In July of 2019, a group of 14 visitors to Yellowstone National Park will take part in the world’s first zero waste wildlife safari, led by Natural Habitat Adventures, a conservation-focused travel company.
Natural Habitat has been at the forefront of sustainable travel for years. They built a partnership with World Wildlife Fund and offset 34 million pounds of carbon in the past decade. This zero waste adventure is the most recent in a series of efforts to protect the natural environment while sharing their environmentally-friendly approach to travel with participants.
“Our goal is to continually raise the bar on conservation, and our first zero waste adventure will show that it’s possible to reduce our environmental impact while providing an exceptional experience for our guests,” says Founder and President Ben Bressler.
Can a Waste-Free Wildlife Safari Change Travel?
Natural Habitat Adventures hopes to host the world’s first zero waste adventure, but it won’t be easy.
Zero Waste in the Natural World
First, let’s review: What does it mean to create zero waste in the outdoors? At a basic level, zero waste is about the 5 R’s: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot (in that order). Here are a few examples of zero waste outdoor living.
- As much as you love free stuff, refuse promotional products. Do you really need that fifth water bottle?
- Imagine all the plastic used to wrap the ice you dump into your cooler. You can reduce all that plastic by making ice blocks in your freezer.
- There’s no need to use plastic cutlery or paper plates. You can reuse a sturdy spork and simple dining set for years.
- If you do have remaining waste materials, recycle as much as possible. Look for the recycling triangle on packages and put your recyclables in a dry sack until you can dispose of them.
- Let it rot. Composting in the outdoors can be tricky if there are no critters around. A safe bet is to pack it in an airtight container and take it home to compost.
It isn’t always easy for individuals to embrace these principles. And it can be even more challenging to run a successful business while creating zero waste. So challenging, in fact, that no adventure company has done it before.
A Wildlife Safari Unlike Any Other
Natural Habitat’s inaugural zero waste adventure will be a salute to the Old West. In July of 2019, Safari America: Yellowstone Country will take 14 travelers on an 8-day expedition through the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Visitor’s learn about geothermal features and wildlife from experienced naturalists. After the sun sets, they sleep comfortably in luxury safari-style tents.
Travelers are encouraged to cut waste throughout the wildlife safari. By the end, the goal is to fit all the remaining waste into one small container.
Court Whelan, Natural Habitat’s Director of Sustainability and Conservation, says, “As a world leader in conservation travel, we’re constantly looking for ways we can help people be better stewards of our planet. We seek to raise their awareness of how they live within the natural world, and to inspire them to become more sensitive to their impact on the ecosystems we all rely on.”
To do that, they promote habits like refusing, reusing, recycling, and composting. They hand out zero waste kits, with reusable items like bottles, cutlery, and tote bags. The company uses bulk foods that are served individually in reusable containers. And questionable materials go to TerraCycle, a company specializing in hard-to-recycle waste.
Setting the Standard
Natural Habitat wants to inspire people to make sustainable choices.
Whelan states, “Our goal is to raise the bar, to push the envelope on sustainable practices, even when it might be challenging or unprecedented—and to inspire others to do likewise. We have a unique opportunity to influence not only our influential guests but the travel industry as a whole. We hope the example of the World’s First Zero Waste Adventure will have a worldwide impact.”