Last year in Malaysia I was astounded by the waste that was … well everywhere. I have been to South East Asia before and I now remember how much waste there was. Plastic everywhere. Which may not bother you looking at the dirty river in Bangkok but when you get to the beautiful beaches and there is plastic on the water and under, it starts to get you. In Malaysia we visited a turtle sanctuary that endeavoured to save the life’s of these lovely creatures but unfortunately they may of shallow too much plastic and no longer be able to dive as a result of the plastic making them float. If they can’t dive they can’t eat.
What is more I was on a responsible travel conscious tour and yet, waste. My son and I hauled around our heavy stainless steel drink bottles everyday and yet the remainder of the group were buying 3 litres of water a day. That’s a whole load of plastic bottles. You may not think this is an issue in cities where sanitary concerns are few. Just because it is out of site does not mean it is resolved.
I have been to the most lovely places to see them spoiled by rubbish. In an effort to make a difference my son and I took a kayak out and spent twenty minutes collecting rubbish from the secluded beach the resort recommended.
I puzzled over why they would employ 4-5 men to sweep the beach and yet leave the sea, where people were going to swim full of rubbish. It didn’t make sense.
I beg you use a refillable bottle when you are travelling. There are lots of ways to ensure clean water without having to buy litre after litre. We used stainless steel because we were in an environment where cool water was required. As it was my son still got heat stroke.
Hotels – there is a whole bunch of questions we need to be asking to ensure our tourist dollars are best used or even used in the landscape we are visiting. Click here for a link to questions you should ask of your resort. I’m not sure a hotel has to tick all of these questions, but most of them most definitely.
I recently stayed at an Eco-conscious resort to find the bath in my room was large enough to wade in. A family of four could bath together (I’m not selling this as a positive!) how can they be Eco- conscious when there was such a large bath? How can you ask guests to use one towel but all the water they like. I’m Australian, water is precious to us. I get emotional about its waste.
There are loads of ways to travel responsible that don’t take much effort to adapt. Don’t believe this is a third world problem and it doesn’t affect you. There are beaches in Australia that humans have rarely been too but they have plastic along the shore. It’s not just bottles, but buoys and boat parts. Speak to sailors and there are shipping containers floating on the sea. Speak to sailors and they will tell you the ocean is covered in plastic waste. We need to be the leaders of change and enforce or demand it as the norm for the third world to follow.
Steps to being a responsible traveller
- Invest in a reusable water bottle and yes the kids can carry them.
- Learn somethings about the local culture before you get there. Some phrases and words. Some of the cultural practises and potentially customs you should be aware of.
Become a traveller and leave the tourist at home. A traveller learns about the culture and the destination before leaving and immerses themselves in everything once there. A tourist – you’ve seen the large groups stick out and behave differently from the locals.
Use local guides and companies who are based locally. You want your money invested into the local area not into a large hotel chain that is possibly sending your money back to the Middle East for some Arabian to bathe in Krystal.
Buy local products and gifts. Try to use smaller locally owned businesses for all transactions. Try to avoid tacky souvenirs. In Hawaii instead of buying a snow globe mad made in China (because frankly why would you) perhaps try buying a Hawaiian shirt or dress. (possibly also made in China but potentially designed in Hawaii?)
Use the public transport it is safe to do so. There is no better way to get around Singapore than the MRT. There is no better way to see Hong Kong than a ferry.
Try to do things with the locals. Go to a festival. Talk to the restaurant owner. Ask the employees at the hotel. Anyone can go to a resort and order a cocktail but what did you see outside the resort?
You will find yourself being proud of your efforts to reduce globalisation of the world with the same tourist souvenirs on every world corner. Being responsible will not only give you a good feeling but teach your children the importance of caring about our world and our impact on it, wherever you are despite what the locals are doing.