How can you travel kindly and more sustainably in Thailand, reducing the footprint you leave behind?
We travel to enjoy and experience different cultures and environments, not with the intention of ruining them. Many of the places we travel to, though, can’t cope with the number of tourists they receive or, sadly, exploit the environment, people and animals in order to make money from tourism. So, how can we travel responsibly and sustainably in Thailand, without harming the environment, or the people and animals living here?
There are lots of things you can do when you visit Thailand to help reduce the impact tourism has on the country, and be kind to the environment here.
Check out our Infographic to see 5 ways you can travel kindly and sustainably in Thailand.
1. Ways to Avoid Buying Plastic Bottles of Drinking Water
You can’t drink the tap water in Thailand, so what are the options you have for finding safe drinking water? The most popular, and yes most convenient, choice is to buy plastic bottles of water. It’s easy and inexpensive to buy plastic bottles of water in Thailand but the environment is paying a high price for this, and it’s really not sustainable.
Thailand is a hot country and you need a lot of drinking water here. Imagine how many plastic bottles you’ll get through during your stay in Thailand. Most of these will probably not be recycled and are very likely to end up lying at the side of the road, on a beautiful beach or, worse, in the sea.
Plastic bottles are estimated to take over 400 years to decompose.
How can you avoid buying plastic bottles of water then, when you’re traveling in Thailand?
There are various water purifying products to choose from, which you can buy before you travel to Thailand and use to safely drink the tap water here.
The LifeStraw Go 2 water bottle filters water as you drink through the straw. It removes organisms down to 0.2 microns and reduces chlorine and chemicals, such as pesticides, making the tap water in Thailand safe to drink.
For every LifeStraw product sold in North America, the company provides a year of free drinking water to a child in a developing country.
The GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier is really quick and easy to use – you just pour, push, and drink. Like the LifeStraw Go, it purifies and filters water, and the filter lasts for up to 300 uses.
Take a look at this video to see how it works…
GRAYL is part of 1% for the Planet, a global network of businesses and individuals working together for a healthy planet. They donate 1% of their sales towards environmental causes.
Another option is to buy a refillable water bottle and use a SteriPEN to clean tap water.
Tree Tribe sells some great stainless steel water bottles and they plant 10 trees on every sale.
SteriPEN is a handheld UV water purifier. It destroys bacteria, viruses, and protozoa like Giardia and Cryptosporidium. You need to charge it, so make sure to choose the one that charges by USB or solar, not disposable batteries.
You’ll probably also find lots of places in Thailand where you can refill your reusable water bottle with drinking water for just a few Baht. Some guesthouses and hotels have water refill stations, and many restaurants offer free drinking water.
Buy a Refillable Water Bottle in Thailand
You can buy stainless steel refillable water bottles in many parts of Thailand and refill them with FREE drinking water, thanks to Trash Hero.
Trash Hero has been running a refillable water bottle scheme in Thailand for a few years now. The project runs in over 20 locations in Thailand. Their water bottles only cost 220 Baht (around $7) and you can refill them with FREE drinking water at any of the participating businesses.
Find out more where you can buy the Trash Hero water bottles on Koh Lanta.
As you can see, there are loads of alternatives to plastic water bottles!
2. Say No to Plastic Straws & Bags
Plastic straws are the 11th most common type of trash found in the ocean. It takes up to 200 years for a plastic straw to decompose and most places aren’t able to recycle them. We don’t even need them in most drinks, so let’s start saying no to them!
Reusable straws are a great thing to add to your Thailand packing list, especially as they’re not easy to find in the shops here.
When you’re ordering a drink, tell the server you don’t want a straw. The more people who start doing this, hopefully the less places will automatically give you a straw.
Here’s how to say it in Thai if you want to try….
TIP: if you’re buying a drink in 7-11, watch out for them putting a straw in your plastic bag – they seem to do this pretty stealthily and you often don’t realize they’ve done it until you’ve left the shop.
Plastic bags are, on average, used for only 25 minutes. They can take between 10-1,000 years to break down, depending on the type of plastic.
In most shops in Thailand, you’ll automatically be given a plastic bag. They are really hard to avoid in Thailand and used for so many things, including take away food and drinks (yes, even drinks)!
You’ll probably have a tough time avoiding them completely, but you can at least reduce the amount of plastic bags you use by taking a reusable shopping bag with you. These are easy to find in Thailand if you didn’t bring one with you.
Or take a tour of Lanta Animal Welfare and support the cats and dogs on Koh Lanta by buying one of their tote shopping bags.
3. Pick Up Trash From the Beaches
The paradise beaches in Thailand, just like beaches around the world, are seeing an increasing amount of trash washing up onto them.
Trash Hero Thailand organizes weekly beach clean ups in many parts of Thailand, so if you want to help keep Thailand beautiful and protect marine life too, you can join one of their clean ups.
You could also just pick up trash from the beach whenever you see it. If it’s too much to carry, just take as much as you can – any amount is better than nothing.
Find out more about Trash Hero and their beach clean ups.
4. Protect the coral reefs
Coral reefs are under threat from many things – global warming, overfishing, overtourism, development along coastal areas, and plastic pollution.
There are though steps you can take to protect the coral reefs when you go snorkeling or scuba diving. Don’t touch the coral or feed the fish, and use reef safe products on your skin and hair. A lot of people don’t realize that the chemicals in most sunscreens and hair conditioner are killing coral reefs.
Find out more about how you can protect coral reefs when you go snorkeling or scuba diving.
5. Don’t Support Animal Abuse
If you visit any kind of animal attraction while you’re in Thailand, research it first and be mindful of what you’re supporting. A lot of tourists are unaware of what the animals have been subjected to before they go and see them.
To travel sustainably and responsibly in Thailand, you should avoid riding elephants or watching them perform tricks. Visit an elephant sanctuary instead, such as Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai or the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary.
Avoid any kind of animal shows – monkey shows, snake shows, taking a selfie with a tiger etc.
It’s much better to visit a national park instead and see animals living naturally, as they should be, not forced to put on shows or have tourists sitting on their backs.
Travel Kindly in Thailand
With just a bit of extra thought and effort, you can enjoy the beauty of Thailand without causing harm to the land or its animals.
Reducing single use plastic, helping to clean the beaches, and not supporting animal abuse are great ways you can travel kindly and sustainably in Thailand.
Of course there are more things you can do but these are a good start and will have a big impact on reducing some of the negative impacts of tourism in Thailand.
Thailand is a beautiful country but its popularity with tourists has led many people to put making money from tourism before protecting the environment or human and animal welfare.
YOU can be a responsible tourist and help Thailand’s tourist industry become more sustainable. The more people who say no to these things, the more likely they are to stop in the future.
Let’s be the change!
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