Hello Ocean Guardians, we are so happy you are here, and hope your submissions for the 2018 Ocean Guardian Contest are coming along nicely — remember, a free surf and yoga camp is what’s on the line here! Get ready to rumble with our latest installment! Last time, we discussed how you can calculate your carbon footprint. Furthermore, we encouraged action to reduce that footprint by using less electricity. This week we will be talking about how you can become a more responsible consumer and traveler! The most important thing to know is that we can all be environmental stewards and Ocean Guardians everyday in easy ways, just by what we purchase. By using “dollar voting” for responsible companies, products, and services, we are using the very system of capitalism to address a whole host of issues!
Understand greenwashing: How to cut to the chase
Recall the last time you were at the grocery store. Walking up and down the aisles, you may have seen packaging with green leaves in the background, and different claims that are enticing like “all natural” or “good for the environment”. Yet, many of these companies are actually partaking in business processes that damage the planet. This misleading advertising is all called “greenwashing”. It occurs when companies use false or confusing marketing techniques to promote their product or service as “eco-friendly”. Legally, companies can make these claims without complying with any verified standards besides their own — so it’s up to us as Ocean Guardians and environmental stewards to dig a little deeper into the issue.
So, next time we see that enticing plastic bottle of house cleaner wrapped in packaging with fresh waterfalls and green leaves, how we can open the green curtain to better recognize the potentially dark motives? In many cases, companies are posing themselves as saviors of nature, yet behind closed doors their company is lobbying against environmental laws. It can be very hard to decipher but we have put together six steps below to make you more informed:
- Ask questions
- Read the fine print
- Do your research
- Beware of buzzwords
- Seek certifications
- Trust your instincts
Still interested in how a company could really lie to you? Check out this case study on how Fiji water uses greenwashing.
Dollar voting: Use your wallet with intention
By opting for genuine eco-friendly or low impact businesses, we are making our own positive contribution to the environment, and promoting others to engage in greener habits as well. This puts accountability on businesses and corporations to create more sustainable business models and products when we vote with our wallets.
Picture how different you feel when you are walking through a large scale supermarket and purchase the first bottle of house cleaner you see, versus walking into a local farmers market and buying a homemade house cleaner from a woman who makes it weekly and gives a portion of the profit to tree reforestation? The extra effort it takes to have knowledge of what exactly your money is funding will pay off immensely. Here at Bodhi, we know how much more connected to the people we buy from when we know their intentions. We often enjoy buying from fellow B Corp certified companies or use Green America’s National Green Pages to search for green, healthy and ethically produced products and services.
Eco-tourism: Seek sustainable vacations
It is very easy to carry an easy breezy attitude into vacation, but this is one of the most important places to be mindful of what your money is promoting. In Costa Rica alone, over 1.7 million tourists visit the country annually. While the benefits are extensive and undeniable, there are unfortunately negative impacts to consider when traveling:
- Changes in traditional or cultural patterns
- Increased reliance on visitors
- Pressure on social infrastructure and natural habitats
- Increase of pollution, runoff, and trash
- Privatization of pristine area
We understand how valuable travel is — we depend on it ourselves at Bodhi Surf + Yoga for our livelihood! In order to see how you can amplify your impact on vacation, we have broken up your trip into three phases with accompanying tips. We hope that with them, you learn that being a responsible traveler can happen both before and after the trip ends.
Before your trip
- If you were just seeing the ocean for the first time, you probably wouldn’t swim out past the break. Likewise, traveling is also a learning process that begins before you even arrive.
- Learn about the destination you are going to visit — its people, culture, and customs. Research if there are acceptable dress codes, social norms, or general laws that may differ from your own country.
- Learn a few basic phrases in the local language for meeting and introducing yourself to local people.
- While planning your trip, ensure that tour operators utilize local service providers, and lodging accommodations are eco-friendly and/or low-impact.
- Be conscious of your carbon footprint! Look into carbon offsets to mitigate the impacts of your flight, and try to choose public or eco-friendly transportation when possible.
During your trip
- Always keep in mind that you are a guest. Respect the local way of life, be humble, and most importantly, observe, experience, and learn.
- Make sure you have clear permission when entering homes, private lands, and holy places (such as churches, temples, or sacred sites).
- Always think local. This includes when choosing restaurants, lodging, tour operators, souvenirs, and more.
- Leave no trace! Always clean up your waste, travel with a refillable water bottle, and avoid purchasing bottled water where possible.
- Respect the natural environment and avoid circumstances that endanger animal welfare. Wildlife is not a theme park attraction!
- Be conscious of your use of resources such as water and electricity (shut the tap off when brushing your teeth, keep shower time short, turn off the lights when not in use).
- Be a smart spender — still pay a fair price when bargaining, and be wary about giving money to children (which may perpetuate a cycle of spending time begging instead of being in school).
After your trip
- Share what you learned, write honest reviews, and provide helpful tips on travel forums so others may travel responsibly.
- Consider donating to locally operating non-profits or travelers’ philanthropy programs that benefit the destination you visited.
Put your money where your heart is
As Ocean Guardians, we have the power to make our purchasing decisions an extension of our morals and values. If we want to keep the ocean blue and continue to empower businesses who truly strive to protect the planet, we need to educate ourselves so that we are not tricked into supporting businesses that are destroying Mother Earth for the sake of making profit. So what do you say, Ocean Guardians, let’s take a strong stand and be a shining example for others!
Written by Kerry Dunn