A Few Sustainable Lessons From The Galapagos

“Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all.” - Ban Ki-moon

The Lifestyle Project was recently fortunate enough to visit the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. Many people associate these beautiful lush islands with Charles Darwin, a man who changed the way we see the world. The history of the islands alone are fascinating, but what caught our attention the most is the example that this pristine national park is trying to set with regards to sustainable travel.

Upon arriving in the islands, each person is asked to pay a fee of $100 US. This may seem like a lot but considering that the Galapagos receives over 200 000 visitors a year, one can quickly understand how this money can be put to good use. The money largely goes towards funding local infrastructures, of which are all moving towards renewable energies, and also goes towards funding various conservation projects. The tourist automatically witnesses the gains as they are able to immerse themselves in a well protected environment that boasts a very diverse wildlife.

Visitors and locals are actually restricted to the areas that they can explore. They do this so that the land can take on its natural processes and flourish the way nature intends it too. In the past, negative human intervention has led to deforestation, an imbalance of the food chain and total extinction of very rare species. Sometime people have selfishly brought in other species in order to meet their own needs and this has inadvertently thrown off the balance in unpredictable ways. This is why the Galapagos hold very strict rules in place with regards to travel, fishing and the introduction of new species.

Simple things that we take for granted.

Water, as it should be, is very well respected as most of the islands actually don’t have reliable water sources. Communities have to communicate in order to agree on respectable constraints. When we travel though, how often to we really think about our use of water? Many of us are privileged enough to be able to shower when we want, or drink water from the tap freely. Most of us even have access to all imaginable foods at any given supermarket. Islands have to import a lot of products, and not only is this costly but can also weigh pretty heavily on the environment. The basic rule of economics applies, where there is demand, there is opportunity for supply. This leads us to suggest a few ideas in order for us to all be a bit more conscious travelers. These are all small compromises that we can all afford to make if we can afford to explore this wonderful planet.

When showering or brushing our teeth, try to be aware of our water usage. This may mean hoping in the cold shower before it warms up, or an annoying turning of the tap in between brushes, but this simple thing can go a long way.

Recycling. Most places nowadays have very active systems in order to deal with the majority of recyclables. A problem that we often run into, is that when we go to new destinations, we are unaware of how a different system might work. It is always good to ask locals how to go about disposing of your plastics and garbage. This will not only allow you to contribute to the protection of the community, but will likely give the locals a positive impression of your in destructive behavior.

Reduce our meat intake. We are not going to dive too deeply into this touchy subject for many, but we obliged to make an effort to propose at least a small benefit. The meat production supply chain is a fairly energy intensive process. A large amount of water and land is needed in order to raise our animals, and when you add in meat transportation into the mix, it can be a very destructive line of events. Some of us really enjoy eating meat, but when we go on holiday, it might be a nice idea to reduce our intake even just for a day or two. This small approach can have a huge impact on our planet’s long-term health.

We understand that it can be hypocritical to speak about sustainability in the tourism industry. As flights have become more accessible, it is far easier to travel large distances in today's world, and thus have a bigger impact on the use of global resources. It isn’t only transportation that leaves a big foot print. Of course our consumption in the places we visit can also require a lot of energy and we think that this too is worth considering. Taking all of this into account, and assuming the curiosity of people doesn't end any time soon, there are many ways that everyone can benefit from the increasing demand of travel.

In the end, tourism can bring in a lot of money and if there is strong leadership, this money can be spent in a way that helps protect what we all want to see in the first place.

We all want to travel, we all want to learn more about the world and also rejuvenate ourselves while we are away, but if we can all just be a bit more conscious about how our choices matter and how our consumer dollars vote, than we can all benefit from tourism. Tourism helps communities grow, provides jobs for a lot of people and can protect natural environments for future generations to enjoy. We have only suggested a few ideas to reduce our impact while away, but we have a lot more ideas that we would like to share.

If you are interested in how The Lifestyle Project will help you be more sustainable on your travels, contact us at thelifestyleproject.ca@gmail.com for more info.

We must not always compete again each other as Darwin observed, but perhaps we just need to work together in order for us all to thrive.

Let’s change the way we travel, together.

The Lifestyle Project