eco-tourism

My Experience: Being a Trash Hero in Bali

My Experience: Being a Trash Hero in Bali

After a few weeks in Bali, as beautiful as the scenery and culture were, I couldn’t help but be completely shocked by the plastic pollution (and it takes a lot for me to be shocked by our environmental destruction)! I quickly dove into researching an organization that is targeting this problem, and joined Trash Hero in Bali, an incredible organization that is doing great work around the world!

Check out my experience and how you can get involved in our fight against plastic pollution!

Collected trash from the beach in Bali

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Environmental Problems in Bali

Bali has been a hot topic for a destination for years, partly because of its intense beauty, and also for tourism’s astounding negative impact on the local culture and environment. You probably have seen the picturesque rice fields and waterfalls in the dense jungle…but what you may not have seen is the piles of burning trash and plastic waste clogging the waterways.

It’s often said that most of the plastic trash in Bali comes from the locals, but it is the locals trying to keep up with tourism that creates the excess waste. That, coupled with the lack of government intervention and a proper disposal system creates a never-ending flow of trash into the environment.

Indonesia, along with many other South-East Asian countries accepted trash from the USA, Canada, and Australia, and would sort it to find valuable materials for resale. However, what is not used is often dumped, and with torrential rain and currents, the trash floods the natural environment. Plastic and debris plague the nation’s beautiful landscape, with no confident end in sight.

Trash collected on the beaches of Bali, shown in the hand of a volunteer

Watch the 'Plastic Island' documentary to learn more about the plastic pollution crisis in Bali.

Trash Hero Organization

Trash Hero Mission

1. Action and Awareness. Our volunteers pick up trash and motivate others to do the same. By spending a few hours together cleaning up, people gain a profound understanding of the need to reduce and better manage waste.
2. Education. We engage children through our multilingual kids’ program, connecting environmental values with hands-on experience of the impact that plastic trash has on the ocean. Adults learn through doing, with activities and workshops provided by our volunteers.<br>
3. Sustainable Projects. We create long-term programs that help communities to reduce and better manage existing waste and strategies that will prevent future waste.
4. Inspiration. We motivate people to break free from plastic and become Trash Heroes in their everyday lives. With consistently positive messaging and a philosophy of “small steps”, we remove the barriers to change and normalize a vision of a zero-waste world.

Trash Hero Logo

Trash Hero is a global organization involved in educating and inspiring the world on our environmental impact. 

Trash Hero hosts community clean-up events, has established a water refill network, and is active in the global conversation towards a sustainable future.

I got with some friends from the hostel we were staying at and headed over to Pantai Batu Bolong beach (the main area in Canggu). We met up with the rest of the group – a total of 17 people came out to support!

We received a quick rundown of the collection process, how to use the crafty homemade tools to pick up the trash, and how the recyclables should be sorted separately. Once we had our equipment and knew the plan, we went off in pairs to start collecting for the next hour! 

It was amazing how quickly our eyes started to recognize the pieces of trash hidden among the sand. At first, it seemed like there wasn’t much to collect, but then we started to distinguish the bottle caps from the sticks, and the thousand tiny styrofoam beads (from a broken bean bag we later found).

 

While we wove in and out of the beachgoers finding cigarette butts and plastic pieces, most of the problem was localized next to the stands that were selling cold Leo’s and fresh coconuts. Behind their bamboo structures were piles, and more piles of trash. Some of it was on fire, and some of it was washed away into a waterway, later to be swept into the ocean. We picked up what we could, but the fumes from the burning petrochemicals made it tough to breathe. 

Picking up trash with Trash Hero in Bali
Behind the scenes at the beach

Although trash collection feels like a reactionary response to an environmental problem, it starts a chain reaction among people recognizing the change that needs to happen. During the 1 hour clean-up, at least 4 people helped pick up things near them to put in my bag and many locals thanked us for our service to keep their home clean. 

But think about how many people on the beach saw us with our gloves and tongs sifting through the sand. Think about how many of them stopped and thought twice about flicking their cigarette on the ground, or making sure to not leave anything behind for people like us to have to clean up.

