Starting January 2020, Aaranyachar : Experiential Learning in India renewed its commitment to Low Waste Travel in all their excursions. A pioneer in quite a few major conservation initiatives and industry firsts, like becoming India's first wilderness travel company to integrate local livelihood activities with wildlife safari tours like the Baiga dance, Pardhi walk, etc and reducing plastic water bottles, it was but natural to switch the focus to the ever-increasing environmental problem in our world—waste.
A conscious effort in understanding the industry’s impact on the environment : exploring beyond the realms of responsible travel experiences, we are looking to inspire our guests in collaborating to create a sustainable conservation tribe all around.
Below are some of the lessons we learned and we leave it to you to choose, which can be integrated with your next travel plans. We believe that this initiative is NOT an all-or-nothing situation, rather success is in going forward with more people adopting a few of these practices than some people adopting it all.
Please join us in taking the lead in our wildlife communities around the Indian forests towards waste reduction, and help us inspire and influence a more sustainable, responsible travel culture.
REDUCE PRE- AND POST-TRIP WASTE
Waste, as a general rule of thumb, is not limited to the duration of the trip itself. All materials distributed to guests before and after the trip, should also be taken into consideration. So in order to minimize the entire waste, it's imperative to look at all guest related materials and consider whether it's necessary. The industry is often a fan of the logic that a high-quality ‘branded gear’ will be used and reused by the guests over and over, however the question remains whether it's an essential item.
Another important measure that we undertake is opting for providing digital documents to guests; thereby significantly reducing the paper trail.
Binoculars, spotting scopes, books, etc which are provided to guests, even on a small scale are re-collected, sanitized thoroughly and reused. Other times, they are distributed to local youth, maximizing their usage.
Also, we believe it's imperative to educate travelers about practices to minimize waste, to ensure everyone’s on board with the idea. We usually send out a pre-trip ‘things-to-carry checklist’ for our guests, and recommend bringing their personal refillable water bottle/ coffee mug to reduce disposable plastic waste.
MINIMIZE FOOD WASTE AT RESTAURANTS Sharing meals is an integral feature in our team-building exercises on field, and helps build a sense of camaraderie among the group.
The Clean Plate is our attempt at creating a fun way to remind folks to finish whatever’s on their plate. Rather than being a directive, it's a playful attempt that ‘you’re gonna get dessert only if you show your clean plate’.
Half portions our travelers are encouraged to firstly taste, and then take dish portions that they’re comfortable with. This has proved extremely effective in minimising food wastes.
SOURCE ECO-FRIENDLY CONTENT We are now sourcing only eco-friendly/ recycled goods (e.g. glass water bottles, jute/ hemp bags, bamboo toothbrushes & cutlery) and eliminating single use plastic materials (mineral water bottles, shampoo containers, etc).
Even the COVID kits we give to our guests are eco-friendly, the containers are recycled whilst the face masks are made from simple cotton. Amongst the other gear we source sustainable products from the local community, such as bamboo hats, recycled cotton soft toys, etc; thereby increasing acceptance of eco-sensitive goods.
PLATTERS OVER PACKETS
In all our trips, we have made a switch to buying bulk-packaging, this not only eliminates the redundant excessive packaging of smaller units, especially in proportion to the volume and weight of the snack itself (just think about a single-serving granola bar wrapper or bag of chips).
May it be classic trail-type snacks like trail mixes, nuts, and dried fruit—ideal for healthy travel snacks. It may be important also to offer small individual stash bags as part of this concept. These are reusable Ziploc-type bags that people can put bulk snacks in if they wish to carry them on activities/outings/hikes. Another common practice we follow while carrying packed picnics, we look at packing all items of a type together rather than a separate packet for each person i.e. all muffins are packed in one box, rather than individual wrappers.
LOOK FOR SUSTAINABILITY PARTNERS
Over the past few months, one of the most feasible ways to scale up our commitment towards waste reduction came from our various service partners; some who were already doing things at a high level of sustainability, with waste mitigation a key component.
May it be our partner restaurants or hotels; by partnering with businesses that are already thinking and operating sustainably, we learned things that we were able to integrate, bringing everyone up to a higher level.
CREATE A FACILITATOR
We ensure that all our guided trips boast of having an in-house conservation facilitator on the trip itself. The person appointed, essentially conveys the commitment of the members to all the associated service providers along with key pointers to ensure minimal waste. After conveying the requisitions, that person also ensures the delivery of the practices in terms of food packaging, cutlery usage, recycling, etc. The facilitator also keeps track of consumption patterns to reduce wastage for the next outing.
TAKE IT BACK
Since most of our excursions are based in and around remote wildlife locations, we have taken a vow to bring back our dry waste (plastics/ glass/ recyclable materials, etc) back to the nearest city where-in they can be segregated and then handed over to the collection center for appropriate disposal.
Landfills around wildlife areas are a growing concern, triggering the occurrence of feral dogs : both of these pose a significant great hazard to the wild animals in the vicinity. Carrying the waste back is usually carried out by our facilitator, but in the past some of our guests have also lent a hand.