As the summer travel season approaches, many vacationers are dreaming of the islands. But before you slap on your floral prints and step aboard your plane, consider: Just how stable might your island destination be? Seacology, the world’s premier non-profit organization focused on preserving island environments and cultures, has drawn up its Top Ten Island Saving Tips for travelers who want to help save the world’s islands.
Be they Caribbean jewels, exotic dots in the South Pacific, or obscure landmasses far out at sea, islands are among the world’s most fragile environments. Over the past 400 years, more than 50% of all plant and animal extinctions – including an astonishing 90% of all bird species extinctions – have occurred on islands. Indeed, no less than 72% of all plant and animal extinctions recorded in the U.S. have occurred in Hawaii, whose islands taken together account for less than two-tenths of one percent of our nation’s land area.
In other words, the time to get concerned about island preservation is NOW!
You, too, can help save the world’s islands. Following is Seacology’s Top Ten Island Saving Tips for travelers to help protect islands while enjoying them:
1. Vacation at a true eco-resort: While plenty of island lodges, hotels and resorts claim environmental sensitivity, you’d be surprised how many confine their efforts to encouraging the re-use of towels.
2. Take nothing but pictures: A seashell plucked from the sands may seem like a great souvenir, but it might also be the future home of a hermit crab.
3. Offset your carbon: Ever wonder how much CO2 a jet liner releases into the air? Short answer: Lots. Long answer: Compensate for the negative environmental impact of your island-bound transportation by contributing to Seacology’s Carbon Offset Fund.
4. Cool off responsibly: Many tropical islands are adequately cooled by trade winds. Shutting off the air-conditioning will not only save energy, but allow you to hear the chirping of sea birds and the breeze through the palm trees.
5. Respect and appreciate the diversity of island cultures and languages: The devastation of island cultures occurs at an alarming rate. Papua New Guinea alone has over 800 languages, many spoken by only a small number of tribal elders.
6. Mind the underwater life: When scuba diving or snorkeling, do not touch anything. Coral reefs are extremely fragile and take a long time to grow. A no-touch policy will also save you from nasty stings, scrapes and bites.
7. Avoid disposable products: Waste disposal is a critical problem on many of the world’s islands. Do not bring disposable products on your vacation.
8. See an island’s hidden treasures and get closer to nature: Reduce your impact on an island’s environment by engaging in eco-friendly activities. Kayaking, biking, hiking and sailing are great ways to witness the beauty of island ecosystems.
9. Support local economies, save fossil fuel and experience new flavors by eating locally caught and produced foods: Not only that, but the local coconut dessert is a lot fresher than the pre-packaged cupcake shipped in from thousands of miles away.
10. Help launch new projects to protect island environments and cultures by supporting Seacology: Seacology works directly with island villagers to create initiatives that protect precious habitats and improve quality of life.