Turtle hatchling in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
by Marcela Torres
If you’re still not convinced that the tourism industry can actively help save our planet, you’ll be surprised by the initiatives we’re covering in this week’s blog in anticipation to this year’s Earth Day celebration, on April 22nd. From recycling to hands-on conservation projects, tourism companies and not-for-profit organizations across the world are contributing to conserve the environment for future generations. Hopefully, you will be inspired to play a part!
Just a Drop
Did you know that 1.4 million children die every year from diarrhea because of unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation? That is 4,000 children per day. “I started to think about how I could encourage businesses in the travel and tourism industry to give back to the places in which they operated – thus improving the lives of children and their families,” says Fiona Jeffery, who launched Just a Drop in 1998 at the World Travel Market (WTM), in London.
Fiona named the charity ‘Just a Drop’ to reinforce that it only takes a small amount of money to help prevent the unnecessary loss of life that occurs many developing countries due to the lack of safe, clean water. Until now, Just a Drop has funded projects in more than 25 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East, providing water and sanitation to marginalized communities.
To ensure sustainability of the projects, the organization works with beneficiary communities from start to finish, building local capacity and directly linking funders to specific projects in the field, so they can see very clearly the difference their support has made.
In fact, Fiona is also the Chair of the WTM, where she has promoted the celebration of World Responsible Tourism Day (WRTD) since 2007, stressing the unique opportunity the tourism industry has in helping reduce poverty and conserve natural and cultural resources throughout the planet. “We have the means and the responsibility to help the local communities of the places that we visit,” she states.
Clean the World
Have you ever wondered what happens with the bits of bar soap you leave behind in hotels when traveling? Well, Shawn Seipler and Paul Till did. They were shocked to find out how many bars of soaps are thrown away and how much they could help prevent millions of deaths caused by hygiene-related illnesses every day. So, they created the Florida-based Clean the World Foundation in 2009.
What do they do? They collect, sort and process discarded soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion product donations from participating hospitality partners and hygiene products from manufacturers. They recycle these product donations at the facilities in Orlando, Florida, and then deliver these recycled products to domestic homeless shelters and impoverished countries suffering from high death rates due to acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease.
Until now, Clean the World has put over 9.5 million soap bars and 200,000 pounds of shampoo and conditioner back into human use, while eliminating over 600 tons of waste. Check out their video to learn more!
Saving Turtles and More
Many tourism businesses are undertaking initiatives to conserve wildlife throughout the world. In Mexico, for example, several eco-resorts have successfully developed marine turtle conservation programs –some of them since the mid-1990s- in which guests, staff and local community volunteers help move turtle eggs to a protected area on the beach and then release hatchlings to find their way to the sea.
And in the State of Queensland, in Australia, tourism companies with permits to operate in public protected areas collaborate with local authorities to monitor the environmental conditions of the places they visit. Among other things, they record visitor numbers, campfire facilities, road kills, number of species and feeding sites and any disturbance they encounter during their trips. This helps park authorities to act quickly in case of any emergency and keep updated information on the sites.
These are just a few examples, among many others carried out in other places. Are you feeling inspired? I bet you are! So, get out there and find out what you can do to save our beautiful planet and leave it even better for the next generations.
Happy Earth Day!
This entry was originally posted by the author on April 20, 2012.