Trash collection doesn’t solve the problem, but it creates a social statement that there is a problem, and we can be a part of the solution.

At the end of the hour, 17 people collected 64 kg (141 lbs) of trash and 11 kg (24 lbs) of recyclables. I had such an incredible time, met new friends, and felt like I made a difference, so I returned the following week with even more people ready to clean the beaches!

Trash Hero in Bali group photo

Get Involved

Joining a beach clean-up is one of many eco-friendly activities in Bali. Trash Hero has over 100 chapters worldwide in 12 different countries, the majority of these locations are in the SE Asian countries of Thailand, Malaysia, and Myanmar, where plastic pollution is a serious problem. 

There are many ways to get involved, and the best part is volunteering is completely FREE to join! Check out the chapter locations to see where you can support, or donate now to fund the amazing work that is being done on the ground!

Are you in Canggu, Bali? Meet the team every SUNDAY @ 4:30 pm near Old Man’s!

Q&A With Canggu Chapter Leader

After the clean-up, I chatted with the group leader, Sebastian. A Scandinavian traveler who married a Balinese woman and has been living on the island since 2020. He has been a part of Trash Hero chapters since 2018 and is proud of the growth the organization has made in recent years. 

Hear his thoughts on ways travelers can make an impact and his first-hand experience with the plastic problem in Bali!

1. What are the best ways Tourists can support the environment while they travel?

Avoid using single-use plastic when you can. Reducing our use as a consumer is possible for anyone to do, and it gives the message to the business owners that I don’t want this wasteful product. Bring a reusable bottle and bag with you! All it takes is a bit of preparation and thoughtfulness to avoid the single-use waste.

2. Do you think the Indonesian Government is going enough to address the plastic problem?

They banned single-use plastics (straws & bags) in 2017, but that’s not enough. There is no enforcement with business owners or consumers. The local authorities haven’t been involved at all since tourism brings in so much money.  Hopefully, with the crackdown on corruption, these laws can be better enforced. 

3. How can travelers get involved in Bali besides joining a cleanup?

Hold businesses accountable; your money as a traveler goes a long way here! Ask restaurants why they still have straws even though they’re banned, ask your hotel about its efforts towards low waste, and talk about it with other travelers. Just like this group did today, if you see an opportunity to bring awareness to it, the strength in numbers can change the world.

4. What Do You Love About Working With Trash Hero?

I love that it gets the locals out here with travelers, everyone together fighting the same fight. I’ve seen a lot of connections made during the clean-ups and we can’t do this alone!

Learn more ways you can be an eco-friendly traveler in Bali!

Summary - Trash Hero in Bali

It often takes witnessing a problem to realize that there are solutions out there. Seeing (and smelling) the plastic waste around Bali was enough to send me in a whirlpool of action, learning about the problem and partnering with organizations helping on the ground. Trash Hero is an amazing global organization, and I can’t wait to work with them again when I’m near one of their many chapter locations!

This is also a reminder to be aware of the environmental degradation that is occurring near you, and take action to be a part of the solution.

Posted by Taylor Mallaber in Indonesia, Volunteer Experiences, 0 comments
19 Eco-Friendly Activities in Bali

19 Eco-Friendly Activities in Bali

Traveling opens the doors to new experiences, cultures and so much to learn! Nobody is saying that isn’t a super cool opportunity, but it can definitely be hard to choose what you want to do while exploring the world. Next time you’re in Bali, check out this list of the top eco-friendly activities in Bali.

Even if you’re a full-time traveler, our time is always limited and we will never be able to see it all. But how do you choose what you want to do with so many options? This list will help you organize your trip so you can spend your time and money where it matters most, so you can experience the best of Bali!

 

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What Is Eco-Tourism?

As people are getting more aware of their global impact, it is especially important to consider your choices while traveling. Eco-tourism is the conscious effort to prioritize the well-being of the local environment and economy. This includes decisions about activities, accommodations, transportation, and purchases made while traveling! By choosing options that focus on being in nature, and connected with the local culture, you will put your money and time where it is benefited most.

