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.
If you’re traveling to a destination where shark frequently features on menus, consider printing out these anti-finning campaign cards and handing them out to restaurants who serve it.
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!
• Solid shampoo and solid conditioner that use environmentally-friendly ingredients, reduce shipping emissions and reduce single use plastics — they’re always in my bag!
• 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.
Hi Alex! I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I first want to say how much I love following along in your travels! Although I’m not a diver (and probably never will be… I’m kind of afraid of swimming in the ocean) I appreciate your posts about being a more eco-conscious traveler. It’s something I practice back at home, but on the road I tend to let my principles slide a bit. I’m going to look into getting a filtering water bottle for my next trip. And I’m definitely going to put that seafood app on my phone! I love sushi but always wonder about the sustainability of the fish I’m eating. Thanks for pushing me to be a greener traveler!
You are so welcome Nikki! I think that seafood app is such an amazing resource. And I couldn’t live without my Clearly Filtered bottle! Enjoy!
So glad to see this post! I don’t think I’ve ever gone on a dive where I didn’t find some (usually plastic) trash floating around or stuck in the sand, even in marine parks. But, I haven’t been diving long enough to feel confident in knowing how to avoid contributing to that mess while diving, and since I’m landlocked right now I’m trying to focus on minimizing my single-use plastic consumption at home. It’s amazing what little plastic odds and ends have gone from (for example) the middle of the US to the middle of the Pacific. Anyway, I’m looking forward to that post on reef safe sunscreen, and to seeing what other resources pop up in the comments!
(Ps– have you done a post before on general green travel tips? I’ve read some of your reviews of different gear, but I wasn’t sure if there’s a sort of compiled list floating around here somewhere.)
Hey Dylan! I haven’t really done a list like that yet (great idea though!) but I do have a full category of responsible travel posts you might find interesting here. Thanks for reading!
Happy Ocean Day to you! I absolutely love the photo of the yellow fish in the blue water. So magical! I’ll be hitting up the underwater scene in Belize next month and couldn’t be more excited, thank you for all your Belize posts as well. 🙂 Have a great weekend!
Thanks Ashley! That photo was a recent one from Koh Tao, one of my favorite dive sites. Enjoy Belize, it’s one of my faves!
I love how green you and the blog are! Eco friendly travel is key!
I try to do my part Cate, thanks! And I get so many great tips from readers when I write posts like this, I learn a lot from them too.
Thanks for this post! I think it’s so important to raise awareness of what we can do to save our oceans. Coincidentally, I’m actually in transit at the minute heading towards Fiji to dive and I just read an article on coral bleaching (and eventual death) in the Great Barrier Reef due to global warming. It was very depressing but more people need to know how grave the problem is and what we can do to save them!
Some suggestions I would add are to reduce use of the aircon/heater and consider eating less meat as it takes more energy to produce, pound-for-pound and calorie-for-calorie. Just a natural consequence of being further up the food chain.
That said, these are all still very much works in progress for me too but at least we gotta try and keep trying right?
Very good suggestions, Michelle! I have gradually yet radically reduced my meat consumption over the last year or so and the concerns you list were a major part of making that change. I just spent seven months in Thailand air con free and felt pretty proud of myself for doing so! Actually it wasn’t even that hard until it hit March and April… and at that point I was ready to sell my soul for some conditioned air. Luckily for the earth I didn’t have access to any, ha.
Having had the pleasure of being in Thailand in March and April myself, you have my undying respect for making it through without aircon!
Things definitely got a little sweaty. I think next year I might have to invest in a small standing AC, just for those two months. The rest of the year I’m okay, but March-May is just punishing!
Lovely pics. I miss scuba diving.
Perhaps time to plan a dive trip? 🙂
These are great ideas that I will definitely do my best to implement if I dive at some point! I think this whole article could also be adapted into general greening for all parts of life
Indeed! I’ll do my best to keep bringing y’all green content like this, thanks for letting me know you enjoy it!
