The big difference in sustainability made by small companies on the Phi Phi Islands
This article might help you with ideas for sustainable and eco friendly projects and activities, or which organisation to work with. Maybe you´re working for a dive centre, run or own a dive center or want to help as a traveller to protect the environment and reduce plastic and other waste, no matter where you are in the world. The Phi Phi Islands in the Andaman Sea in Thailand have some very interesting projects going on which are applicable everywhere and you can read all about it in this article.
Plastic and garbage can be a big problem on tropical islands
After arriving on the Phi Phi Islands, I was honestly a bit in shock to see a big bright shining yellow ´M´. Yes, the Mc. Donalds is here and it’s the first thing you come across upon leaving the jetty. One of the things coming to my mind was the amount of rubbish they must produce. Plastic, and other garbage, is a big problem on the islands in the Andaman Sea, but especially on the smaller islands with a lot of tourists like Phi Phi and Ko Lipe for example.
Eco friendly and conservation projects shine some light!
As with other things in life, it’s better not to focus on the negative things and as soon as I shifted my mind I caught attention of many yellow (funny, in the same colour!) t-shirts of Trash Hero. Also it didn’t take long before I found out about Blue View Divers and went diving with them. You can read about that experience in this article. Blue View Divers are working with an environmental friendly concept and are one of the ten Trash Hero Phi Phi Sponsors. Trash Hero supports local clean ups and the eco-bricks project. I got so excited about all the eco-projects that I decided to write a full blog post about it. Caroline from Blue View Divers took the time to explain me everything about what’s happening in regards to the conservation and protection of the environment of the Phi Phi Islands.
What is Trash Hero and how they serve the environment
Trash Hero is a global movement with community-based projects all over the world. Their mission is to remove existing waste and reduce future waste in a sustainable way. With their actions of picking up any trash, education and inspiration in communities they make a big difference. If you have been travelling through Thailand you must have seen the stainless steel water bottles which can be bought and refilled for free at certain points, it´s Trash Hero. They have started a big amount of projects and communities all over the world and you can read more on their website: https://trashhero.org/ Whilst going scuba diving with Blue View, I found out that they sponsor a lot of the environmental and plastic reducing projects of Trash Hero.
Also, it is nice to hear that Trash Hero makes it possible for more companies to work together in the mission to keep the island clean. Trash Hero Phi Phi sponsors include Aquanauts Scuba, Princess Divers, Phi Phi Sea Frog Diving Centre, Profun Divers, Beachfront Divers, Phi Phi Barakuda Diving Center, Phi Phi Travel Service at Phi Phi Viewpoint, Phi Phi Climbers and Kitty Guesthouse. They also all sell the yellow t-shirts, the stainless steel water bottles and offer free refills.
Sustainable eco projects to save oceans and environment on the Phi Phi Island
As soon as I walked in the dive center to organise some scuba diving on the Phi Phi Islands, my eye caught attention of a big recycling project outside the dive school. After chatting to the super friendly co-owner of the place, Caroline, I realised how many people are working on keeping Phi Phi clean. I will give you a taste of all the projects Blue View Divers is involved with, however there are many other organisations and people involved and some of these projects are not initiated by Blue View but I just got the privilege that Caroline from this dive center took the time and showed me her willingness to explain me all about it. It’s also how I found out that a variety of organisations is working together on this goal and have assigned different tasks between them.
Caroline told me that there are also many other dive centers on the island who help to clean up on a regular base and participate in eco-friendly concepts. Another local group that is active in the in the local island clean up and conservation efforts is the Facebook group ´Farang Friends of Phi Phi´. started by Phi Phi local, Elizabeth Kolbe. Also, another interesting project initiated on Phi Phi is the coral planting nursery in which they replant corals using super glue. Princess Divers as well as the Adventure Club Dive Center both participate in this project which is in partnership with Ocean Quest from Sea Shepherd.
Island clean ups by Phi Phi Conservation and Protection Team
Every 10th, 20th and 30th of each month an island cleaning is organised to keep Phi Phi clean. This is organised by the Conservation and Protection Team of the Phi Phi Islands. The Phi Phi tourist business association has a responsive member for each business type (i.e. dive centre, hostel, tattoo shop, restaurant) in order to help and be involved with the projects to keep Phi Phi clean and sustainable. Also many local Thai people are very willing to help cleaning during these clean ups and you will see them collecting waste as well.
Trash Hero and the eco bricks project
Because the island cleaning is already organised by the Phi Phi Conservation and Protection Team, Trash Hero Phi Phi only supports the island cleaning and will send anyone who wants to help to the organisation named above. If you like to participate in the an island clean, just contact Trash Hero Phi Phi and they will provide you with all the right information. On Phi Phi however, Trash Hero is focussing on another great project: the eco-bricks! I already told you a bit about this in another article about scuba diving on Phi Phi but here I will explain you what an eco-brick actually is and where it can be used for.
Building a school with plastic eco-bricks!
An eco brick is a plastic bottle filled up with non-biodegradable waste to form a reusable building block. On the Phi Phi Islands, Trash Hero has initiated this project and there are more businesses on Phi Phi sponsoring them, with Blue View Divers being one of them. Eco bricks can be used for a huge variety of purposes but the most amazing one is their Bamboo School Project! The majority of the students in this school, in the remote village of Bong-Ti, are orphans and this project is giving them a place to sleep, eat and study. The bamboo school buildings are constructed from the eco-bricks. If you want to help this project, anyone can send eco-bricks directly to the following address:
An eco-brick stand up paddle board!
