Thanks to what we call the “Attenborough effect,” most people are acutely aware of the plastic problem. As a result, people are making small but effective lifestyle changes, such as switching to reusable grocery bags, and #PlasticFreeJuly has gained traction in recent years. But what about when you’re away from home?
Even when traveling or on vacation, everyone makes choices that can help protect our coral reefs from plastic. The decisions we make can have far-reaching impacts — a plastic bag you use for shopping might end up on a beach many miles away and could hurt the animals that live there. As a scuba diver, you can create the demand for sustainable-diving practices by making responsible choices.
Here, the team at The Reef-World Foundation shares some simple things you can do to reduce your plastic use on your next dive vacation.
Book with an active Green Fins member
By booking with an active Green Fins member, you’re choosing a dive shop from a network of 500-plus dive-operator members working together to make sustainable diving the norm by reducing their environmental impact. Green Fins members follow a 15-point Code of Conduct which helps them improve their sustainability in various areas above and below the water, including their plastic use.
Ask about a dive operator’s plastic use
Knowing where to book and what to bring with you can sometimes seem overwhelming. But remember: the dive starts at home. A little bit of planning before you leave can make a big difference. If you’re not sure whether the dive shop you’re booking with has a plastic policy — ask them. Not only can you confidently book with an operator who has a responsible plastic policy, it can also help you plan what to bring with you.
Use recycling bins correctly and separate your trash
Just like at home, the four Rs (reduce, refuse, re-use, recycle) are important when traveling. Separate any waste you create and dispose of it correctly. More and more hotels, dive shops and restaurants now have recycling systems to make it easier for you.
Just say no to single-use plastics
Plastic bottles, straws, stirrers and sachets all add to the problem of single-use plastics. Ask for your drink without a plastic straw or stirrer and say no to them if offered — the more people who speak up against single-use plastics, the less restaurants, bars and other establishments will offer them.
Bring your own reusable water bottle
Lots of dive operators now offer water refills in the shop and on the boats. However, sometimes you’ll still find single-use plastic cups on offer. Bring a reusable water bottle with you on your trip so you don’t get caught out and can minimize the demand for single-use.
Refuse plastic bags – bring your own reusable bag
It’s likely you already have your own reusable bag for your groceries, so remember to bring this with you on vacation. You can fold it up small enough to squeeze into your suitcase, and it’s is bound to be useful on your trip whether you want to pick up some food from the market, or some local souvenirs that catch your eye.
Pack eco-friendly utensils
It can be particularly hard to avoid single-use plastics when ordering street food or take out. Bringing your own Tupperware and reusable cutlery is a great solution — you’ll be surprised how much waste you can prevent this way!
Collect trash on dives and take part in clean-ups
Lots of dive shops, hotels and resorts organize regular beach or underwater clean-ups. They can be a fun way to meet other eco-minded travelers, so why not join in? Even if you don’t take part in organized beach clean-ups, picking up any trash you see and disposing of it properly can make a big difference. But, if you’re picking up trash on a dive or taking part in an underwater clean-up, make sure you can do so safely and without harming any marine life in the process.
To help you remember all the things you can do, Reef-World has created this handy checklist that you can download free from the website to use, display and share.