Do you ever feel like you’re just one of the crowd?
A crowd of 7.8 billion people?
In 2015 I was just one of the 58.5 million people who visited New York City.
In 2016 I was just one of the 20.4 million people who visited Orlando’s Magic Kingdom.
In 2018 I was one of just 275,817 people who visited The Galapagos Islands.
And that’s where I learned the truth.
Like many of you, I first encountered the Galapagos Islands in my seventh grade biology class. The few glossy pictures available in our giant textbooks focused mostly on the finches (who, much like the dinosaurs, have attained an almost mythological status in the minds of lay biologists). Cloaked in mystery by their isolation, the fauna and flora of the islands are mainly known for their legendary encounter with Charles Darwin, but to the people who live on the islands today they mean so much more.
I visited the Galapagos as a student enrolled in Bethel University’s 2018 Ecology in the Tropics interim trip. My time spent in Ecuador and the Galapagos was a rare chance to explore one of the world’s most preserved natural histories, but more importantly, a chance to live as an ecotourist.
What is ecotourism?
Oxford’s Lexico defines ecotourism as “tourism directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, intended to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife.”
What does ecotourism look like?
Your impact on the environment
How you travel impacts the earth. When you travel mindfully by conserving energy and limiting waste you protect the environment. We’ve crafted our products to help you with your mission.
You gotta love hearing the sound of the lock click when you slide your room key into the security slot of your hotel room door for the first time after check-in. Tell me if this is relatable or not, but I have the tradition of checking the bathroom out first thing to gauge the cuteness of the tiny complimentary toiletries (you can imagine how obsessed I am with Apple Valley Natural Soap’s Sample Bars).
Besides the soap, the first thing that usually catches my eye is the printed card that entreats me to reuse my towels to cut down on water waste.
Does this mean that the hotel is an eco-hotel?
While it’s fantastic that chain hotels are cultivating practices that preserve the earth, when you stay at a true eco-hotel you find more than a place to stay; you find an immersion experience.
What does staying at an authentic ecolodge look like?
Built around community, surrounded by nature
Whether sleeping up in the clouds or literally right above the amazon river, from morning to dusk, our tour guides helped us learn everything about the environments we were submerged in, allowing us to establish a greater connection with the land.
Ecolodges aren’t only set up for tourists. The places we stayed were created not only to provide jobs for locals, but also as an opportunity to educate locals about the importance of their environment.
Ecolodges don’t stop with tourists and locals, they also encourage the merging of these two communities. We ate locally sourced and prepared food. Played soccer with the staff and near-by neighborhoods, and were also encouraged to join in the singing and dancing.
Re-aligning your lifestyle with nature
While using a compost toilet and brushing my teeth in the dark were certainly challenges, there was something sacred about learning to live by the rules of a force greater than myself.
Because there was no electricity, lights went out when it got dark…and although we were provided with candles, I preferred falling asleep with the sun (plus the tents that did opt for candlelight became the hotspot for every insect in a one mile radius..haha, dodged that moth).
Showering and laundry with natural soap
I grew accustomed to cold-rainwater showers (it was so humid in the rainforest that temperature wasn’t a big deal). Yes, the space was small and a little spidery, but the views were worth it and I got the benefit of soft water.
Yes! Before rain-water sinks into the ground it is usually soft!
Traveling with one of our shampoo bars makes you a model ecotourist. Because they’re solid, our shampoo bars make it possible for you to save space and avoid checked luggage.
Of course, you’ve also avoided the problem of slippery soap by bringing along one of our Natural Cotton Soap Bags. This bag not only stores your soap, it also acts as a washcloth that can be brought right into the shower with you. It’s made of natural cotton, so it is eco-friendly and easy to grip!
Psst. If you’re dealing with hard water you can always bring a little baking soda with you…
Sometimes finding the resources to keep your clothes clean while on an epic expedition can be even more challenging than keeping yourself clean.
I was forced to do a lot of sink laundry during my three months in Europe last fall and I always felt guilty wondering what kinds of chemicals I was releasing down the drain.
AVNS bars are extremely versatile, you can even use them to wash your clothes! Marianne recommends using our coconut bars because they have one main ingredient, coconut. But in a pinch any of our shampoo bars and many of our Body bars can also be used to effectively hand wash clothes. You can run hot water over the soap to create a basin of soapy water for dipping clothes into. For extra suds power you can also wet the clothing and then apply the bar directly. Once the area is coated with soap you can massage it in and rinse. Because our soap is biodegradable, you choose a much better option for the environment than harsh detergents.
The truth is…
You may feel like one of the crowd, and many times you will be.
But you’re the one who makes a change and that makes you one in a million.
I bet you were wondering why I’d talk about travel during a time when travel has been restricted.
It doesn’t matter where you are, because you can be an ecotourist anywhere you go.
Even if you’re stuck at home.
Turning off the water while you brush your teeth saves up to four gallons of water.
Growing a garden reduces your carbon footprint.
Utilizing natural light conserves electricity.
It doesn’t matter if you are one of one million or the only person in the house. When you make earth day every day, you make a difference.