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'Acting for change’

19 July 2022

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Kia Orana to the conscious traveller

Saturday 29 January 2022 | Written by Te Ipukarea Society | Published in On the Street, Opinion

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Kia Orana to the conscious traveller
Environment through the lens of youth: Tereora students participating in one of Te Ipukarea Society's latest projects. 20071048

Te Ipukarea Society says it’s time to think differently about how and why people travel.

Shift your perception of the world to curiously observe a destination through the lens of the local. This column will help to ensure you are not only satisfying your desires, but also giving back to nature, enriching the lives of everyone you meet, and creating a positive impact in your destination.

It’s about being mindful in every moment, acting with integrity and respect, putting sustainability at the forefront and seeking more meaningful experiences, while paying it forward in any way you can.

So let’s dive in and explore a few hacks to shift yourself from mass tourist to conscious traveller.

Before take-off, educate yourself – the more you know about your destination the more mindful you’ll be. 

Prepare your pack – Make room for eco-friendly goods and sustainable items that you can gift to schools, animal shelters, and local communities. Get in touch directly to see what they really need. No polystyrene chilly bins please, unless you are taking them back home with you. 

Make a list of items you use, decide what you will bring, and what you’ll buy locally. A reusable coffee cup, straw, takeaway container, shopping bag, toiletries, toothbrush, soap, sustainable towel.  Just because you’re staying at a resort doesn’t mean you have to use and hoard everything, or use a different towel every day. 

Be Covid 19 savvy - hand sanitiser, reusable mask and ensure that it makes it on the plane home with you – that goes for all of your masks.   

Go paperless, go digital. Email yourself all your documents, flight tickets, travel insurance, adventure bookings. 

Ladies pack your period undies, moon cup or purchase one at CITC. Educate yourself, you’d be surprised at the phenomenal positive impact you have on the world by making the switch. 

 Support local, the Cook Islands has an abundance of products for all your needs. Only use reef-safe sunscreen and source natural mosquito repellent. You can find plenty of locally made products at Punanga Nui markets, especially on Saturday.

The ultimate purchase is a reusable insulated drinking hydroflask from Te Ipukarea Society (TIS), $35 each from their office. $5 from every sale goes towards supporting their Suwarrow race against time (RAT) campaign raising funds to eradicate the remaining population of rats from this national park before they spread to the neighbouring motu. You’ll also find “protect a little paradise” coin donation boxes at retailers, accommodation providers and the airport, so drop in any coins.

Hydrate – You won’t need to purchase bottled water on the island. There are 17 UV filtered water stations located around Rarotonga, and some in the outer islands as well, providing safe, clean quality drinking water.

Give back and pat yourself on the back – There are so many ways to say “Meitaki” thanks for having me and adding value while you’re here. Try your hand at voluntourism. Immerse yourself in community projects that elevate the island and create lasting impact. Muri Environment Care has many great initiatives to ground yourself and work with nature, every Wednesday and Saturday at 9am at the Nursery behind Pa Ariki’s Palace. Check their Facebook group for more updates. Help out at the SPCA or join in beach clean-ups.

Be respectful of local customs and traditions – Chances are the local customs are different from what you are used to at home. So, do your research, be respectful, and simply ask locals for advice. Be a sponge, learn a few words of the local language - and think conservative with what you wear into churches, cafes and around town.

Leave no trace – Commit to following the mantra “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures”, clean up after yourself, and leave no physical trace of your activities. 

Travel is a privilege and the conscious traveller leaves places in a better state than when you found them ensuring nature is intact for future generations. 

Locals love to make chutneys from the delicious homegrown delicacies so any jars take them into TIS.

Floating unicorns, any inflatables, yes they are fun but can this sit this trip out? Often they pop and are left behind and end up in the landfill. If you do have a popped inflatable, take clean ones into TIS and Sabine @circlecooks upcycles them to become bags and earrings – so you can then purchase back your new transformed inflatable. We love a circular economy.

How will you create a positive impact, manage your waste and minimise your footprint?

Be the conscious traveller today.