Whilst traveling in a foreign country, it is important to minimize your impact. Here are some tips and information that you should try and remember. We acknowledge that some of this advice may be more difficult to take on board whilst traveling than it would be to incorporate into your daily lives at home. However, even if you only put into practice three or four of our suggestions, be it whilst on the road or whilst at home, it will certainly contribute to reducing our impact on the planet.
Garbage Most plastic bottles are not recyclable in Ecuador. Try to use glass bottles (returnable) for sodas etc. Aluminum cans are the next best option as they are at least recyclable. To avoid buying more disposable bottles, carry a water bottle and always check if there is somewhere to fill it up at your hotel/ restaurant (most hotels and restaurants have purified water in large 20 litre bottles called botellones). These places also sell water in small bottles and so they might be reluctant to begin with as they think they are loosing a sale. Of course you will need to pay for the refill also. The concept of reducing garbage is new for Ecuadorians, so don’t be surprised if you have to explain it, but if more travelers request it, the more common place it will become. If you have to buy bottles, buy the biggest you can and just refill from there, especially if you plan to be in the same place for a while. Try to avoid excessive wrapping and plastic bags which are all to readily dished out for each small purchase. Tell the shop keeper why you give the bag back! If you shop in a local market take your own bag or have them place everything in one large plastic bag instead of numerous small ones. You can also reduce the amount of garbage you produce as a result of traveling by - using a digital camera instead of using film (the process of developing film can produce a lot of waste unwanted photos are non recyclable and often end up in the trash). Avoid using excessive cosmetic products e.g. hairspray, mousse, aftershave, perfume and if you must use them, try and find effective environmentally friendly alternatives e.g biodegradable shampoos, crystal deodorants which last longer etc (most containers for these products are non recyclable). Avoid using disposable products e.g. plastic razors, single use contact lenses. Try to use re chargeable batteries or eliminate use of batteries entirely e.g. use a wind up or solar torch or radio. Where available use recycled paper for letters home, trip diaries, toilet paper, etc. Buy in bulk if you are traveling in a large group- this reduces packaging. Please remember to recycle whatever you can in the country you are traveling. However, some products that can not be recycled in the host country can be recycled in your home countries, so please take them home if possible.
Food and health Avoid eating foods that you know are from endangered or threatened species (research these before you come to the country)…E,g, in Ecuador, lobsters are often caught undersized (tail should be longer than 8 cm). Buy and eat locally grown and locally processed foods wherever possible, rather than food products shipped from long distances, which use more energy (fossil fuels for transport and generally more packaging). Consider using alternative natural medical products for common travelers illnesses, e.g. grapefruit seed extract for diarrhea, etc. This maybe healthier for you as well as avoids leaving behind pharmaceuticals in the local water and soil (this is becoming a detectable problem in first world countries, thought to affect aquatic organisms like fish and frogs).
Nature, Flora and fauna Avoid buying souvenirs of local fauna e.g. many stores sell cases of bright colored butterflies, spiders and insects. These are caught by the hundreds in the Amazon and the sales people will tell you that they are not caught but that they raise them … it is not true! Avoid buying souvenirs that are made with endangered species or species that have to be killed to be made into a craft, support crafts made from renewable resources. Dont collect insects, flora and fauna without a permit. Leave them for everyone to enjoy. Take your rubbish home. Better still, try to pack snacks that don’t have individual wrappers e.g bulk dried fruits and nuts, or fruit that comes in its own biodegradable wrapper. Or pack your lunch in a reusable box.
Camping and Water Use toilets where they exist, if not bury human waste in a hole 20cms deep. Human waste should be buried at least 50 m from water sources. Use biodegradable soaps / detergents. In Ecuador, local “Foca” detergent claims to be biodegradable. Don´t wash shampoo and detergent off directly in rivers, but as far away as you can (4 m minimum). Avoid making fires. Use a T-shirt when snorkeling as sunscreen is harmful to the marine life.
Transport If possible, walk or use a bicycle. It not only helps the planet, but it keeps you in shape as well!
Electricity Lights, fans, TVs, radios, computers - if you are not using it - turn it off! Traveling with children and babies Try and teach your child about the local environmental issues. Point out good and bad practices. Encourage your child to snack on fruit rather than sweets, explain that fruit has a biodegradable wrapper! If traveling with a baby, why not use cotton nappies? Disposable nappies are becoming a major waste issue in developed countries and are becoming a desirable product in the developing world. Using cotton will set a good example to others and reduce the promotion of disposable nappies. If cotton nappies are simply not an option, you can always use biodegradable nappies.