I recently travelled to Palm Island, a private island in the island chain of St. Vincent and The Grenadines and I was so happy with what I saw in terms of eco-tourism. Now I’m not going to harp on and on about how hotels and resorts should be responsible for sustainable tourism because actually guests also have to be responsible for this too.
A disclaimer before I go into this…I am not perfect. I most likely do not have a carbon footprint of zero. However, I do take steps to reduce this when and where I can whilst travelling and I think we all have to do this. I never say to people you have to be perfect because there are situations where you can’t always be (because there is no other choice) but if you can make a difference, do it. It’s the same for the travel industry as a whole – if you can make a difference with eco-tourism, then just do it.
Here are some ways that you can help encourage eco-tourism. Let’s make travel more sustainable and less impactful on local environments, starting with some great practices that I saw at the Palm Island Elite Island resort in the Grenadines.
Say No to Plastic
One brilliant thing I saw in terms of reducing plastic bottles was that at the Palm Island resort you were given a BPA-free plastic water bottle upon arrival and you could use this to fill up during your stay from the taps where the water was treated and drinkable.
The Palm Island resort has a ‘state-of-the-art reverse osmosis water plant, which takes salt water from the sea through a purification process to produce 40,000 gallons of fresh water daily. From the reverse osmosis plant, water is passed through a lime filter to neutralize the water hardness. A small amount of chlorine is then injected to kill any bacteria still left in the water. The final product is water that is 50% better than what is required by U.S. standards set as a benchmark for municipalities throughout the United States, and therefore perfectly safe to drink.’
Think of how much plastic could be reduced if all hotels located near the sea could do this same process. Also, if you can use an eco-friendly drinkware brand like Corkcicle who make tumblers or canteens that you can use again and again then it makes a huge difference over time in terms of eco-tourism. Instead of buying loads of plastic bottles simply ask the hotel restaurant where you can refill it yourself.
Another way of reducing plastic was the move to paper straws. I saw no plastic straws in use on the island and any straws that were used were paper. I tend to ask for no straw in general but a move toward paper straws is a great thing to be celebrated over the plastic alternative.
Another thing that should be mentioned is food sourcing. There’s been a big emphasis on shopping local which is a great thing because it reduces air miles on food. Food that is produced locally is more nutritious and doesn’t have the air miles that its foreign counterparts have. There’s a huge organic garden at Palm Island where tomatoes, beets, carrots, potatoes and more are grown, supplying the guests with the freshest of organic produce which is SO much healthier and more sustainable for the environment and better for our bodies. The fish is also freshly and wildly-caught, using sustainable fishing practices.
In my day-to-day life I only buy organic vegetables and I try to buy produce as local as I can. Consumers are demanding this and supermarkets are now displaying exactly where the produce and meat comes from. And although I do eat a lot of fish when travelling, when I’m at home I’m vegan 4/5 days a week. I don’t buy any meat to eat at home and only eat it when I’m out and this tends to be more fish than any other meat. Eating less meat is also better for our bodies and the environment. Again, I’m not trying to say eating meat is the wrong choice but environmentally, we can all do better.
Do Less Washing
By less washing I mean re-use those towels and get your room cleaned less often to help encourage eco-tourism. I never ask for a change of sheets every day whilst travelling – I can sleep on the same sheets for a week and it’s not going to hurt me, that’s for sure. Also towels I tend to only get changed every few days and instead prefer to dry them in the sun. Sun is naturally anti-bacterial so if you can dry your wet towels in a patch of sunshine they are like brand-new anyways!
I also like to keep my showers short. Although I love a long leisurely bath, I tend to only take one when I’m travelling and this is more of a rare treat than anything else. I like to keep my showers short and sweet at 5 minutes and max 10 minutes if I’m washing my hair.
I cannot tell you how important it is to wear reef-safe sunscreen in terms of eco-tourism. When swimming with the sea turtles in Tobago Cays (highly recommended) I only wore reef-safe and ocean safe sunscreen. Although we weren’t swimming around any reefs there are reefs in the area and what you put on your skin does float around the ocean so PLEASE make the switch to ocean-safe sunscreens when you are swimming in the sea. A brand I love is Soleil Toujours. I used an entire spray bottle during my stay on Palm Island – the spray is SPF 50, organic and ocean-safe.
Another great brand of ocean-safe sunscreen is BE3 sun protection progressive spray that you can layer on and adjust for more or less sun protection – i.e. one spray is SPF 20, two layers is SPF 30, 3 is SPF 50 and so on.
There are so many iguanas roaming around on Palm Island as well as turtles. With local wildlife people tend to like to feed them however before feeding the iguanas I checked with the staff to make sure they could eat fruit, which of course they can. With some leftover fruit that would have been thrown away anyways I then fed a few iguanas roaming around. Just always ask and don’t feed the local wildlife anything they wouldn’t naturally eat anyways. And when in doubt don’t feed them at all.
Food waste is a big topic and I hate wasting any food so try to minimize this as much as possible. I do ask restaurants and hotels now when I’m staying if they have a food waste programme and what happens to their food waste. At Palm Island all the food waste goes to a local pig farmer and fruit/veggie food waste is composted.
Recycling is SO important and I was lucky enough to have it drilled in me from a young age. I used to have to go to the recycling plant with my parents and separate the paper from plastic and metal, etc. Therefore, I LOVE it that I’ve started to see recycling bins in rooms at hotels now and in Palm Island they have also incorporated this into the rooms, making recycling super easy. I hope EVERYONE recycles and if you don’t please do. It’s really not that hard.
Eco-tourism is definitely getting bigger and I hope that we will start to see more sustainable practices in the travel industry going forward as well as small things we can do every day.
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @beautyrocksblog for all my travel pics from this trip!
*This post was a press trip with Elite Island resorts but all words/opinions/images/views are my own as always!