Guidelines for an eco-friendlier Trip to the Galapagos
What we take with us when we travel is often an overlooked aspect of our trip planning, but it is equally important and often says a lot about the sort of people we really are. Proper planning and packing offer an opportunity to make a difference in terms of the impact of your journey. Wise decisions about what ends up in your luggage can pay environmental dividends both while you are away, but also at home. Of course, much of what you pack depends on the nature of the trip, the destination and the season, but even so, there are a few general guidelines to eco-friendly packing that are useful for any trip
FLYING: We know it, flying is really not an eco friendly way of transportation ☹ But its practically the only to come here (yes you can still try to find a spot on a private sailing boat but you need a lot of time and also a bit of sailing experience 😉). So when budgeting for your trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, please consider flying the most directly possible to Quito or Guayaquil, and support the airlines that do the most possible to reduce their carbon footprint. You can carbon offset your flight or simply plant trees in your hometown! It won’t compensate but if you show us the proof you have compensated your flight’s carbon emissions, we will offer you a drink!
TRAVELING LIGHT: The heavier your bags, the more fuel motorized transport (i.e. car, bus or plane) has to expend to get you to your destination so try traveling light. Excess packaging and disposable goods are high on the list of things to avoid. In many areas of mainland Ecuador and the Galápagos, waste disposal presents major practical and economic difficulties and there is little point in contributing to the problem. Remove all excess packaging before setting off for the more remote areas of the world and recycle whatever you can of these materials while at home.
STAYING FRESH AND CLEAR: Keep in mind that what goes in the toilet or in the sink in Galapagos, ends in the ocean. When it comes to personal hygiene particularly if you plan to venture “off the beaten path” to more remote areas bear in mind that the water you will be washing in may run directly back into the marine ecosystem or may be someone else’s drinking water. Avoid using conventional soaps, shampoos or detergents (hotels always include soap but not biodegradable and in excessive plastic packaging often). There are a number of biodegradable (eco-friendly) cleaning agents and soaps available from shops and online retailers. Also think of reef-friendly sun blocker! And as we have very limited amount of fresh water, avoid more than ever long showers and only request a change of towels if necessary (leave it hanging if you wish to keep it, on the floor if you want it changed) DO NOT bring any toiletry item containing “micro-crystals”, “micro-beads” or “micro-granules” containing POLYETHYLENE. These micro-beads, often found in toothpastes and exfoliating facial cleansers (such as Colgate and Neutrogena, among many other brands on the market) are made from plastic which wash down the drain and eventually make their way back into rivers and oceans. These small plastic beads are then swallowed by sea creatures, causing irreversible damage to the marine ecosystem
EAT AND DRINK: Bring a reusable water bottle so you do not have to buy always plastic bottles. You can always refill for free in the hotels or at the agency. If a hotel does not provide free drinking water to refill, please let us know! We always take the ecological initiatives when choosing our partners but we never know if there is a change of manager for example, it can change. Eat local: that is easy, all restaurants basically use local fish and farm products. Some are even more into the farm to table initiative; we will let you know which ones.
SNACKING: Please think twice before buying your typical chocolate bar at the local store. You are what you buy! Look around: you will surely find cheap and delicious home-made snacks around the corner! Whether it’s a pastry “cycle truck” on San Cristobal sea front, a “choco-banana” (banana bathed in chocolate and frozen) , or a fresh cut coco out of the beach on Isabela, you will always find something good to try and make a nice gesture to micro businesses on the island.
SOUVENIR SHOPPING: Did you know that many souvenirs found on the islands are made outside the country? Same made in China shirt you can find everywhere? Always look for “made in Ecuador” so you really support local businesses. Also think of buying better local coffee to offer, or painting and jewelry made from local artists.
ATTITUDE TOWARD THE WILDFLIFE: We will never say it enough: check well the rules of the National Park BEFORE entering the Galapagos islands. Even when no one watches, follow the rules. And signal any bad behavior from another person toward wildlife to the nearest guide or Park ranger. Be an ambassador of the islands!
PLASTIC WASTE: We made a field trip with our team to the recycling center and unfortunately many garbage cannot be recycled and cannot be sent back to the mainland. Try to travel with the less packaging possible (take out all packaging from new clothes or new items you may have bought for the trip. Think of it too when buying souvenirs, often you will be offered a plastic bag (though it is forbidden). Say no and bring you own reusable shopping bag or backpack to take what you buy.
PREVENTION FROM SPECIES INTRODUCTION: Before flying to Galapagos, check the sole of all your shoes (even more if you have been trekking the days before). It has to be clean as you can bring all kind of insects or larvae without noticing it. Be careful also with seeds as plant introduction is an issue too, though you will be checked before flying you can help and make sure you do not bring anything that can be invasive for the islands.
DECREASE OF ENERGY CONSUMPTION: Unplug all your electronic equipment when you are not using it and charge it only for the necessary time. Avoid the use of air conditioning to the maximum. Remember to turn off the light whenever you leave the place where you are. Batteries are what pollute the most and are not recycled here. We recommend using rechargeable batteries or, alternatively, taking the used batteries back to the mainland.
We hope you appreciated those tips! If you have suggestions, or more ideas to make a trip more eco-friendly, please feel free to let us know!