Galapagos Plastic Ban: Another Step Towards Sustainability

Galapagos Joins the International Effort to Reduce Plastic Waste

Earlier this year, Ecuadorian officials banned single-use plastic on the Galapagos Islands making the wildlife hotspot one of the most conservation-forward places on the planet. The archipelago joins Kenya, Zimbabwe and just over a dozen more countries and cities to prohibit plastic straws, single-use plastic bags, polythene containers and non-recyclable cups, aiming to phase them out entirely by August 21, 2018. The ban will be enforced with pre-departure luggage checks at airports and reusable alternatives will be more widely available across the islands.

Galapagos Safari Camp Welcomes the Plastic Ban

As an eco-tourism pioneer in the islands, Galapagos Safari Camp fully supports the ban. “Blending in with and caring for the magical, yet fragile, Galapagos environment has always been a major part of the Galapagos Safari Camp philosophy. That’s why we’re thrilled that single-use plastics are now banned on the islands. It shows that everyone cares us much as we do about conserving the natural beauty and wildlife found nowhere else on the planet,” said Stephanie Bonham-Carter, owner of Galapagos Safari Camp.

Minimizing Impact on the Environment

Long before the ban was in place the Galapagos eco-lodge had almost entirely phased out single-use plastic, using instead paper straws. Since its inception, it has sought to minimize its impact on the fragile surrounding environment by employing cloth laundry bags, biodegradable soap, shampoo and conditioner in reusable dispensers and providing reusable, metal water bottles for guests.

A major part of the Camp’s environmental commitment is the use of tents rather than permanent, cement constructions which greatly reduces the impact on the surroundings. Stephanie and her team are always conscious of offering appropriate luxury:  a level of comfort that befits the delicate natural environment.

Why is Plastic a Problem in the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands are a natural paradise where dozens of endemic and entirely unique plant and animal species, such as the marine iguana and giant tortoise, exist and thrive, largely unaffected by human activity. Yet in spite of persistent efforts of locals and the Galapagos National Park to maintain a pristine environment, plastic is often found along the coast. In fact, 22 tons (three-and-a-half times the weight of an elephant) of plastic was collected from the shoreline between January and April 2018. As was seen in the video viewed more than 36 million times of the turtle with a straw stuck in its nose, plastic poses a great danger to wildlife. Studies carried out by San Francisco University in Quito found plastic inside turtles and blue-footed boobies after the iconic Galapagos species ate them, confusing them with their food.

On Santa Cruz Island, recycling programs have been in place for more than a decade, seeking to minimize the use of land fill. The results have been very positive. Visitors to Puerto Ayora will notice the paving bricks used all around the port – they are a mix of cement with recycled bottles (it’s good to know your bottle of Merlot went to good use!).

A Global Plastic Problem

Globally, around eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every day, the equivalent of a rubbish truck overflowing with plastic shedding its load into the water every single minute. Although more than 90% of the plastic collected from the Galapagos Islands this year came from Peru, Chile and even the Philippines transported by currents, the new ban will go a long way in minimizing the impact of human and touristic activities on the islands.

Water Collection in the Galapagos

It’s not just use of plastic that Galapagos Safari Camp is leading the field in. It is also the only Galapagos hotels to be self-sufficient in rainwater collection. Using a special geo-membrane, the water collected is subsequently treated for use in the lodge. A modern three-stage wastewater treatment plants avoids any polluted discharge.

Eco Initiatives at Galapagos Safari Camp

Galapagos Safari Camp seeks not only to minimize its impact on the environment, but to reverse the damaging effects that humans have wreaked on the islands. Working closely with the Charles Darwin Research Station, the Galapagos National Park, and Conservation International, the hotel participates in the reforestation of local species of trees, such as such as scalesia, guayabillo, and palo santo. The eco-lodge grows cacao which is non-invasive. Scalesia trees provide essential shade for the cacao plants.

Eating Green at Galapagos Safari Camp

Dining is another way that guests can make greener choices on the Galapagos Islands. As a working cattle farm Galapagos Safari Camp provides organic meat for guests and organic produce comes from the small plot of land within the grounds.

The First Step Towards a Greener Galapagos

As the debate continues as to whether tourism helps the Galapagos Islands by bringing in vital funds or damages them with too many visitors, Galapagos Safari Camp continues to search for solutions to make the hotel as eco-friendly as possible. “This place is simply too important to allow it to be damaged by humans,” said Stephanie. “We do everything we can to protect it.”

Plan your Galapagos Vacation!

See our Safari Holidays for our suggested Galapagos itineraries and recommended activities.

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