- Plastic is nasty. Almost every bit of plastic ever created is still in existence, much of it floating in the ocean. It never breaks down. Big bits of plastic end up in the bellies of baby Albatrosses and Dolphins, killing them through starvation. Small bits (micro-plastic) remain floating in the ocean, or sink to the seafloor. It is not known what effect these have, but marine scientists are concerned. Recycling plastic doesn’t help much – after one or two recycles the plastic becomes unusable gunk that goes to landfill. WHAT TO DO? Replace plastic with glass, bamboo, cornstarch-alternatives, metal, paper, cardboard. If you can’t find a plastic alternative that works for you, then reduce your plastic by using hard plastic reusable items.
- Local is good. Local fruit & vegetables, anything bought from local-owned businesses, is much better for the planet than supporting a multi-national. You are making local jobs, usually reducing fuel from transport (both yours and theirs), and supporting your local community. Smaller businesses are often more able and willing to make eco-friendly changes to their practices, especially if they value your business.
- Support markets and independent grocers. I know, the supermarket giants seem convenient, but sometimes a local grocer is actually easier. South Melbourne Market is open every day except Monday, Tuesday & Thursday. They even have a sustainability and waste reduction policy. Our local greengrocer delivers our fruit to our door. The quality and freshness of food from the market far exceeds that bought from the big supermarkets. The fruit we buy from the market/greengrocer outlives the supermarket fruit by days – reducing waste and cost to the business.
- Fruit is the best snack ever! It comes in bio-degradable packaging all of its own. It is classy, healthy, suits everyone, varies with the seasons and if local, is exotic and special to your guests. People with food allergies can often eat fruit. Fruit is kosher. Kids love fruit, especially strawberries, bananas, watermelon and grapes. Of course, try not to buy it in a plastic bag or box – take your own ‘green bags’ to the market (see point 6) and your produce is packaged ready for storage and a long life.
- Disposable anything is wasteful and lacks class. I have felt offended when a ‘quality’ tour gives me lunch in a disposable plastic container with plastic cutlery. That’s not quality. That shows that a business is not prepared to wash dishes for the likes of you. On the flip side, we have so often been complimented by our guests for the proper crockery we serve our food on. Washing dishes is not hard – most businesses have dishwashers!
- ‘Green bags’ (Fresh Fruit Bags) extend the life of fruit & vegetables. They really, really do – we have a food technologist in the family and he’s confirmed it. We put everything in them – they keep cut avocadoes green, cut watermelon & canteloupe stays fresh for days, broccoli and lettuce last weeks. Yes, they are plastic, but we make an exception for these because they reduce food waste and are reusable many times. The pack says to use them three times only, but we wash and re-use them until they fall apart and we’ve seen no loss of quality. You can buy them online here: http://www.gelpack.com.au/freshcrisp.html
- Compost! If you’re using fruit and paper bags, it can all go into a compost bin. 95% of our tour waste goes into one 2litre compost bucket each day. The compost is stored at our city office for a week, then is collected and transferred to our country property where it fertilises native plants. If you don’t have a country place, look around for a community garden or group that could use your compost – they will probably collect it as well. This organisation supplies compost units to restaurants in Melbourne – you can be part of it here: http://www.closedloop.com.au/closed-loop-organics
- Vehicle washing does not need to use massive amounts of water. Buy one of the high-tech cleaning mitts (every supermarket and auto store has them, see pic) – you will be amazed at how well they work. Half a mop-bucket of water and a high-tech cloth cleans a Hiace 12 seater van inside and out. No need to rinse – once over with the mitt is all that’s needed. It’s quicker and much cheaper than taking the vehicle to a carwash, and you can do it at your base without flooding the joint. Think of the staff time (and money) you’ll save.
- Publicise your eco-friendly initiatives – you will make others think, and give your competitors a reason to do it too. Write it all up on your website so your potential clients can see it. Tweet, Facebook and Instagram it! Get your Guides to show off your compost bucket on tours. Put a sticker on your vehicles “I am washed with only half a bucket of water”. Your clients will talk about it, and anything that gets travellers talking about us after the tour is good for business!
This is not a post about how we are perfect – we are not. There are still aspects of our business that are not as eco-friendly as they could be. We are still learning. Do you have any tips? Please add them in the comments!