Holbox is a tiny, magical, car-free island, between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Holbox is one of those places that after we visited for the first time two years ago, I sort of wanted to keep it a secret. I didn’t want tourism to have a negative impact on its tranquillity and beauty. However, I also wanted to share the magic of this Mexican island with many others. My husband and I just returned from spending a week enjoying all that this little island paradise has to offer.
My daughter’s highlight of every holiday is her daily dose of ice cream. When we arrived in Holbox we took her for ice cream. When the owner of the shop offered me a small sample of a flavor, he gave me a metal spoon instead of a tiny plastic spoon, which are commonly given in ice cream shops all over the world. He also shared that he only had cones and no cups available. I noticed a sign letting customers know that there were no single-use plastics available in his shop. I congratulated him for being plastic free, and he shared that it wasn’t his choice, but rather the government of Quintana Roo had passed a law in May 2019, banning all single-use plastics. The mainland of the state of Quintana Roo has 6 months to stop using single-use plastics, whereas tiny islands like Holbox were given only two months, and should be single-use plastic free by July!
He told me that it cost him some money to invest in all his reusable materials, but in the long run, it would be cheaper than using the single-use plastics he had been buying for years. What he said was most difficult was changing the mindset of tourists. He said many tourists get upset or grossed out when they are given a metal spoon to sample a flavor of ice cream, even though he assures his clients that all have been properly disinfected. He said something that struck a chord with me, he said, “It is good that we are making changes for this island, but the people visiting the island also need to make changes too, they create a lot of waste when they are visiting Holbox.” How right he is. When you are a guest visiting paradise it is so important that you do everything you can to keep it paradise. This means getting the way from the idea of making things quick, easy and convenient on holiday, and altering the way you pack and doing a little bit more planning in order to do what is best for our planet.
Here are some tips and tricks we used during our holiday in Holbox to help us be greener guests on this slice of paradise.
- Avoid buying plastic water bottles. We did not buy a single plastic water bottle...not one in the 7 days we were on Holbox, and we were very proud of ourselves. This was our holiday eco mission and we succeeded! Here’s what we did. We packed a reusable water bottle for each member of our family and filled them up several times a day from our hotel’s communal water jug. We also packed a camel pack that we already owned and traveled with it to ensure we would not have to buy water when we were out and about. Most hotels should provide guests water if they don’t ask them why not, and discuss the damage that plastic water bottles have on our planet. In the past when we have traveled and our hotel didn’t have a jug of water we bought our own giant jug of reusable water and kept it in the room and used it for the entire trip. It is scary when you stop and think about the impact that plastic water bottles have on our planet, and water is essential for our survival, yet we are polluting water with plastic we drink it from, all for our own convenience.
- Use coral safe sunscreen. Many commonly sold sunscreens are harmful to both the oceans and us. I made sure to check that the sunscreen we were using, Think Baby was safe for my family, and for sea life. Here is a link to Erika’s post which has more information on this topic, and other brands of coral safe sunscreens.
- Pack your own reusable survival kit. In our kit we had: plastic containers, silicon zip lock bags, mesh veggie bags, reusable grocery bags, a beeswax wrap, our own wooden cutlery, reusable napkins, reusable straws. We did not buy these items especially for our trip, all of these things we already had in our home. We used them when we were buying groceries instead of having to use plastic bags, or when we went for dinner in case we had leftovers, or if we order take away food from a restaurant. Bringing my own containers and cutlery meant that I had to do dishes in my hotel room sink, but it also meant that I didn’t need to use any single-use plastics while on holiday.
- Choose a greener method of transportation. We opted to rent bikes for the week instead of a golf cart or using the golf cart taxi service. Many holidays do require various modes of transportation, however, when you can, try to either walk, cycle or take public transportation.
- Use reusable swim diapers. Normally when I have access to a washing machine we also use reusable diapers. I packed some but found with our accommodation it would be too difficult to clean and dry them, so our son wore swim diapers most of the holiday. Unless he was sleeping, riding on the back of the bike, or in a restaurant.
- Share beach toys, or use things you already own. We packed two empty yogurt containers we had been saving and two of our garden spades for beach toys. Our hotel had a basket of beach toys that you could borrow and return, which, I hope cuts down on other people buying plastic beach toys for their holidays.
- Use less air conditioning. The hottest hours of the day were spent in our hotel room so that our little ones wouldn’t get too much sun. We were lucky that we had two powerful fans and plenty of windows. We kept the windows open to let the breeze in and kept the curtains closed so that we would keep the hot sunlight out. If you are in a situation where you need to use air conditioning to be comfortable then be sure to turn off the air conditioning when you leave your room.
- Enjoy the simple pleasures. All of the activities we did on our holiday were free (except for renting bikes and buying food). We did not pay for one excursion. We explored the island by bike, we went for beach walks, we enjoyed watching all of the local birds, we went to the park, we played in the ocean, we built sandcastles, we played frisbee. You do not need to spend extra money to go on excursions to have an amazing holiday. If you do want to go on an excursion, please do your research and look into the reputation of the tour provider to ensure that they are respecting local wildlife, the ocean, and their employees.
- Request not to have your sheets and bath towels cleaned every day. This can be tricky at the beach when everything gets pretty sandy. I made sure our kids were sand free before they climbed on the beds and brushed the sand off the bed every day. I also used the bath towels only for showering and not at the beach so that we wouldn’t need to have them washed as often. It is a holiday luxury to have clean sheets and towels every day, however, this luxury wastes both water and energy.
- Remember to Reflect! By no means were we perfect on our holiday, but we achieved our goal of not using plastic water bottles. Hooray! Remember to take time to reflect, and notice something small but positive you already do to help our planet when you go on holiday. Also, take time to reflect and think about what you can do differently on your next holiday to be greener for our planet. Next holiday we have in Mexico, I would like to drive, rather than fly to our destination. I would also like to cut down on food waste by making sure our hotel room has a fridge, or pack a cooler. This time our room did not have a fridge, which saved on the amount of energy we used. Not having a fridge also meant we had to buy bags of ice each day and some food was wasted because we couldn’t keep it cold for long enough. Next holiday I would also pack more reusable napkins as ours got dirty quite quickly and it was difficult to properly dry and clean them.
I hope you enjoy your well-deserved holidays this summer. Please remember, sometimes what is convenient for us short term, is not convenient for our planet long term.
For other ideas on how you can enjoy your summer and be kind to our planet check out Earth Mama Natalie’s post, Traveling Lightly (On The Planet) and Earth Mama Heather’s post, 20 Tips for an Eco Friendly Summer