Half-Day Activities

Uluwatu Temple & Kecak Dance

Watch Balinese natives perform mesmerizing Kecak dances complete with swirling flames and traditional costumes, all while the Uluwatu sun sets in the background, with this entrance ticket. This show sells out fast, so don’t wait on this one!

Uluwatu
1 Hour
Rp 150,000

Man performing the Kecak Dance in Bali's uluwatu Temple

Ubud Monkey Forest

Explore the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud on a guided walking tour. Meet some monkeys and observe and learn how the concept of “Tri Hita Karana” is practiced to preserve the park.

Ubud
2 Hours
Rp 266,000

Balinese Cooking Class At An Organic Farm

Learn how to prepare authentic Balinese dishes at an organic farm in the tropics of Ubud. See the sights at the local market, then work with a chef to prepare a traditional or vegetarian lunch.

Ubud
5 Hours
Rp 537,000

Additional Half-Day Activities

Check out Everything You Need To Know About Transportation in Bali to prepare you to hit the road on your next adventure!

Day Trips

Snorkel With Manta Rays

Swim with the majestic manta rays of Nusa Penida on an amazing snorkeling trip from Bali. Stop at the famous Manta Bay, discover Crystal Bay’s natural beauty, and go to Mangrove Point for the perfect snorkeling adventure in the Indian Ocean.

Nusa Penida
10 Hours
Rp 1,027,000

Downhill Bike Tour Through Rice Terraces

Get spectacular views of the mountains and forests of Bali with minimal effort on an exciting bike ride. Cycle from the slopes of the Kintamani volcano. Stop at the famous rice terraces.

Kintamani
6 Hours
Rp 613,560

Mount Agung Sunrise Trek

Join a challenging Mount Agung hiking experience to witness a spectacular sunrise over 10,000 feet above sea level. Admire views of Mount Rinjani on Lombok Island and the Caldera Batur crater from the highest point in Bali!

Mount Agung (East Bali)
12 Hours
Rp 1,050,000

Komodo Island Tour

Look for Komodo Dragons and other wildlife on a private 2-day tour of the Komodo islands. Go for a jungle trek in the habitat of the giant lizards, discover a beach of amazing pink sand, and spend the night on a boat.

Komodo Island (East of Bali)
2 Days
Rp 11,500,000

Gili Islands Tour

Enjoy the serenity of the bountiful Gili Islands, featuring gorgeous white sandy beaches, turquoise crystal clear blue waters, and more turtles than you can count! Escape the crowds that gather on Nusa Penida, and experience this tropical oasis.

 

Gili Islands (North – East of Bali)
3 Days
Rp 6,212,299

Ijen Crater & Mount Bromo Tour (Java)

Experience Bromo and Ijen on a 2-day tour from Probolinggo. Witness the sunrise from Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, hike to stunning viewpoints, and see the blue flames of Ijen’s sulfur mines.

East Java
2 Days
Rp 4,415,000

Additional Multi-Day Trips

Activities To Avoid

Unsurprisingly, not all activities are created equally. Some are even harmful due to the over-tourism that is experienced, exploitation of the local people and environment, and destructive nature. This is a brief list of things to try to avoid while in Bali to maintain an eco-tourist mindset.

Your choices as a traveler can greatly impact the local area by bringing money and attention to what matters most. Read more about how to be an Eco-Friendly Traveler in Bali. 

Mount Batur Trekking

One of the most beloved attractions in Bali is the Mount Batur sunrise trek. It is enjoyed by over 1,000 people per day! While this is an activity to get out in nature, this trail is extremely over-exploited. This is damaging to the soil, with many tourists using the mountain as a toilet and a garbage can (gross). Mount Batur is trekked by so many for its relative ease, but there are other options! If you’re not up for the hike of Mount Agung, check out Mount Abang located on Lake Batur as well!

ATV Tours

ATVs, 4-Wheelers, and Dirt Bikes are extremely damaging to the soil and trails on which they ride. Trails inevitably get wider from people avoiding holes and muddy puddles, wearing down the trail. While ATVs and other exploration vehicles are fun and easy to navigate through nature, they create one of the worst types of pollution; noise. 

