Bali’s incredible beauty is no secret. Bali’s impossibly azure ocean, abundant wildlife, and stunning geography, along with its unique culture, inspire a sense of wonder in those who visit. Yet the magical experiences that tourists cherish has led to serious environmental impacts. Too many visitors act irresponsibly, creating massive amounts of waste and causing significant environmental damage. But while ignorance and carelessness threaten to destroy the island, there is something you can do.
Plastic, plastic everywhere
During the peak season in 2018, Bali received 5.2 million tourists, a five percent rise from the previous year. These numbers are only increasing, and as tourism surges, so do the environmental effects.
The excess of single-use plastic used on the island is evident; the streets, villages, and oceans are riddled with plastic products. Once heavenly beach spots are now lined with colorful bits of plastic that continually wash ashore and pull back into the water. Beyond the coast, lack of disposal on the island can be seen in the burning piles of rubbish in villages and jungle floors covered in plastic waste.
This issue is complex and is in part a result of the lack of action taken by local government. The Ocean Conservancy says the issue must be addressed through multi-sector efforts. However, the solution also requires personal efforts by citizens and tourists.
What can you do as a tourist?
According to the R.O.L.E. Foundation, a Balinese organization working to educate communities and protect Bali’s sacred land, of all the waste produced in Indonesia only about half makes it into landfills. The rest is either burned or illegally dumped, where it eventually makes its way into the ocean. With this sobering fact in mind, it’s imperative to do what we can as individuals to lessen the human impact.
“We must preserve the sacred land…our mother is angry with us,” said Carmen Alfonso, founder of Zero Plastic Lembongan, poetically referring to the earth.
After meeting with various organizations throughout Bali, it became clear to me that excess products, lack of knowledge, and even greed all contribute to the threatened state of Bali’s ecosystems. While many careless tourists don’t consider their plastic usage, or worse, don’t care about how it’s disposed of, responsible travelers can make simple choices that will ultimately contribute to sustaining Bali’s beauty. These three “R” words can serve as reminders.
You should be responsible for your actions and aware of your impact. Too often tourists complain about the trash on the beaches and in the ocean while simultaneously cracking open their own plastic bottle.
This responsibility applies to all aspects of travel and begins before you start your adventure. When choosing accommodations, stay somewhere that has a focus on preservation and sustainability. Many large resorts that dominate the coasts of Bali keep their beaches clean for appearances, but practically pour waste from their pristine doors into the environment.
Refuse the plastic products and bottles commonly offered at restaurants and many other destinations and simply bring your own bottle — and even straws, if you must. Despite the common misconception that the only clean water in Bali is the bottled water, there are in fact several places throughout the island to refill your reusable bottle with cold, filtered water.
Besides offering ecological benefits, many high-quality bottles — like those from Hydroflask — also insulate your drink and save your wallet. This is one of the easiest measures to take but has the potential to create a great impact.
According to the Earth Day Network, the amount of plastic entering the ocean annually has been calculated to amount to one garbage-truck-full per minute. This number is only expected to increase, and by the year 2050, Earth Day Network reports, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Do your part and bring your bottle.
If you do happen to acquire a plastic product, do what you can to reuse and, if you must, to dispose of it responsibly. There are very few trash cans around Bali, but hotels, hostels, or resorts will always have them. If you’re out and about, bring your garbage back to a safe disposal where you know it will end up in one of the sustainable recycling or waste management locations on the island, like the Bali Environmental Center in Nusa Dua, run by the R.O.L.E. Foundation.
There are so many unique ways to experience the Balinese culture and take small actions to reduce your impact. Apart from eliminating single-use plastic and acting conscientiously, research different groups in Bali that you can learn from and support. To get started, check out organizations like Scholars of Sustenance, R.O.L.E Foundation, Zero Plastic Lembongan, and Positive Impact Forever, whose passionate, intelligent, hardworking leaders and staff will inspire you to act positively.
These steps are just the beginning. Consider them a direction to take as you embark on your Balinese adventure. By involving yourself where you can, you can even go a step further than not contributing to the problem: You can do some actual good.