Happy Earth Day — or, as I more accurately refer to it, considering the planet is over 70% salt water — Happy Ocean Day!
Divers are among the most eco-conscious humans on the planet — after all, their favorite hobby involves getting up close and personal with some of its most delicate and beautiful eco-systems. Divers have launched hundreds of environmental initiatives around the world, and are often on the front lines of defending the ocean. Yet we’re all works in progress — myself included!
Wondering how you can travel green on a dive trip into the blue? Read on for seven suggestions, and a few requests for further ideas!
1. Choose Wisely
Selecting eco-consious dive operators, resorts, and overall destinations is arguably the most important step you can take in diving green.
When it comes to selecting a destination — this is the fun part! Look to reward destinations that have put significant effort into protecting their natural resources. Bonaire, which is almost entirely surrounded by a heavily regulated marine park, is the most impressive example I’ve personally visited. Looking for more ideas? Check out Hopespots, areas noted by the Mission Blue organization dedicated to igniting public support for a global network of marine protected areas. Their namesake documentary is eye-opening and moving. Have you been to a green destination that inspired you? Let me know about it so I can add it to my bucket list!
When it comes to selecting a resort or hotel for your dive trip, don’t accept promises of green at face value — many are little more than glossy marketing. Dig a little deeper to see where the hotel gets its energy from, how it conserves it, where it gets its water from, how it conserves it, and how it recycles and reduces waste.
When it comes to selecting a dive operator, this post by my friend Kristin Addis is a good start. Additionally, organizations like Green Fins help guide dive centers in Southeast Asia on how to be more sustainable and eco-friendly — their list of members is a good jumping off point.
2. Stay Close
You’ll never hear me discouraging international travel, but try to shake things up by getting an occasional fix at a local dive site that doesn’t require air travel. You’ll support your local economy, connect to your local dive community, and reduce your carbon emissions.
When your dive trips do require a pit stop at the airport, consider offsetting your carbon emissions. This is one of my own personal greening goals for the coming year — researching a carbon offset program I believe in and purchasing one to offset every flight I take. Any recommendations? Rattle ’em off in the comments!
3. Join the Movement
Participate in local sustainability events both at home and on the road. Specialized environmental volunteer trips to help cull lionfish or assist on reef surveys can be educational and rewarding, while signing on for events like a Dive Against Debris day or a Finathon can be fun and put you face-to-face with like-minded travelers. Want to scan for events in your area or upcoming destinations? Check the listings on Project Aware’s Event Map.
4. Consume Consciously
Between overfishing, reef contamination and recent revelations on slavery in the seafood industry, being aware of what’s on your plate — and how it got there — is more critical than ever. Personally, I forgo seafood entirely, but I understand that for some divers, fresh fish on the grill in the evening is as much a part of the dive trip as fresh fish on the reef in the morning.
Seafood Watch makes it easy to eat seafood sustainably with printable pocket guides and mobile apps for iPhone and Android. The guide is broken down by region and sorts options into Best, Good, and Avoid categories based on a number of carefully considered environmental and health factors.
5. Dive Sustainably
Leave only bubbles, take only pictures. Keep your hands to yourself. Practice good bouyancy control — consider taking the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy course if you’ don’t feel confident in your ability to avoid damaging the reef with your fins or body. Don’t feed fish or dive with operators who do. If you see garbage on your dive and you can remove it safely (ie. without causing damage to yourself or surrounding coral), do so. Want more? Project Aware has a list of ten tips for how to dive sustainably.
By following sustainable dive practices, we show respect to the oceans, lakes and rivers that so generously host us on our underwater adventures.
6. Pack Carefully
I’m always on the lookout for travel products that will allow me to travel more sustainably. Here are a few I’ve personally tried and tested:
• Personal water filtration devices that reduce single use plastics — I don’t leave home without one!
• A manual washbag that reduces fresh water use
• And a few bonus products in a previous Earth Day roundup!
One product I’m interested in adding to my arsenal? Reef safe sunscreen. Stay tuned for a post weighing up the pros and cons and testing a few different brands this summer! Anything else I should add to the list?
7. Share Widely
We’ve been talking a lot about this lately on Alex in Wanderland — it’s not always easy or comfortable talking to others about being green. But, I think we all agree, it’s worth it.
So speak up! If you stay at a hotel with sustainable practices that make you smile, let them know. If you dive with an operator that does something that makes you uncomfortable, talk to them about that too. (This is an area that I can improve in. I’m great at thanking people who are doing things right but often shy about speaking up when I’m unhappy about something like fish being fed on a dive site.) And don’t be afraid to make a friendly recommendation for a certain safe seafood app, or gush about your favorite green dive destinations to friends. Good ideas? They’re infectious.
Happy Earth Day!
This post is brought to you by PADI as part of the PADI AmbassaDiver initiative.