but also to actively involve themselves in mooring line projects (reducing anchor damager to coral reefs), waste reduction (#saynotoplastic!) and correct waste disposal.
By doing your research you can make sure you end up with a company that actually cares about the area in which they are based.
Invest in reusable products
Being a conscious traveler means reducing your plastic use, plain and simple. Travelling to far corners of the world often means that drinking water isn’t always readily available, but a bit of pre-planning will stop you from having to buy water in plastic bottles. There are initiatives across the globe that encourage water refill stations and these can be found on an app called ‘refill my bottle’. You can also buy filters that allow you to drink water from the tap anywhere in the world! When travelling on flights take your own blanket to avoid using the one wrapped in plastic on the flight.
Keep an eye out for initiatives that encourage plastic reduction. In Komodo, Indonesia, a dive association called DOCK sell ‘eco-travel kits’ containing a reusable water bottle, reusable straw and a reusable bag. Upon presenting this kit you can then get money off in certain cafes, restaurants, spas and dive centers!
We are privileged to be able to travel the world in the way that we do. There are fascinating places to explore, incredible sites to be seen and so many new people to meet. Before you travel somewhere though, check what behaviors are acceptable. Sustainable tourism isn’t just about physical impacts, but also cultural ones. Things that we see as normal many cultures and religions will find offensive. Tourism is a great thing for communities – more jobs become available and more money comes into the area. But for most communities their heritage and local customs are incredibly important, and as travelers we must respect them and even help them maintain it. Dressing appropriately is not only respectful, but will mean to are better received. Whilst most people won’t say if they are offended by your clothes (or lack of) it is polite to cover shoulders and knees is most areas of south-east asia. Strutting your stuff in a bikini is usually acceptable on the beach, but can cause upset if done in towns or villages.
Being polite and respectful will mean you are seen in a more positive light and ultimately will give you a better experience as communities will welcome you with open arms.
Support businesses that support the local community
When booking your holiday take time to research businesses that not only work to consciously reduce their negative impacts, but also ones that support the communities they are in. For example, in diving there are dive centers who train up people from their surrounding, comparatively poor, communities for no fee. This opens up more opportunities for them in the future. When planning your meals or snacks try to avoid large corporate chains and opt for a local café or restaurants instead. They are more likely to be using local produce and will better support the local economy. This is not only better for the community, but gives you a more authentic experience as well.
Be the positive change you want to see in the world
The influence of social media is constantly growing. Posts of people surrounded by plastic waste with captions declaring how awful it is and how people should never come to that area circulate frequently. However, generally this is not helpful. If an area has an issue with waste it is often because they don’t have the infrastructure or funding in place to remove it. We are lucky to have be able to responsibly dispose of our waste – once it’s in the bin or recycling we don’t have to think about it. We are also lucky to understand the negative impacts of plastic – but this is not common knowledge in many parts of the world. For many communities the only way they can get water is from a plastic bottle and may have to walk many kilometers to get it.
Rather than a negative update, post a picture of yourself doing a clean up. Share your knowledge with the world. Spend money in the area and look into how you can help change happen. Ultimately, positivity breeds change and encourages others to get involved, it’s going to have much more of an impact that negative posts.
This post was written by Stay Wild family member Lydia Daniels.
‘My name is Lydia and I am the Resort and Dive Manager at Scuba Junkie Komodo, in Indonesia. I fell in love with the marine world over ten years ago and wanting to protect the ocean has led me down the path of sustainability and conservation. I believe strongly in working with local communities towards long term solutions and empowering people to achieve their goals. I am forever an optimist. I have been extremely lucky in that the company I work for (Scuba Junkie Komodo) allows me to follow my dreams whilst diving in one of the best places in the world.'