Bali has a breathtaking landscape, with locals working in the rice fields, Hindu ceremonies, and wild animals. The last thing anyone wants is to hear the roar of a pack of engines plowing through nature. If this is something you’re interested in, be mindful of where you ride! Or, look into other adventure activities like rafting, horse back riding, and cycling.

Elephant Experiences

There are a handful of places in central Bali that have rescued Sumatran elephants – critically endangered due to poaching. You will see every single place in Bali with elephants preaching their ‘ethical practices’… and then show photos of tourists riding on one. This is a clear example of the brainwashing that happens too often to tourists, providing a damaging experience that you don’t know any better!

Riding on an elephant can cause permanent spinal damage, as they are not capable of bearing the weight of a human. Please do a lot of research into an experience, and never just take their word that this is the ‘most ethical practice’!

Many of the Waterfalls

Bali is known for its impressive waterfalls in the dense rainforest. While you see many of these on Instagram, you don’t see the corruption that operates them. Many of the most popular waterfalls are controlled by a local mafia, which isn’t afraid to rough up a few tourists if you’re not willing to pay whatever they demand. Typically, this fee is requested in the parking area, ranging anywhere from Rp 60,000 – 200,000. 

While I’m all for paying towards the upkeep and maintenance of an area, I’m not here to line people’s pockets. There are quite a few waterfalls that have a worthy system in place, but not all of them!

Summary - Eco-Friendly Activities in Bali

Bali is filled with activities and excursions for every traveler. Get lost (mentally, not physically) in the lush rainforest, vibrant culture, and hidden gems that cover this island paradise. Whether you only have a few days, or you’ll be in Bali for a few months, you will have the opportunity to create your perfect experience!

There are plenty of things to do in Bali in just a few hours, or a few days away. Start planning and get ready to immerse yourself in the exploration available to you in Bali!

Posted by Taylor Mallaber in Destinations, Indonesia, 0 comments
How To Be More Eco-Friendly In Bali

How To Be More Eco-Friendly In Bali

Bali is a favorite destination among many for its pristine beaches, inviting culture, massive waterfalls, and picture-perfect scenery. Ironically, a country that is known for its natural landscapes is plagued by many environmental issues. That’s why it is essential to be mindful of how you can be more eco-friendly in Bali while you travel!

Eco-tourism is a way to travel throughout the world with consideration to the environment. Indonesia, and Bali in specific, need this type of consideration and focus from every travel. It doesn’t cost anything, except your time and attention to understanding your impact. What are you waiting for?

Woman scuba diving next to a coral reef at the Liberty Wreck in Bali

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Environmental Problems in Bali

Plastic Pollution

While Bali is filled with beautiful beaches, temples, and waterfalls, it is also filled with trash. You’ll see it everywhere! The trash accumulation is a result of the tourism industry, foreign countries shipping their waste to Indonesia, and the local people.

Unfortunately, a lot of the waste comes from the local people as well. There is not much education about waste disposal, and the system is broken about trash collection. You will see piles of half-burnt plastic, resulting from the local’s method of trash ‘removal’. This is extremely toxic to the environment and air quality!

Loss Of Agricultural Land

As Bali continues to get more developed for tourism, many local farmers are selling their land for development into hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers. This creates a food security issue in Bali as more food needs to be imported into the island. Also, this disrupts the local economy, because farmers sell their livelihoods, which forces them to find alternative work, meanwhile, foreign investors take over the land for their profit-focused businesses. 

While food insecurity alone creates issues for the environment, a greater problem is the loss of cultural consideration for the land. Foreign investors are not on the ground seeing the problems that are created. They don’t have the emotional and cultural reasons to prioritize the land, that the farmers had. This contributes to a shift in the culture, away from cultural practices, and towards consumerism. 

1. Travel Slowly

One of the best ways to be a more eco-friendly traveler is to travel slowly. Moving slowly will allow you to connect with your environment on a deeper level and reduce your carbon footprint created by travel. You may not get to see everything, but let’s face it, you never were going to anyways! The world is so big, which is why you should prioritize seeing a few things fully rather than racing around missing half of the beauty. 

Travel slowly, and pack lightly with this essential Bali packing list!

