World´s first sustainable archipelago
If you have already been to, or are planning your trip to the Azores, you may have noticed the word “sustainable” coming up. In fact, we are very proud to announce that Azores is officially certified as the world’s first sustainable archipelago by the Global Council for Sustainable Tourism.
We consider this title as an honor to our ways of living and thinking. In Fun-Activities we aim to help to keep our island sustainable for generations to come.
However, what does the word sustainable mean?
How can we practice sustainability in our daily lives?
We live from tourism and we have witnessed a strong growth in this sector in São Miguel island in the last few years. Of course, this is something good. There are more possibilities for young people to find work on the island. Many old houses have been renovated and serve as nice places to stay. Shops and restaurants have more clients, new walking trails are opened and more.
We also notice long lines of badly parked rental cars close to the viewpoints. We see cans full of trash. There are unofficial trails lingering in protected areas where people carelessly tread, and so on…
As such we fully understand that it is our duty and work to keep the things organized and preserved.
What we believe in?
In Fun-Activities we believe that tourism is good only if it has a positive impact on the people living here and the island in general. We believe in a solution which is satisfactory for all the parts affected and we work for this every day.
We have started several projects for local people like clean-up activities and participate in governmental programs. However, there is something that we do daily that affects all of us in an almost invisible manner. And everybody who is on any tour with us is encouraged to contribute.
Maybe you have noticed our guides picking up something from the ground or taking out from the water. We do it on the walking trails and whilst kayaking or coasteering. Many of us carry a small plastic bag. We use it to gather daily bits and pieces of garbage left behind by others that have passed before us. Sometimes it can be as small as the cap of a water bottle or candy wrapper. Sometimes it is something big – like a bag with somebody’s picnic trash.The truth is,almost every day we collect something from our hiking trails and waters and keep the places cleaner for the next people going that way.
Can you guess the most uncomfortable things to find and collect?
Did you guessed – masks? As a sign of time, there are more and more lost masks on the trails. Sometimes already old and dusty, sometimes still clean. With or without broken straps. They are obligatory in closed spaces and optional outside. As they are light and small, they are easily pulled out together with a phone or water bottle. When they are pulled up to your arm, the strap can get broken and they get lost. Masks are dangerous to birds ,as well as for marine life when they are blown out to sea. For the next person to come along they are uncomfortable to pick up, as we don’t know who was using them and how long ago it was last used.
The second and maybe the most uncomfortable thing to clean – wet wipes.
Everybody knows what they can be used for, especially the ones behind a bush. As we don’t carry cloves with us,unfortunately they stay behind.
Hence our plea:
Carry together with the toiletries a small plastic bag. In need to use nature as a restroom, you can put paper or wet wipes inside the bag and leave it in the nearest garbage pin, where it will be taken care of. If you don’t have the bag, instead of the wet wipes, consider carrying and using just simple toilet paper. Our climate is humid and paper disintegrates fast, making it more comfortable for all of us.
But, do you know, what garbage can be found the most and in the most places??
Plastic, more precisely, plastic bottles.
We all need water. And we carry it with us everywhere. We use the water, but sometimes we don’t think about the weight of it.
In 2019,more than 624 000 people visited this island during 365 days. Even if we divide it equally, we have about 1700 new visitors per day. What if all of them buy a bottle of water daily?
To understand this problem, we need to understand what happens with the plastic in our islands
Have you noticed, how our garbage bins are marked? Separation has been made easy.
Problem is, we don’t recycle. After collecting, sorting and packaging, we need to send it all back to the mainland. Of course, it has its cost. On the other hand, empty plastic is light. In the days of strong wind it is enough to have open garbage cans where subsequently the bottles fly out and end up in the sea. Almost every day our kayaking and coasteering guides pull something out from the water and transport empty bottles, bags and other rubbish back to the land.
Azores is still one of the cleanest places, but things have changed and we notice it.
Five years ago, when we started our company, our concern was and continues to be, the well-being of our clients. On every tour we carried and offered bottles of water, and every evening we were disposing of some empty or half empty ones. Many times we noticed people having their own reusable bottles. Often we had the unused plastic ones carried back and forth for several days, staying in the hot car,until we emptied them and disposed of them. The vision of such an amount of garbage started to bother us and we tried to find a better way of managing this. One idea was to buy big bottles, to fill the smaller and reusable ones. Still, we ended up not using half of the water and instead of small bottles we now had bigger ones in our hand.
By talking with people we realized how more and more of our clients are aware of the problem and were having their personal bottle, many times filled with local tap water, which in São Miguel is perfectly good to drink.
Like this we arrived to our resolution.
During our activities we do not offer bottled water. In case of full day activities, we are happy to provide pik-nik or snacks. We make sure to use paper wraps and reusable cutlery/lunch boxes or paper bags. We make sure the litter will return with us and get disposed of properly.
All our activities have a list of things to bring with you, where water is mentioned. In any case if it happens that you don’t have your own bottle, or haven’t had time to buy water yet, we are happy to stop by some shop. For us, it is not about the small expense of buying a bottle of water, but about the belief that big changes start with small actions and we all can contribute by minimizing waste and reusing items, while we hope for your understanding and collaboration.
And if you, like us, do believe that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can cause a typhoon across the world,then for sure not buying one bottle of water can make the world a whole lot cleaner place to live in.