With global warming and ocean pollution a growing problem, there’s never been a more important time to change how we act. The greatest impact we can have is choosing where we spend our dollars. If you’re as passionate as we are about preserving this beautiful planet, we must support companies that are making a difference. Easy, right? Not always. Wading through the ocean of websites, policies, and promises can be daunting. First, we must determine what to look for and then decipher fact from fiction. Here we’ll help you become an environmental detective and zero in on the best eco-friendly operator for your next dive. When you know what to look for, it’s much easier to find. Here are a few factors to consider.
A company that puts the planet first will make their eco-ethos part of their identity. Search for their philosophy, sustainability strategy, or green goals. Keep in mind, if it’s a small shop they may not have a great website. But they could still have excellent sustainable practices. Seek out their social media and do an in-depth internet search. You’ll discover a wealth of information including certifications or accolades, as well as any environmental missteps they may have had. Many dive operators follow the Green Fins curriculum, and that’s a good place to start.
There is no approved set of global certifications on sustainability. Plus, each local and national government has its own set of regulations. A liveaboard will have different standards than your home dive club, or a shop on a remote island. Choose a business with policies based on limiting physical impact above and below the waterline. Look out for these key indicators: reducing waste, refusing plastics, reducing pollution, reducing water consumption, and conserving energy.
Doing good for the environment and doing good for people go hand in hand. Find out if a company adequately trains its staff, if they hold conservation-based certifications, and make a livable wage. Ask the shop outright, read crew profiles, and watch for staff taking personal responsibility. Empowered people get behind environmental policy and bring it to life.
Not only policies make a business “green” these days, but also the products. Consider whether the company sources and sells items that are manufactured sustainably. Are they constructed with earth-friendly materials? Look deeper into the types of retail items, rental gear, and day-to-day products the operator uses, such as recycled plastic wetsuits, package-free retail items, and eco-safe cleaning products. Call and ask if you don’t see the information on the website.
A large proportion of the diving community is working together toward a greener future, and many companies have already adopted sustainable operating models. Determine if the dive shop supports conservation projects and scientific research. Do they advocate for other businesses in the preservation and protection of the ocean? Conscious collaboration is sustainability in action.
When a dive business is dedicated to making a difference, it will encourage others to do the same. True sustainability isn’t only about the environment, it’s about giving back. Learn if and how they inspire others, and how they give back to their local community. Outreach, education, and hands-on events like beach clean-ups can lead to lasting positive change.
The final step is ensuring the company’s philosophy and sustainable practices are in action. Reviews offer a firsthand account of divers’ experiences, aka the hard evidence. Try TripAdvisor, Google, and Scubaboard, anywhere you can find word-of-mouth customer feedback and photos. Ask your peers; ask your dive group. We all have that dive buddy who loves to travel. Has their experience been positive? Did they notice if the business was sticking to their eco-ethos?
In an ideal world, all dive operations would put the fragile ecosystem at the top of their priority list. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. So, each of us must become environmental detectives, searching for evidence and using what we find to inform our choices. We can vote with our dollars and share what we discover with other divers so they can do the same. The monumental environmental crisis our oceans face can make us feel helpless, but every positive choice we make today becomes a small drop in a river of action, which leads to an ocean of change.
Rachel Huber is a dive instructor and freelance writer based in Squamish, Canada. After a decade living a pirate’s life in the Caribbean, she moved home where she now writes primarily on travel and liveaboard diving. Her passion for scuba continues to take her all over the world seeking her next great story, and a whale shark or two. Visit her website or find her on Instagram.