2. Support Local Businesses

In Bali, you will find 2 worlds that coincide in 1 area. The Balinese culture is led by Hindu beliefs, with an appreciation for life and community, and the Western digital nomad crowd. However, the tourist-dominated economy supports luxury villas, western cuisines, and the comforts of home.

Supporting the local economy is a great way to travel sustainably. Local people promote their cultural heritage, as well as have a closer connection with the immediate environment. By supporting local businesses, you empower people to obtain more resources to give back to their work and community.

Support local business owners and guides on a variety of eco-focused activities throughout Bali!

3. Choose Sustainable Accommodation

Accommodation is a necessary part of traveling, and there are a lot of options! By choosing your accommodation with sustainability in mind, you can help reduce the impact on the local environment. These options will not only support the natural world but will allow you to feel more connected to it during your stay.

Many hotels and resorts use harmful products during cleaning, single-use products for the bathrooms, and are built with carbon-intensive materials. Look on their website for anything about sustainability, or call and talk to management. Ask about where they obtain their energy from, if there are any water reduction efforts, what they provide for guests, and how they promote the local economy.

Check out this 2-week itinerary in Bali, so you know what to do and where to stay!

4. Eat Local Food

Food is a major part of the culture in a lot of regions, and something you should be mindful of when making decisions. Many places in Bali cater to the Western lifestyle, but you miss out on the unique Balinese experience! 

When eating out at restaurants, look for Warungs (Balinese for restaurant) which serve more traditional dishes, or even ask the employees if the restaurant is owned by Bali people. Warungs serve meals for around Rp 35k ($2), with fresh juices and coconuts so you can eat well and save money!

While there are grocery stores everywhere, ask your host or any local people where the public market in your area is. You will find local produce and food for a fraction of the price you will find in the grocery store. This is also a great way to get to know what things are grown locally and support the farmers on the island. 

5. Eco-Friendly Transportation

There are many options for transportation in Bali, some significantly better for the environment than others. While cars are available in Bali, they are so much worse in terms of their fossil fuel consumption, emissions, your wallet, and the flow of traffic! By choosing options like public transport or a motorbike rental, you will help support a more environmentally aware Bali.

Check out Everything You Need To Know About Transportation in Bali to prepare you to hit the road on your next adventure!

6. Reduce Single Use Plastic

Plastic pollution is a major problem in Bali. You will see it on the beaches, side of the road, in rice fields, and in the mountains… it’s everywhere! The best thing you can do as a traveler is to avoid your contribution to the problem. These are a few of other best tips to reduce your plastic use:

  • Bring a reusable water bottle with you everywhere! 
  • Refuse straws when you order a drink, and instead bring a reusable straw with you
  • Dine in rather than order food to go to avoid unnecessary containers
  • When getting your laundry done, bring a reusable bag and request that they don’t put your clothes in a plastic bag

While the Indonesian government did ban single-use plastic bags and straws, there has been no accountability, and many places still use them! Do your part to reduce the problem.

Monkey holding a plastic water bottle in Bali

7. Get Involved With Environmental Efforts

There is a big focus on environmental efforts in Bali. Many of these are even pushed by locals! Check bulletin boards in public areas, Facebook groups, and more for environmental efforts happening near you.

Since Bali’s pollution problem is so evident, there are a lot of beach cleanup & river cleanup groups you can join to pick up some of the trash! My favorite organization is Trash Hero, which has 57 chapters in Indonesia! Check the Trash Hero website for chapters near you! 

Make sure to set up your Indonesia phone plan before you go, so you can check out local apps, Facebook groups, and events for things happening near you!

Want to get involved? Read about my experience with Trash Hero in Bali, and how you can join!

8. Respect The Environment

While in Bali, there are so many options for activities and excursions to go on! You have the power to choose things that will either support the environment or contribute to its degradation. Find opportunities to get outside and experience nature in Bali and connect with and learn about the local environment.

Check out these top eco-friendly activities and attractions in Bali. 

9. Reduce your Energy & Water Consumption

While Bali gets a fraction of its electricity from renewables (hydro & geothermal), the majority comes from coal-burning power plants. By reducing your energy consumption, you directly reduce the coal that is required to be burned since the electrical grid is fueled by demand. Similarly, Bali has an energy-intensive water-treatment system. There are some easy ways to reduce your use!