Hey Alex you talking a lot about sustainability, so I was wondering if you are vegan? These are all great tips but minimal once you consider that I hamburger equals 660 gallons of water, and that the leading cause of climate change, Amazon deforestation, ocean dead zones and more is animal agriculture. Also we’re overfishing our oceans so much (and of course with the large nets used, there’s always bi-kill. Meaning animals that are not intended to be fished are taken out of the ocean, this includes sea turtles, sharks, etc.). I invite you to look into veganism! It is the only way to be aligned with your morality, and live according to what is clearly important t you :). You cannot call yourself an environmentalist or an animal lover if you are not a vegan. This is not meant to attack you or anything like that, but rather to invite you to like a live of compassion, sustainability and great health.
For more info watch Forks over Knives to find out about how horrible eating animals and their by-products is for human health, Cowspiracy for environmental implications of eating animals and their by-products, and finally Earthlings for the ethics.
Hey Maria! I do not eat fish or fish products and I have radically reduced my consumption of other meats over the last year or two, though I don’t plan to go vegan ever. I don’t agree that you can’t eat eggs and call yourself and environmentalist 🙂 That said, I do admire the morals and dedication of those who dedicate their lives to sustainable lifestyles. I try to do my part while emphasizing the issues that are nearest to my heart, like reducing single use plastic consumption.
Also, movies! I have Cowspiracy downloaded and have been meaning to watch it for ages. I found Earthlings very moving and have changed many of my habits after watching it — hard to watch, but so impactful.
Haha in terms of local diving: I’ll probably attempt to dive in the Netherlands. I can’t wait to see what it’s like. Try googling “diving in The Netherlands” and tell me it doesn’t look like a scene in a horror movie! I can’t wait for the summer 🙂
Ah, I can’t wait to see! Let me know how it goes 🙂 Not sure I’m brave enough to dive New York yet!
Excellent Earth friendly tips … everybody can do something to improve how eco-conscious they are … thanks for the inspiration!
Indeed! Absolutely including myself!
Nice post with the great tips especially the one: Pack wisely 🙂 I like that particular tip because when I travel I pack the whole house and I know it is big no! because you can get a lot of things from the particular destination you visiting but you know what I’m bit fussy and peaky. I’m trying
I pack the house too but I HATE shopping and it drives me nuts to buy something on the road that I already have somewhere else. I’m not sure what’s more wasteful, that or overpacking :-/
Great tips Alex!! I recently took a viator trip to the Similan Islands and sadly, there wasn’t a lot of talk about keeping your hands and feet off the reef. I warned my boyfriend and explained how just touching the corals can kill them, but there were so many people standing up and/or touching the reef- it made me really upset. I’m definitely going to do more research on my upcoming trip to Belize to find an Eco-friendly tour group!
Bummer to hear Rachel, though not entirely unusual for Southeast Asia. I’d definitely encourage you to give your feedback to both Viator and the local operator. I’m trying to be better about doing so myself!
Great tips! Many activities seem like they can be made more sustainable and it’s wonderful that diving is one of them.
Absolutely! I find that there’s nothing like getting people INTO the ocean to make them want to protect it!
Fantastic tips, Alex! Thanks for writing this post – sustainability especially in the oceans is so important. I read your post about the Clearly Filtered water bottles and we have purchased some for our upcoming trip to Vietnam – no more plastic bottle waste! Looking forward to seeing how they go 🙂
That makes me so happy to hear Petra! Let me know how you like them. Having had a few friends start using them lately it does seem like they take some getting used to as there’s a bit of resistance on the straw but I swear you get used to it. Enjoy!
Thanks for the post! what a great place. The pics remind us of the natural beauty all around us.
Thanks for reading Ralph!
Awesome article (as always)!!!
I just wanted to say mention that Earth Day is over but our planet is still losing 15 billion trees each year.
Earth Day Network works to reforest the earth and build sustainable communities but we must all do our little bit, too!
Keep those great blogs coming!!!
That’s awesome Matt. Did you see my post on carbon credits? Lots of those go to reforestation projects!