Guidelines for eco-friendly packing
What we take with us when we travel is often an overlooked aspect of our trip planning, but it is equally important– and often says a lot about the sort of people we really are. Proper planning and packing offers an opportunity to make a difference in terms of the impact of your journey. Wise decisions about what ends up in your luggage can pay environmental dividends both while you are away, but also at home. Of course, much of what you pack depends on the nature of the trip, the destination and when you go, but even so, there are a few general guidelines to eco-friendly packing that are useful for any trip:
The heavier your bags, the more fuel motorized transport (i.e. car, bus or plane) has to expend to get you to your destination—so try traveling light. Excess packaging and disposable goods are high on the list of things to avoid. In many areas of mainland Ecuador and the Galápagos, waste disposal presents major practical and economic difficulties – and there is little point in contributing to the problem. Remove all excess packaging before setting off for the more remote areas of the world – and recycle whatever you can of these materials while at home.
Staying fresh and clean
When it comes to personal hygiene – particularly if you plan to venture “off the beaten path” to more remote areas– bear in mind that the water you will be washing in may run directly back into the marine ecosystem or may be someone else’s drinking water. Avoid using conventional soaps, shampoos or detergents. There are a number of biodegradable (eco-friendly) cleaning agents and soaps available from shops and online retailers that can help overcome this problem. (For example, in the United States many camping and outdoor adventure supply stores such as EMS and REI sell biodegradable soaps and detergents. Other brands that offer biodegradable products are Kiss My Face, Dr. Bronners Magic Soap, and Whole Foods, just to name a few).
Practice your “Eco-Logic”
There are many practical ways to make a difference on a daily basis. For example:
- Ask for glass cups and dinnerware instead of plastic when in a restaurant.
- Opt for drinks in glass bottles, as these tend to be re-used, and do not require the use of a straw.
- Take time to sit and enjoy a meal. Avoid fast food or take out, and thus the disposable dinnerware/utensils that accompany it.
- Bring your own reusable shopping bag whenever you need to make purchases.
- Batteries are often one of the most damaging products that are left behind—if you take them in to Galápagos, please also take them out.
- Be sensitive to limited resources like water, fuel and electricity.
And so on …
Bringing it home
Remember, an eco-friendly attitude should not be limited to your time abroad! While the information presented here is important for reducing negative impacts during your travels, it is also necessary to take steps at home to adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Galápagos recommended packing list:
- Health and travel insurance policies
- Photocopies of all documentation/tickets/passport
- Ziploc bags or Dry Packs to keep what you need dry (books, maps, documents, film)
- Pack towel (fast drying, ultralite)
- Toiletries** including strong sunscreen (high SPF, waterproof), biodegradable soap, shampoo, and toothpaste.
- Feminine hygiene (tampons are especially difficult to find).
- A full prescription of a doctor prescribed antibiotic or any other medication you are currently taking.
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Rechargeable batteries
- Camera and memory card (electronics are very expensive in Ecuador)
- Swiss army knife or similar multi-tool with scissors/knife
- Small binoculars
- Travel alarm clock
- Basic First Aid kit (for minor cuts, blisters, insect bites, muscle/head aches, diarrhea, and motion sickness, etc.)
- Insect repellent (avoid repellents with strong concentrations of DEET)
- Small backpack and money belt/pouch
- Large garbage bags (to be used as a pack liner or cover)
- Re-usable water bottle (such as NALGENE)
- A travel lock
- Sun hat/ visor
- Light rain jacket or rain poncho
- Lightweight, fast-drying clothing
- Sneakers or hiking boots (for dry landings and rocky shores)
- Teva-style sandals (for wet landings and around town)
- Sunglasses (with strap is best)
Please do NOT bring any toiletry item containing “micro-crystals”, “micro-beads” or “micro-granules” containing POLYETHYLENE. These micro-beads, often found in toothpastes and exfoliating facial cleansers (such as Colgate and Neutrogena, among many other brands on the market) are made from plastic which wash down the drain and eventually make their way back into rivers and oceans. These small plastic beads are then swallowed by sea creatures, causing irreversible damage to the marine ecosystem!
Keep in mind
Galápagos National Park fee
The Galápagos National Park charges an entrance fee of $100USD per person for all foreign tourists. This must be paid in cash only, in US Dollars. This fee is subject to change by the Galápagos National Park Service.
The Galapagos Islands, volcanic in origin, are located in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1000 km (600 miles) off the west coast of Ecuador. The climate of the Galapagos is influenced by a rich system of both cool and warm oceanic currents, with a major influence being the Humboldt Current, which brings cool water to the islands.
The Galapagos year can be divided into two “seasons:” the “hot” or “wet” season which lasts from December to early May with an average temperature of 25 C/ 77 F; while the “cool” or “dry” season from May to December has an average temperature of 18 C/ 64 F.
Ecuador’s electrical current is 110 volts 60 cycles.
US$ Dollars is the currency used in Ecuador and the Galapagos.
The airlines which service Galapagos have a weight limit of 20 kilos (44.1 lbs.). No exceptions apply.
Your luggage and/or carry-on will be subject to inspection by SESA (the Ecuadorian System for Agricultural Sanitation) in an effort to prevent the introduction of foreign plants and animals to the Galapagos Islands. These inspections take place before your flight to the Galapagos and upon your arrival to the Islands, as well during travel between islands.
For more information about permitted and restricted products, please visit the INGALA website.
Visitor Control Card
All visitors must register with INGALA (the Galapagos National Institute) by filling out an online form prior to traveling to Galapagos. The form requests the visitor’s full name (as it appears on the passport), passport number, nationality and date of birth. It can be found online at INGALA. This form should be completed and printed out and must be presented at the airport prior to checking in for the Galapagos flight (in Quito or Guayaquil). The cost of this card is $10USD per person, which is paid in cash at the INGALA checkpoint, immediately before baggage inspection buy SICGAL/ SESA.