Kids on the beach in Fiji.

Kids on the beach in Fiji.

While visiting Thailand’s Kho Tao island, I stayed in a thatched hut perched on boulders over an unbelievably blue sea. Winding between the rocks was a path that took you past the showers and up to the guest house cafe.  I wandered further over the hill and the landscape shifted to simple working huts and the smell of burning plastic pummeled my senses. If only I had a few eco travel tips to help deal with the discovery.

International travelers throw out hundreds of water bottles each week. The local remedy too often is burning. I was afraid that the toxic fumes could take their toll on the staff, and especially the children playing nearby.


Too often there’s no local infrastructure or government support for recycling plastic or even garbage collection.

In North Sulawesi the tradition is to eat from banana or palm leaves. Cleaning up after dinner is simple – you throw the leaves in the stream. As rains come, and they do often, the leftovers flow out to the sea. It’s not working so well now that more villagers are eating packaged food. They still toss the leftovers and containers in the stream but the devastation of litter strewn beaches, of floating plastic and the lack of garbage collection is turning their remote and beautiful world into an unsustainable mess. I realize that it’s easy to look on from a first world perspective but responsibility lies in the products from the Western world that are marketed relentlessly everywhere.

What to do?

Today responsible tourists use less plastic and here’s a great list of other suggestions to help preserve that which we love most – experiencing the world and our neighbors hospitality.

Elaine Masters, RYT & Travel Wellness Specialist. More travel wellness suggestions, books and CD’s at