  • Turn the lights off
  • Turn off your air conditioning when you don’t need it
  • Don’t rent an electrical motorbike (petroleum use > coal)
  • Support eco-focused businesses
  • Take shorter showers

Summary - How To Be More Eco-Friendly In Bali

Bali is famous for its serene landscapes and enriching culture. But isn’t it ironic that an island that is idolized for its natural landscape, is consistently damaged and degraded? Traveling can have a negative environmental impact, but it doesn’t have to! By following these guidelines, you can be a more eco-conscious traveler and help to reduce your impact while exploring the beautiful island of Bali. 

There are many ways to prioritize environmental welfare, what are some of the ways you are an eco-conscious traveler?

Posted by Taylor Mallaber in Destinations, Indonesia, 0 comments
What is Eco-Tourism & Why It Matters

What is Eco-Tourism & Why It Matters

Camera and books on a table with the title 'Journal of Sustainable Tourism'

As climate change and environmental issues continue to gain more attention, many travelers are seeking ways to minimize their impact while exploring new destinations. One form of sustainable tourism that has gained popularity in recent years is eco-tourism, but what is eco-tourism, and how can you incorporate it into your plans?

Traveling around the world offers a perfect opportunity to observe our relationship with the environment, and how humans exist in our natural world. Eco-tourism is a type of travel that focuses on preserving the natural environment, supporting local communities, and understanding how our decisions impact everything else around us. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss what eco-tourism is, why it’s important, and how you can practice it on your next adventure!

What is Eco-Tourism?

Eco-tourism is a form of sustainable tourism that promotes responsible travel and environmental conservation. It involves supporting local communities, and visiting natural areas while minimizing the impact on the environment. 

Eco-tourism aims to promote sustainable tourism practices and reduce the negative impact of tourism on the environment and locals. This includes minimizing carbon emissions, reducing waste, conserving water, and supporting local economies. 

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"Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education"

Myths & Misconceptions

1. Eco-Tourism is Expensive

While some eco-tourism experiences may be more expensive than traditional tourism, there are also many affordable options available. Eco choices don’t necessarily mean they are a luxury. For example, taking an authentic cooking class with a local family can be more affordable than a fancy dinner at a modern restaurant, and many eco-friendly transport options are also more affordable! 

2. Eco-Tourism is Only For outdoorsy people

While it’s true that many eco-tourism experiences involve outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, or wildlife spotting, eco-tourism is not limited to the most adventurous travelers. Some eco-friendly accommodations and activities cater to all types of travelers, including families, couples, and solo travelers. 

3. Eco-Tourism is Only For Nature Lovers

Eco-tourism experiences often involve visiting natural areas, but they also provide opportunities to learn about local cultures, traditions, and communities. Eco-tourism can be a great way to experience a destination’s culture and history while also promoting sustainable travel practices. Indoor eco-tourism activities could be taking a cooking class, watching a traditional dance, 

4. Eco-Tourism is only in Remote Destinations

While many eco-tourism experiences are located in remote areas, there are also many urban eco-tourism experiences available! For example, visiting a city’s green spaces and botanical gardens, and getting involved with sustainable food is also considered eco-tourism. You don’t need to be in a remote jungle to experience eco-tourism, there are natural and cultural experiences available everywhere!

5. Eco-Tourism is Not Comfortable

While there are some eco-tourism experiences that involve rustic accommodations and outdoor activities, they don’t have to! For example, eco-lodges offer comfortable and luxurious amenities, just with an emphasis on natural materials and resources or resource conservation. The level of comfort you are seeking in eco-tourism depends on your budget and personal desires, but there is always something that fits everyone’s wants and needs!

6. Eco-Tourism is Not Safe

Like any form of travel, there are risks associated with eco-tourism experiences. However, reputable eco-tourism operators prioritize the safety of their guests and provide necessary safety equipment and guidance for outdoor activities.

It is also important to remember that nature is wild, and you should maintain a safe distance and awareness while in natural environments at all times.