Written by Maria Olivia Laurent, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
There is no better occasion than today to think about our ongoing crisis of climate change and learn how we can invest more in our planet. The 2022 Earth Day movement focuses on the collaborative effort by businesses, governments, organizations, and every one of us to take accountability in protecting our beloved Mother Earth. One of the major events this year is the Great Global Cleanup, a worldwide campaign initiated by individuals and communities to reduce trash pollution in beaches, parks, and other public places. Now, speaking of those cleanups, we all know Indonesia is beginning to relax some travel restrictions, and as wonderful as it sounds for our economy, there is still one thing we need to be careful of. Trashy tourism. What is that? Well, let’s just say… trash + tourism = disaster for all involved.
Some Announcement First…
Before we get into this, make sure to check out our online campaign following last month’s Water Day Event on our Instagram page @project.child. You can also directly donate through Campaign.com on the link below. Every fun challenge you finish will be converted into donations by our amazing sponsors!
Alright, now let’s focus back on trashy tourism.
The Dark Secret Behind The Tourism Industry
Tourism is one of the most polluting industries in the world. It represents 8% of global greenhouse gases emission and contributes up to 40% of marine trash during the high season. When we think of mass tourism, we think of overconsumption. People tend to carelessly ignore their surroundings as they only think of themselves and their holiday. Because of this ‘visitor’ mindset, tourists can produce up to twice as much waste as residents, causing an overflow on landfills and sewage plants. The improper disposal of trash and toxic chemicals from overcrowded hotels and restaurants also escalates the issue further where those businesses only care for commercial success and not the environment.
This problem surges higher than before as tourism becomes more accessible over the years. Take Bali as an example. Everyone can now easily book a hotel and hop on a plane to Bali. With how easy travel has become, people begin to develop a disposable society approach where it’s also easy for them to just toss their plastic bottles into the ocean and forget about it.
More people need to realize that Bali is not just a travel destination with pretty beaches and exotic forests. Bali is also a home to millions of people and wildlife whose lives are affected by this growing waste pollution. You might say, “Hey, but Balinese people also contribute to their own waste!” Yes, but not as severe. Data reveals tourists are responsible for 1,7 kg of trash per day compared to the locals of only 0,5 kg per day. Basically, we’re in somebody’s home, and we’re trashing it. Shouldn’t we be ashamed? So, how can we do better?
The answer is actually already right in front of our eyes.
The tourism industry itself IS the answer. As a traveler, we can be part of the solution. We, along with the leaders and businesses in the industry, are the ones who can build awareness around the issues and spur waste infrastructure improvements. Progressing with the recovery of the pandemic, the tourism industry has the opportunity to start things fresh and choose a more sustainable path forward. If we want to preserve the beauty of the places we enjoy, we must care for them as if they’re our own homes.
Change The Way We Travel
The word sustainability has been going around in recent years, and we can also apply it in our travels. According to the Three Pillars of Sustainability, this new tourism approach is all about balancing environmental health, local economic growth, and human and animal welfare. With just a small action today, we can start a chain reaction for long-time impacts for our future generations. Here are a few things we can do easily and affordably to minimize tourism’s negative effects:
- Save Energy
Public areas, hotels, parks, and restaurants all rely on a lot of energy to operate. Excessive electricity and intensive water use can significantly strain local water and energy supplies. Tourists often consume more water and energy per day because they thought, “I pay for this. I can use it as much as I want.” Please don’t be one of those selfish people. When leaving your hotel, turn off the AC and lamps. Take a shower occasionally instead of baths and reuse your towels to prevent unnecessary laundering.
- Support The Locals
Many communities are suffering from the pandemic. You can help them bounce back by trying community-based tourism! Stay in locally-owned homestays rather than international hotel chains. Try out traditional dishes made with native ingredients and explore local markets and shops. These local businesses care more about the environment and the neighborhood because they are part of it. You can also use this opportunity to learn about the culture and traditions of that place.
- Be Responsible
If you’re going on any wildlife tours, avoid those who are unethical and profit-focused. That means if you’re allowed to ride those animals or be in a close encounter with endangered species, you might want to consider that as a bad sign. The same way goes for snorkeling and scuba diving. Always be careful to stay away from areas with a fragile coral ecosystem, avoid overcrowding, and wear reef-friendly equipment. Enjoying wildlife is one of the highlights of traveling, but make sure you’re not disturbing their natural habitats.
Do all of those things above, and you can enjoy your vacation with a better and healthier mindset! Earth Day today reminds us that every one of us is responsible for the difference we want to make for our future. We need to urge industry leaders and companies to improve sustainable tourism and protect the environment. Our choices, social actions, and personal awareness all play a part in achieving that. After all, we still want to see those pretty beaches and exotic forests for a long time, right? Then we have to make sure they won’t be destroyed by our very hands.
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Earth Day 2022: Theme, Facts, Latest Events, and Celebrations. (2022). Earth Reminder. Retrieved from https://www.earthreminder.com/earth-day-2022-theme-facts-events-celebrations/
KaitlynBra. (2021, March 9). Top 10 Tips for Sustainable Travel. Sustainable Travel International. Retrieved from https://sustainabletravel.org/top-10-tips-for-sustainable-travel/
Marchant, C. (2019, March 26). What is sustainable travel? (And how to be a sustainable traveller). Charlie on Travel. Retrieved from https://charlieontravel.com/what-is-sustainable-travel/
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Siddharta, A. T. (2019, October 14). Bali fights for its beautiful beaches by rethinking waste, plastic trash. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/bali-fights-for-its-beautiful-beaches-by-rethinking-waste-plastic-trash