Environmental & Social Policy
Today tourism is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing industries and it can have very positive or very negative impacts on its hosts. When we travel we benefit by the exposure to new and different cultures and ways. It is equally important to us that when we travel to different parts of our amazing planet that our exchange is always a mutual one and that we make a positive contribution to people and places that we visit along the way.
These days ‘Responsible Travel’ and ‘Sustainability’ are hot topics. For us Responsible Travel is not about donating large sums of money to charity (at least not without thoroughly researching the long-term intentions or effects of the charity) or merely following the status quo. We believe Responsible Travel is about taking time to think about how our actions can benefit or how they impact the people, communities, economies, environments and eco-systems we visit. We then use this to make a difference (or sometimes more appropriately – NOT make a difference). We are constantly considering our actions and how we and the people who travel with us can improve our impact on the places we visit.
Please read our Environmental / Social Policy below, and the following ways in which you can help us to make a difference in the countries we travel in and maybe in your homes as well… (Please note: Our Environmental / Social Policy is a open document. Please feel free to comment or make any suggestions as to how we may be able to improve.)
Our Environmental & Social Policy
We recognize that the cultures and communities we visit can be fragile and require an ongoing commitment from us to ensure that we have a lasting positive effect. Tourism, when carried out in a responsible manner, can be a real help to local communities providing income, positive cultural exchanges and the financial incentive to protect their natural environment.
- Small Group Size – Our groups REALLY are small! With a maximum of 12 in any one group we minimize our impact on the small communities that we visit.
- By travelling as a small group it is much easier to engage in individual social interactions with the people we meet and visit.
- By travelling by bike, up close and personal we develop relationships with local communities and families on our trips where our bikers from all over the world can meet and engage one to one with local folk enabling us to learn about and respect local culture and ways.
- Many places have special spiritual, sacred or historical significance. Treat these areas with respect. Learning about places you visit will help you understand and respect the value they hold for others.
- Learn some of the local language. Learning a few phrases and greetings in the country you visit shows respect to the people and helps to break down cultural/social barriers.
- When meeting and interacting with people who have or appear to have much less (material possessions or opportunities) than we do – it can be tempting to want to ‘give’ and share what we have with them. We think it is very important to think about – ‘What are the short and long term effects of aid/charity or even the simple act of giving – on local communities?’, ‘Who actually benefits or feels good?’ Usually the answers to these questions are complex. Please think or talk about them before you go ‘giving’ things away.
- It’s quite easy in a small, simple community to appear an arrogant rich foreigner, so be aware of the feelings of other people, and try to avoid giving offense.
- Always ask permission before taking pictures of people, ritual events or special places like shrines. If people seem reluctant or look away then DO NOT take a picture. Be careful not to cause offense through your thoughtlessness.
Economy – Trading Issues
Local standards of living are usually very different from our own. Our economic power is great and it is great to use it to benefit local people.
- We like to support the economies of the places we visit – by buying locally made products, using local accommodations and restaurants where possible, and supporting markets and support small businesses. (Buying locally made products also decreases the environmental cost of importing).
- We employ local drivers and interpreters in the countries we visit.
- Choose locally made crafts and support local skills, not simply buying on price but on value to you: bargaining for a lower price for both souvenirs and services is often the accepted and expected custom, but don’t drive a hard bargain just for the sake of it.
- We always give the opportunity to try local food and specialties. Many rural areas around the world are under threat from a reduction in their agricultural base and by eating locally produced goods we help the local farmers as well as the local economy.
The number of people getting out into the outdoors and enjoying recreational activities is growing rapidly. With this rise in ‘environmental traffic’ comes an increasing impact on the natural environment, damaged plants, unsightly rubbish, erosion, polluted water and deteriorating facilities. The environment is our home, the home of billions of animal and plants species and the home of future generations – is a delicate and highly threatened foundation. Today it is essential that we change our habits at home and in the way that we live and travel and adopt a more caring attitude to the environment. Here are some of the things we do at home and on our trips to help conserve the natural environment:
- We always remove ALL rubbish from the places we ride and camp and deal with it in the most appropriate way: Reuse what can be reused, recycle what can be recycled, compost all compostables (or feed them to domestics goats, pigs or chickens) and aim to minimise items put into landfill. Tip: Did you know that putting food scraps in landfills produces methane; a poisonous gas that seeps into the earth?
