Cambodia is drowning in plastic waste, which is in part due to the tourism industry. Despite not being the main contributors, travel agencies can take actions to fight plastic pollution. From giving refillable bottles to guests or booking sustainable places, these actions can make a big difference. This makes environmental and economical sense but also contributes to the survival of tourism in Cambodia, which is threatened by increasing plastic pollution.
Taking actions against plastic use should start by looking into your own office. For instance, do you have a refill station that your employees can use? Turn your employees into your green ambassadors. Provide them with reusable bottles (either from Refill the World, or second-hand ones from Sakura), reusable bags and containers. You can also organise a training session to talk to them about the impact of plastic waste and the change you will make to reduce plastic use.
Appoint one or several people to be in charge of your green actions. This will make sure someone is responsible for reducing your environmental impact. This will also make it clear to everyone that they can turn to this person if they have questions or suggestions on green actions. EXO Travel and Shanti Travel have one green leader in each of their offices. These people are responsible for each office’s sustainability measures and also to provide training to their teams. A great source of inspiration for travel agencies looking to reduce their impact.
One of the main sources of plastic waste for travel agencies is the plastic water bottles given to guests. However, this can be easily avoided by giving reusable bottles to guests. You can order yours on Refill The World website and put your logo on it. Most travel agencies in Cambodia, such as Easia Travel, are already doing this. In addition to reducing your environmental impact, this is a great way to promote your agency as guests will walk around with your bottle.
If you are on a limited budget, you can also tell guests to bring their own reusable bottle (as Insight tours is doing when guests book their tours). You can also have few reusable bottles in a cooling box that you then can wash at the end of the day, as Ayana Journey does. This can also enable your agencies to save costs as you won’t need to buy all these water bottles. A win-win for everyone!
To refill guests’ bottles, you can use Refill the World’s map, which shows places that have free refill station. There is an increasing number of places in Cambodia but also in Asia listed on the map. You can also have the large 25L water jug in the car for guests to refill their water bottle (or have reusable bottles in a cooler as mentioned above).
During daily tours, guests might get take-away food from street vendors. Most of the time, the food is unfortunately packaged in Styrofoam. To avoid this, you can have reusable boxes for guests to use such as metal tins as well as reusable cutlery (in bamboo or metal for instance). Insight Tours and Easia Travel also give the option for guests to have a delicious home-cooked meal and provide reusable plates and cutlery. This also reduces the need to buy take-away meals. For shopping, you can give or lend a reusable bag to guests with your logo on it. This is not only eco-friendly, but it can also improve your visibility!
Travel agencies are also indirectly responsible for the plastic used in hotels, restaurants or activities that are booked for the guests. Thus, best is to favour places that share your values and are working on fighting plastic pollution. There are many ways to do this, for instance:
Communicate this policy to your suppliers to make them aware of your actions and the implications with regard to their activities. And of course, put this policy on your website to show that you’re working on plastic pollution and other environmental issues.
Before guests arrive at the destination, you can send them a booklet with information on the country and advise on how to travel responsibly. This can include environmental tips such as carrying a reusable bag and bottle to reduce plastic use. You can also add social aspects such as being “childsafe”, and how to dress appropriately. You can look at Ayana Journeys’s great pre-departure booklet here that mentioned all these tips.
Overall, there are many actions your travel agencies can take to fight plastic pollution. Most of them do not require a large investment but can make a tremendous difference. So do not hesitate to make a change!