Another project Trash Hero hosts is to build a stand up paddle board from eco-bricks. To create more awareness of the plastic pollution problem, they are going to paddle with it through the Thames in London, coming summer. This project is hosted by the Whale Company in collaboration with Trash Hero, other dive centers and the local community. You can read more by clicking on this link. Nataly, who works as an instructor for Blue View Divers, told me full enthusiasm about this project. She said that she´s helping a lot in all the projects whenever she has the time for it, besides teaching scuba diving.
Other things Blue view divers does to reduce plastic and to make people more aware
Other then helping Trash Hero by collecting waste and plastic bottles for the above projects and the non-profit selling of ´Trash Hero´ t-shirts and stainless steel water bottles which can be refilled for free, Blue View Divers does even more. After returning from scuba diving they collect all waste seen on the island and bring it to their recycling station. Straws are counted and written down on a board to make people aware of it and they sell reusable bamboo straws. Broken flip flops are sent to a Thai company which makes new ones out of them. Biodegradable waste goes into a composter and the compost is given to local Thai people, later on. Almost every kind of trash gets used again or they make it usable, even cans are transformed into ashtrays and ring pull tabs are collected for a project to make prosthetic limbs. An elephant who lost her leg got a prosthetic limb because of this project by ´Roots & Shoots´!
At the dive center of Blue View Divers you can see tables and other stuff made from the eco-bricks and a bean bag filled with straws (which is very comfortable to sit on by the way), to name a few examples. They also help to reduce waste by using recyclable lunch boxes and by providing them to their guests who are getting food to take away. They even stimulate the travellers to use one of the Trash Hero stainless steel bottles if going for a fruit shake, which unfortunately in most case is still served in plastic throw-away cups in Thailand.
Awards for ocean conservation at Blue View Divers
Blue View Divers diving center has a list of eco-awards and projects they are involved in or working with on their website. I was surprised, however, that I didn’t see much more dive centers like this on the Phi Phi Islands. I think Blue View makes a huge difference upon the environment and could be a true example for other dive centers anywhere in the world. Green Fins Thailand is coming every year to check if they still meet their values and required standards and the dive centre is also awarded by PADI with a Green Star Award, as the only one on Phi Phi. The dive centre is also a Shark Guardian Centre to raise awareness about the protection of sharks.
As I already expected and as the co-owner of the dive center, Caroline, confirmed, all these projects take a lot of time. A dive center is already a busy operation so sometimes it´s hard for them to keep up with all the projects, but the whole team is working very hard to help. They might get a volunteer to work for them to help just on these projects, stay up-to-date with them through their website or Facebook page!
Sustainable tourism also includes helping local people to go scuba diving
But not only the environment and amount of garbage is a problem. As a diving instructor myself, with experience working in variety of countries, I always wondered if there are no better ways to make local people more involved in diving. In places like the Philippines, but anywhere in the world really, it could help locals getting a better income and make them more conscious about the sea. I only name the Philippines here because during my stay on Malapascua Island in 2012, I was in shock to hear local people doing dynamite fishing whilst scuba diving! And to be honest, we can´t blame them for it. They are just thinking about getting food for the day and wonder why the Western people pay so much money just to see fish! What a differences in the world, these people are on surviving mode whilst we pay money or leave our better-paid jobs to come and see the fish they want to eat. These local people probably don´t know that if corals get destroyed there soon will not be much fish left. In my opinion, getting them involved in scuba diving, would be thé solution to educate them, getting them to respect the oceans more and have a better salary so they don´t need to desperately blow up coral blocks as a way to find a dinner for the day.
Blue View Divers is promoting local people to dive by offering free scuba diving to Thai locals. They have certified many local people to become divers even some of them up to working as dive professionals. Currently they have a Thai instructor working for them and another one taking courses and doing his advanced course at the moment.
Baby steps in sustainability might lead to serve the environment in a bigger way
I hope by now you have an idea about solutions to a more sustainable and environmental conscious approach as a dive centre or traveller. You don´t have to have a huge recycling station or all these awards to be involved to get started. I think the example of Blue View Divers in this article shows you a lot of examples of how you can already help by doing small things. But who knows you feel so good about serving the community and environment in this way that slowly you become a dive center with a similar concept, wherever you are in the world. I´m aware that dive centers are busy business but there are always solutions like working together with organisations or getting a volunteer to help you. If we all take small steps, we could make a big difference for the oceans and our dear friends living in the oceans. The plastic and garbage nowadays is a big problem, but we could start seeing it as a challenge instead of a problem.
Thank you Blue View Divers for bringing this eco-concept for a dive centre in the world and creating awareness. Also, thank you Caroline for your time and providing me with all the information.
WHAT’S next on splashpacker?
Somehow I ended up in a variety of series and articles. I just have started with articles about how I became a diving instructor and my working experience in 5 different countries. But I´m also still catching up with my island hopping adventure with informative articles as well as travel blog updates. Also it´s time for me to leave Thailand in less then a week now, I have excited new travel plans coming up. I´m going to visit my ex-colleagues on the island of Veligandu, Maldives, where I used to work in 2010! I´m so excited about it and very grateful to be able to visit and dive Madivaru Corner again. Also, on the neighbour island called Rasdhoo are hostels now, making it possible to dive these world class dive spots on a lower budget and help the local people. You can read more here about my experience of travelling the Maldives in an affordable way by staying and diving on a local island. Soon I will provide you all information about it! Just stay tuned and sign up for my mailinglist in the pink part if you don´t want to miss out on my posts.
Enjoy the reading, happy bubbles and safe travels!