- When shopping avoid ‘single use packaging’. As much as possible only buy products packaged in reusable, recyclable or better still NO packaging.
- Say NO to plastic supermarket bags. Use cardboard boxes or reusable carry bags to transport shopping.
- When there is a toilet available – use it; but when there’s not we bury waste at least 50 metres from populated areas and water sources, at least 150mm deep. Burn toilet paper in a ‘burn can’.
- CO2 emissions caused by flying are one of the world’s fastest increasing and most damaging pollutants. We suggest you find out what the environmental policies are of the airlines you fly with – which airlines are making positive steps to reducing CO2 emissions? Make this part of the decision of who you’ll fly with.
Conserving Natural Resources
- We never use charcoal (which is responsible for mass-deforestation in many parts of the world, and is illegal in some places). We forgo campfires to help prevent deforestation. (There are some places where wood is purpose grown and replanted for fire wood – for the occasional campfire – but it is important to carefully check the source of firewood).
- Buy locally made produce which reduces the environmental cost of importation.
- We aim to educate our bikers – about the effects of buying products that come from endangered species, or products that are destructive to wildlife or the environment.
- Protect plants and wildlife. Flora and fauna is unique to various parts of the world and are national treasures. Damaging or removing plants not only destroys part of the environment but is also illegal in some parts of the world. Many areas are fragile and may take years to recover from damage. So stay on the tracks or find a way around without damaging plants.
- By visiting National Parks and wildlife protection projects we can help to contribute to (and become more informed about) the conservation of threatened wildlife.
- Use campsites where provided, use equipment that doesn’t damage the environment. Cutting areas for tent poles and sleeping areas is not necessary. We keep camping sites compact and leave areas as we find them (or better!).
- When washing ourselves or cooking utensils, take the water and wash well away from the water source, drain used water into the soil so that it is filtered before re-entering the source. We use biodegradable soaps and detergents when possible.
- We have an Environmentally Conscious Office – To avoid paper waste we aim to use as much computer technology as possible in our office… and reuse paper.
- We use cooking fuels sparingly, and keep boiled water hot in air-thermos to conserve energy.
- Only use a vehicle when necessary. When possible use public transport, walk or ride a bike!
On our bike tours, where ever it may be in the world, we like to help and encourage self initiated local community projects and where possible give our bikers the opportunity to get involved for a few hours or a day.
Where possible we also include a school visit in which you can see and experience an education system which is very different from those in the developed world. The primary objective of our visits is the fantastic mutual social and cultural exchange which takes place between our bikers and the children and teachers in these schools. Some of our bikers also like to donate educational tools and basic stationery which always comes in handy to these schools.
In Kenya and Tanzania
We visit two very different schools in Tanzania. Over a number of years money donated by our bikers was used to employ local carpenters to build more than 100 much needed school desks which has greatly improved learning conditions at Mkuzi School in Tanzania. More recently the teachers initiated their own project to build a new much needed toilet block. Cash donations from our bikers were used to purchase cement to complete the project.
Meet Kamok, our fostered orphan baby elephant. As a part of our support of the countries we visit on our tours Escape Adventures fosters an orphan baby elephant in Kenya called Kamok.
Kamok was found wandering alone in Tsavo National Park at only one day old and is now being taken care of at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Animal Orphanage in Nairobi.
On our Kenya & Tanzania Family Cycle Tour we spend time visiting and learning about the orphanage and how our fostering donation can make a difference to the chance of life for these baby animals. If you are joining one of our Kenya & Tanzania trips you can visit Ajabu and many other orphans at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi - visiting hours are at 11am only every day.
We have begun working with a local Cambodian group who are working to help at risk youth, especially girls, and train them with skills to give them a better chance in life. One of the projects is to establish a small guesthouse and our biking route is planned so that we can spend two nights in this guesthouse and learn and help with their projects.