From the sunscreen that you choose to the cruise company you book with, your actions as a traveler directly impact on our oceans. Luckily, awareness has been increasing, and travelers are becoming more empowered to make conscious decisions that help – rather than hurt – our planet.
This year for World Ocean’s Day, Impact Travel NYC, LA and Accra hosted events to engage and educate travelers on how we can protect our oceans through the choices we make both at home and while traveling.
New York, NY
Impact Travel NYC hosted an event at Sugarcane Raw Bar & Grill in Brooklyn, where attendees participated in an intimate conversation about what ocean conservation looks like in New York City.
At the event, attendees learned about NYC’s Billion Oyster Project and mingled with fellow travelers, all while sipping on a specialty cocktail made with local Brooklyn Gin. Billion Oyster Project is a conservation project centered around restoring one billion oysters in New Yorks’ Harbor by 2035 through public education initiatives and reef construction.
Billion Oyster Project educated attendees on New York City’s fascinating oyster history. At one time, New York Harbor was the most productive, rich and diverse estuary in the North Atlantic! By 1906, all of the oysters been eaten and all 220,000 acres of oyster reefs that existed had been dredged up or covered. Sadly, water quality was too poor for oyster regeneration. Over 50 years later, with the passage of the Clean Water Act, the waters of NYC are finally clean enough for the restoration of oyster habitats, and Billion Oyster Project is here to reverse the ill effects.
Attendees at Impact Travel Alliance NYC's event sipped on Brooklyn Gin while learning about the Billion Oyster Project.
The organization achieves its mission through various public education initiatives such as volunteer programs, in-school education, community science and research and restaurant shell collection. Our host for the event, Sugarcane Raw Bar & Grill, is one of the 70+ NYC restaurants that participate in the Shell Collection Program. Oyster shells from participating restaurants are recycled, rather than sent to landfills, and used to build and restore reefs in the harbor. One saved shell can help grow up to 20 new oysters, and with New Yorkers eating up to half a million oysters in local restaurants every week, the impact of this program is immense!
Follow us on Instagram @impacttravel_NYC to learn about other locals that are making a difference in the sustainability space!
Halfway across the world, Impact Travel Accra gathered at Joyful Deli & Desserts to host an engaging panel discussion on how travelers can make a difference in ocean conservation.
Environmental activist and co-founder of Impact at Home Ghana, Chester Gadawusu, spoke to the group about how single-use plastics are detrimental to our environment.
The conversation revolved around the environmental destruction caused by single-use plastics, and they addressed ways travelers can make environmentally conscious decisions. While we can see that plastics pollute water and harm wildlife, we cannot see that single-use plastics disintegrate into tiny particles, called microplastics, that are nearly impossible to remove from oceans. These particles not only pose threats to wildlife but can also make their way into food systems and pass through water filtration systems.
Accra’s fruitful discussion resulted in action-oriented tips for travelers to combat plastic waste:
- Bring cotton reusable bags to the store when shopping, rather than wasting countless disposable plastic bags. When traveling, packing a cotton bag takes up almost no room and can be used for the entirety of your trip!
- On a beach vacation? Help keep the beaches pristine while you’re there and take your trash (and others’) with you when you leave.
- Opt for health and beauty products that are made sustainably and do not contain plastic microbeads. These microbeads are tiny pieces of polyethylene often found in cleansers and toothpaste. Search for sustainable alternatives to add to your daily routine such as plastic free toothpaste and ethically sourced bath and beauty products.
Ocean conservation advocates participated in a beach cleanup in Accra, Ghana.
The day wrapped up in Accra with a walk to the beach nearby to clean up plastic and trash, proving you do not need to travel far to make a difference.
Los Angeles, CA
Back in the US, Impact Travel LA teamed up with Hostelling International, a worldwide network of nonprofit hostel associations, to host a brunch and panel discussion on tourism’s impact on marine conservation. While a lot of travelers want to do the right thing, they often don’t know where to start.
On the panel were Graham Hamilton from Surfrider Foundation and Jessica Roame from Newport Whales, who explained how travelers can help preserve our oceans. Jessica explained that Newport Whales offers whale watching tours, and demonstrates how travelers can partake in local experiences with companies that aim to educate and showcase the beauty and diversity of ocean habitats.
The Surfrider Foundation uses its powerful activist network to protect and enjoy the world’s oceans, waves and beaches through campaigns that champion policy, fight legal battles and raise awareness. Their network of volunteers runs numerous local and national campaigns, which focus on five key areas: beach access, clean water, ocean protection, coastal preservation and plastic pollution.
Traveler's around the world are becoming more knowledgable about ocean conservation and are taking action to reduce plastic waste on our beaches.
One of Surfrider’s campaigns urges the LA City Council to pass ordinances requiring restaurants to stop using polystyrene containers and to provide utensils to-go only upon request. This bold move would be a major step in curbing single-use plastics in LA. Even without this law in your town, you can still choose to say “no” to plastic utensils and containers at restaurants!
Impact Travel Toronto members gathered for an insightful networking event that fostered conversation on how we can all support our common goal of sustainable travel. Important points were made that while some businesses may be in competition with each other or have varying business objectives, as humans we can still come together and agree on the need for the adoption of sustainable practices.
With the focus on World Ocean’s Day, members shared insights on some of the ways that they as consumers, as well as the countries they have visited, are actively cutting back on single-use plastics. A prime example of this is India, where water contamination causes many health and environmental issues. With a declining source of fresh potable water, plastic water bottles and waste are growing. However, with policy and regulations becoming a priority, many homes and restaurants are installing water filtration systems that cut down on waste and environmental damage while also increasing the availability of clean drinking water.
While this is a step in the right direction, many countries still struggle with access to clean drinking water and reducing their use of single-use plastics. Impact Travel Toronto members discussed steps they take while traveling to make conscious and impactful decisions such as investing in a water purifying water bottle. Investing in a product like this really makes you realize how many plastic bottles you use while on the go!
Our oceans need you to take action. Learn more about ocean conservation by following @impacttravelalliance on Instagram.
While these events happened in different states, continents and environments, common themes were embedded throughout the discussions and panels of our travelers:
1. Awareness – In order to make a difference we need to be conscious travelers. Before traveling, do some research about restaurants, lodging, or even organizations in the area that are making an impact and bringing sustainability into their business model. Consider staying at, eating at, or partaking in these activities to give back wherever you are!
2. Small Steps – It may be daunting to think of everything you should change in your life in an effort to make a difference. Take a step back and start with the small and tangible changes you can make in your everyday life. At all of our events, the use of reusable canvas bags, in lieu of disposable plastic bags, was brought up as an easy change that everyone can make immediately.
3. Take Local Action – Acting sustainably starts at home. Find out what restaurants in your own community are giving back to our planet, or start a monthly cleanup of your local waters. While it is important to be conscious travelers, it is just as important to be conscious members of your own community.