Gili Air Island
Unfortunately, all the pretty instagram shots of Bali don't show the massive amounts of trash everywhere. It's sad that people turn a blind eye to this on social media by masking the problem. Meanwhile some don't give a second thought to how much single use plastic waste they produce in a given day.
We are guilty of this too. Though we make a conscious effort to reduce single use plastic based on the products we buy, sometimes it's nearly impossible. If you take some time to really observe how much plastic is used in every day life, it's staggering. Nearly all food products you buy are packaged in some kind of plastic bag or box.
But where does all this plastic go? It turns out a lot of this plastic makes its way into the ocean. We noticed a lot of it first hand in Bali and wanted to find a way to be part of the solution. It wasn't until we went to the Gili Islands that we connected with Trash Hero Gili Air. As soon as we noticed all of the trash on the beaches, we decided we wanted to contribute to the solution and not just the problem. But how? It wasn't until we arrived in Gili Air Island that we found out about Trash Hero.
Traveling brings us a lot of joy by seeing new places, learning new things, meeting new people. However, our main purpose for traveling is to do it responsibly. This means minimizing our impact on the environment so the natural beauty is preserved for others to enjoy after we are gone. Sometimes eco-friendly traveling isn't always the easiest option, but it really shouldn't be all about what's easiest and most convenient for you.
If you're interested in traveling responsibly, our friends at GemTrack Travel have put together a Slow & Sustainable Travel Guide to Lombok. Their guide "dive[s] into the highs and lows of tourism in Lombok and offer[s] guidelines on how you can create a positive impact whilst having the time of your life."
"...dive into the highs and lows
of tourism in Lombok and offer guidelines on how you can create a positive impact whilst having the time of your life..."
Why is it important to travel slow? Not only will you lessen the impact on the environment, you will reduce the impact on yourself energetically. Take the extra time to steep in your surroundings, let yourself be gradually taken back more each day. We have a saying, 'Take a photo, pick up a piece' which means that if we take a picture of a beautiful landscape with trash, we take out pieces of rubbish with us.
Traveling without always searching for 'Instagrammable experience' will leave you with a fresher perspective of your time. Taking more time to stay in a place and connect with your cultural surroundings is not only good for sustaining the environment, you will 'go from observer to participant'.
About Trash Hero
Trash Hero is an amazing international organization that focuses their work in Southeast Asia: Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar (Burma), Malaysia, and Singapore. However, they've also branched out into Europe, Africa, and even the USA. We were fortunate enough to get connected with the Trash Hero Gili Air Chapter while we were there and did a cleanup with them one afternoon. They partner with different dive shops on the island to create a rotating schedule so there is a clean up every day at a different location. The cleanup pictured below was with Two Fish Divers.
The cleanups with Trash Hero Gili Are are super fun and easy. They typically start in the afternoon, the one below was at 4:30PM, which gave us the first part of the day to go snorkeling. You'll be done before sunset as they last roughly 45 minutes or until all of the bags are full. Bags and gloves are provided for each volunteer so all you need to do is show up.
It was astonishing to see how much trash was floating around in the water and washing up on shore. There were tons of straws, ramen wrappers, clear plastic bags, and single use insta-coffee packets. It's easy to see how some of the plastic products can be mistaken for food by unsuspecting sea-life.
This experience definitely made us think about what food products were going to buy next time at the store. Even though most people properly dispose of their garbage in bins, you still never know where it's ultimately going to end up. Boats carry the trash off the islands and if a bag goes overboard, then that's going to drop a whole lot of plastic back into the water.
The Weigh In
After each clean up is the ceremonial weigh in of all the garbage bags. The local kids loved this part and were literally jumping at the chance to put their bag on the scale.
The entire group of 20 people collected 240 Kg (530 lbs) in under and hour! Afterwards weighing all the bags, free refreshments are provided, either beer (if you're old enough) or orange juice. It was a great way to spend the rest of our afternoon and socialize with some of the volunteers.
Other Local Cleanups
In addition to Trash Hero sponsored cleanups, there are other local dive shops on Gili Air that do their own cleanups. The second trash cleanup we did was with Manta Dive outside their shop. This one wasn't sponsored by Trash Hero Gili Air so we didn't have quite as many volunteers, but we still met some amazing people there on holiday looking to make the island cleaner.
Sticking with the theme of the first cleanup, we did a weigh in ceremony and a round of free beers for everyone. We think this is a nice touch because it provides a nice social aspect to the clean up, plus who doesn't want a free beer for picking up some trash?
It's super easy to get connected and involved with Trash Hero. If you don't see any of their advertising or events in person, they have a contact page on their website listing phone numbers and an electronic correspondence form. They also have a huge network of local chapters in each country they focus their work.
Indonesia has 16 chapters that can be found on their website. Clicking on the Trash Hero Gili Air Chapter will bring you to their local chapter with contact info. From there you can reach out and find the next cleanup closest to you!
How to Reduce Overconsumption
You can clean up as much trash as you want, but people will still produce more. This is why reducing your waste is such an important preventative step. It starts with becoming mindful of your own consumption and working to reduce it. It's a lot easier said than done because it takes a conscious effort on a daily basis. Start small and make new practices into habits.
Bring Your Own Reusables
It may not seem like much, but each plastic straw or bag you don't use counts as a win. To cut down on single use plastic waste here are a few tips when ordering food/drink:
- Purchase a metal or reusable plastic straw to bring out with you.
- Ask for no straw with every drink order, even cans of soda or bottles of water.
- Bring along a reusable water bottle.
- A Lifestraw bottle can provide clean drinking water from virtually any source.
- Bring a reusable bag with you to carry items.
- Be sure to ask for no bag, or no extra bag with your food items if you forget to bring a reusable one.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The saying Reduce, Reuse, Recycle goes a long way. Buy a reusable straw to bring with you and ask for no straw in every drink order which includes bottled or canned water and soda. Hold onto that bottle or can until you see a recycling bin. If you get a plastic bag at the store, save it and reuse it for something else.
Recycling also doesn't only have to be about plastics, cans, paper, and bottles. You can also recycle your old clothing items. We found this donation box on Gili Air that accepts used clothes, books, bags, swimsuits, shorts, and shoes. We thought that was a great idea because it's a great opportunity for people with heavy packs (like us) to get rid of some extra things that aren't essential while knowing that it's not going to waste.