Sustainable travel is the future of tourism.
We’re at this point where we realize that we have to respect the earth and we don’t need to wait for government action — we can adopt small habits that will make us better travelers.
Before I proceed to this list of sustainable travel tips, let me tell you something I’d learned while abroad and I hope will give you a more positive perception: The Philippines is actually a step up in terms of sustainability compared to other Southeast Asian countries.
In Indonesia, for example, there are still places wherein locals use dynamite fishing or hunt endangered animals such as sea turtles, causing them to fear humans. Here in the Philippines, if you notice, most sea turtles don’t mind human presence at all. Not to mention the fact that the government is implementing laws for the regulation and preservation of important sites, especially tourist attractions. From my experience, it’s also more common for backpackers and regular travelers to follow the LNT than not. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a follower of LNT too!
When we’d visited Kalanggaman Island, we were impressed to know about the daily tourist cap and strict garbage disposal. Similarly, there are places that are declared sanctuaries in order to preserve them, such as Apo Island in Negros Oriental. So I hope this gives you a good feeling about where we’re heading.
Now that’s out of the way, here are easy sustainable travel tips for Filipinos!
1. Use less plastic and disposable materials
In our recent trip to Maniwaya Island, I was glad that our organizer Peng asked us to bring our own plates and utensils so we won’t have to buy paper plates and cups anymore. We’re at this time when we have more alternatives to plastic and other disposables.
For food: There are lots of options for food containers. There are eco-friendly bamboo meal sets or collapsible silicone food containers and cup sets which will save you space in the backpack. Don’t forget your utensil set including reusable straws. (Looking for reusable straws? Check out this review of Anything Eco reusable straws.)
When we go out, we usually have our reusable water bottle with us. We can skip buying plastic bottles whenever we’re in places with available water dispensers. For those with a little more budget, a water bottle with filter is also a great option. A water filter filters out bacteria so you can drink safely from rivers, lakes and — depending on the filter size — even normal tap water. This is especially useful in backpacking here as well as other Southeast Asian countries where safe water isn’t always available.
2. Invest in other eco-friendly items
One item that I really recommend for people to buy is a coral-friendly sunblock. The ingredients of an ordinary sunblock can be toxic to fishes and corals. In certain fish sanctuaries, you’ll be asked not to apply sunblock before swimming in.
We use Human Heart Nature’s SafeProtect, which uses reef-friendly and natural ingredients. (Hello HHN, I’m free po as brand ambassador. Hihi.) You can also buy other brands in shops like Healthy Options.
Also, don’t forget to bring reusable shopping bags where you can put your extra items as well as pasalubongs
3. Check out local businesses
Chain hotels and resorts are reliable and they provide local jobs, but also it’s good to balance it out by supporting local tours, accommodations and restaurants as well.
Also, if you know of a good local business, don’t hesitate to give a tip and/or recommend them to your friends! And speaking of which, make sure to pay for local services reasonably. I know that a lot of Filipinos like libre, but it’s unfair to ask for free services or haggle to the point where the local vendor barely makes even. If you can afford to travel, you can afford to pay well. Remember that what is merely change for you is someone else’s income and you’re supporting locals’ livelihood!
4. Explore eco-tourism spots
We’re having an expanding list of ecotourism places in the Philippines for you to explore and enjoy! Some of these are:
- Masungi Georeserve, Rizal — a georeserve with an adventure trail so you can discover wildlife and plant species
- Morong, Bataan — a place which holds Pawikan Festival every year in November; see hatchlings being released back to sea
- Danjugan Island, Negros Occidental — a land and marine sanctuary that promotes biodiversity; ideal not only for nature lovers but also those who want a relaxing destination in the Visayan region
- Once Islas, Zamboanga — a group of islands in the south that offers eco-cultural island hopping experience
Click here to read more about ecotourism spots in the Philippines.
5. Support activities that are kind to animals
Most of us know that riding elephants is a no-no, nor is visiting and taking pictures with tigers in temples in Thailand because the tigers are drugged to keep them tamed.
Do you also know that whale shark watching in Oslob here in the Philippines is harmful? In essence, the fact that the whale sharks are regularly fed by humans means that they suffer from malnourishment, physically harmed as they get close to boats and people and they do not migrate to other places anymore, which is essential for their breeding pattern.
I’m a little sad about whale shark watching because it seems it’ll go on for a long time since it’s basically the reason Oslob is famous. Moreover, I know a lot of people — even friends — who are aware about this but still go on whale shark watching because everyone else is doing it. In comparison, I notice that foreign tourists are more concerned about what goes on in the environment — you’ll read about several ethical guides on Oslob written by foreign travel bloggers. Ultimately, this is a government issue since it needs to be outlawed but as individuals we can still do something by not taking part in it and informing others as well.
Speaking of which, there are alternative locations for whale shark watching. Donsol in Sorsogon and Leyte are places where you can see them in selected months.
Here’s our list of easy sustainable tips for Filipino travelers. Do you have more sustainable travel tips you can share with fellow Filipinos? 🙂
P.S. Here’s a related post on responsible travel in Asia.