Long Run members lead the call to End Plastic Pollution for Earth Day
Picture this: Soft sunset hues light up the jungle as you busily set up camp in a pocket of untouched wilderness, yet in the search for firewood you stumble upon a beach awash with plastic — where bottles, food containers, diesel cans and bags outnumber nature’s treasure.Sadly, this is a familiar tale and one that Long Run member Andrew Dixon, owner of Nikoi Island, experienced just last week while travelling elsewhere in Asia. . Since the beginning of their operations the team at Nikoi, like many other Long Run members, have committed to not only recycle plastic but reduce use, educate others and facilitate local solutions. While you won’t find any plastic pollution near Nikoi’s shores thanks to these efforts, urgent action is needed elsewhere.
Today is Earth Day, and this year the organisation is calling on the world’s businesses, governments and individuals to rally behind a concerted effort to End Plastic Pollution. From threatening marine life and disrupting human hormones to destroying vital ecosystems, the tide is turning on plastic, and the tourism industry should be leading the charge. As Sibylle Reidmiller, owner of Chumbe Island Coral Park recently said, “travel is the only industry that has a vested interest in protecting beautiful places; if we can’t do it, no one can.” At the Long Run we work with our members to share best practice when it comes to reducing and upcycling plastic. It’s no easy task, but with the right commitment anything is possible. Here are a few examples:
1.Reduce your use
Removing single-use plastic can be a challenge for remote lodges, particularly when it comes to transfers and safari trips. At Sasaab recyclable metal water bottles are given to guests the moment they arrive, reducing plastic bottle use. At Kicheche Mara, removing all bottled water and switching to homemade yoghurt saw a 9% reduction in PET waste, a 90% reduction in plastic bottle waste and saved 2130 yoghurt cups last season alone. Lapa Rios on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula have banned all single-use plastics — they encourage guests to take advantage of the fact that water in Costa Rica is 100% potable. Throughout the Cayuga Collection (which manages Lapa Rios) plastic straws have been replaced with bamboo straws made by Constantino, a former gardener at one of the lodges who now produces 30,000 bamboo straws for various hotels every month.
2. Educate guests and local communities
Education, particularly with local communities, is crucial for widespread change. As the only resort in the southern Maldives’ Laamu Atoll, Six Senses Laamu has an acute responsibility towards its local population and eco-system. The introduction of Earth Lab is a chance for the resort to share sustainability and conservation-led innovations and ideas with team members, locals and guests, including alternatives to plastic. Back at Lapa Rios, management company Cayuga Collection has conducted research to educate guests about the benefits of glass over plastic for your health, bank and the planet, in the hope that they will make more informed choices back at home. Andrew Dixon is a big believer that a lot can be done with education alone, “many don’t really understand the damage that is being done by a plastic bag in the ocean so changing attitudes is key”. On a recent beach clean in Bintan, 300 kids from three local schools joined the Nikoi team, who organise food and cultural dances to make it a fun day out for everyone.
3. Upcycle with a conscience
Long Run members are always looking for innovative ways to upcycle waste. The most successful efforts are those that reduce waste while also providing income to local people — we’re all more motivated to change habits if there’s a distinct economic benefit. In 2017 Nomad Lodges Amazonas, a 237-acre private reserve in the heart of the Colombian Amazon, kicked off their ‘Waste for Food’ project. Twenty families have been given bags to collect all non-organic waste, mostly plastic. The lodge then exchanges them with a recycling centre in return for rice, oil and salt, which is then handed back to the community. So far, 300kg of waste has been collected, and Nomad hopes to roll the scheme out to over 1000 families. Plastic waste at Nomad is also used to make boards for the maintenance of pathways and pontoons. Another oil based product causing concern is polystyrene. To make the most of the waste Nikoi pays local people to collect polystyrene and turn it into the filling for beanbags, made from old sails on the island.