This is a broad topic as there are many ways to start thinking a little more about our environment while traveling. But, after living in the Riviera Maya and working in conservation for years, I can pinpoint four major issues we can all think about and try to improve while enjoying the Mexican Caribbean.
- Plastic! Really start behaving as if plastic is your worst enemy. The recycling system in the area isn’t as comprehensive as we would like it to be, and plastic is a problem worldwide. So, for example, instead of getting all your souvenir shopping in a million plastic bags every time, use a fabric bag or re-use some plastic bags. Instead of buying a water bottle every time you are thirsty, buy a huge bottle, leave it in your room and re-fill your personal bottle. Instead of dropping trash on the street assuming there is a cleaning system, take your trash with you and throw it in a trash can. These issues seem very obvious but every single day I walk down Fifth Avenue, I see people of all nationalities doing all this (a plastic ocean here).
- Kicking coral: Fellow snorkelers and SCUBA divers, do try to pay attention to where your feet and fins are while swimming. Try to stay horizontal rather than vertical; we often see fins breaking coral reefs (some good practices here) which are endangered and overly damaged in the Caribbean.
- Captive animals: Dolphins, big cats, manatees, parrots are all pretty indeed, but they belong in the wild. Just like we love our homes and families, they love theirs. Why should another living thing of any kind suffer for our amusement? If you want to see wildlife, I suggest you go for a snorkel or take a tour into the wild rather than visiting an animal’s cage.
- Sunscreen: We need it, yes, but most of the commercial brands have ingredients (oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate) that have been proven to kill and genetically affect corals (corals and sunscreen here). And nowadays, there are a few brands producing sunscreen without this harmful component.
I believe it is not that hard, and we can all make a difference by small changes in our habits and consciousness about some decisions. Wouldn’t it be great if we could improve rather than impact our traveling pathways?