Whether it was water wastage, recycling (or lack thereof), use of environmentally friendly materials, pollution and more, on a scale of one to sustainable, Ibiza was barely registering for a while there. That’s not to say there aren’t a core group of local environmentalists out there trying to make things happen. There is, and I’m grateful to them. It’s just that the awareness and education of such things here on this island is at such a low level, to those living day-to-day, it can start to feel like we can’t possibly make a difference. But we really can! All those taglines – such as ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’, ‘our choices matter’ or ‘change begins at home’ – are true. It might just seem like a drop in the bucket to you, but if every single person who loved Ibiza as much as I do, saved that drop, the bucket would fill up pretty darn quickly.
Metaphors aside, there really are plenty of simple ways we can contribute to conserving Ibiza’s beautiful natural environment and contributing to its evolution into a more sustainable holiday paradise, in many cases at zero cost to ourselves. And it’s not just the local government, island businesses or Ibiza residents who need to make an effort when it comes to being eco-friendly – holidaymakers in particular can make a huge difference with smart choices, meaning they’ll be able to continue enjoying the island in all her glory for years to come. Let’s start with perhaps one of the simplest things of all to implement. Please keep Ibiza’s beaches clean! Over the winter months, a dedicated group of local volunteers made their way around the island, removing rubbish from our beaches, which meant by the time the summer season kicked in, the sand was clear and the sea was clean – just the way nature intended. But just a few weeks into the season and we can already see plenty of plastic floating in the sea, the sand is littered with plastic bags, cigarette butts, food wrappers, straws and more at the end of each day. When you’re going to the beach, adopt a zero impact (aside from your footsteps on the sand) policy, and please pack up all your rubbish when you leave and carry it to the nearest bins. It’s so easy kindergarten kids do it on a daily basis, so why can’t we? And that includes cigarette butts – did you know they take 10 years to biodegrade, all the while acting as an environmental pollutant and safety hazard to kids? If there’s no ashtray where you’re sunbathing, take your butts with you and deposit them in the nearest trash can? Better yet… don’t smoke on the beach! OK, OK, enough preaching, each to each their own – but if you do choose to smoke, please be as responsible as you can with your waste.
Another thing many visitors to the island don’t realise is that we’re in the middle of a water shortage crisis here in Ibiza. With the rise in tourism, comes a rise in consumption and thus, supply cannot always meet the demand. I wrote a more detailed blog on the matter last summer (you can read it here if you like!) but in general, we could all learn to be more careful with our water use. Take short showers (a bath uses up to 230 litres of water while a five-minute shower uses only 50), use the half-flush on your toilet, turn the tap off while brushing your teeth, don’t have your towels and bed linens changed daily in hotels, choose garden plants that require little watering such as succulents, don’t fill home swimming pools right to the top… Speaking of water, it’s hard to NOT stock up on plastic bottles when the tap water on the island isn’t drinkable – and while the old adage ‘save water, drink champagne’ is a good one when you’re on holiday, if you’re a family or worker on the island you’ll be looking to keep yourself as hydrated as possible in summer. Carry a reusable water bottle, and top it up from your bigger bottles at home rather than constantly purchasing those overpriced 33cl bottles from the corner store. Every bit counts.
Speaking of drinking, one of the coolest movements in eco-friendly Ibiza this year has been the introduction of biodegradable straws. Straws have been identified as one of the top five items found in beach waste in the Mediterranean this year, which could be completely eradicated if we just opted for biodegradable options, or went a step further and refuse straws altogether in your drinks… Some of my favourite places on the island are all now helping make a difference with the use of 100-percent biodegradable straws made from rye, bamboo and corn starch, including Pikes, Locals Only, Experimental Beach Ibiza, Los Enamorados and La Escollera. Let’s hope more follow suit – I’ve heard along the Ibiza restaurant grapevine, that environmentally friendly straws cost the same as evil plastic versions for business owners, so there’s really no excuse not to switch them up as soon as possible.
The plastic-free movement is making waves across the world and I hope that Ibiza jumps on this bandwagon sooner rather than later. In places such as Tulum, Bali, Maui and Kefalonia (which attract similar types of tourism to Ibiza), it looks as though the near future will prohibit the use of disposable plastic items. By this, of course I mean supermarket bags – paying 5 cents for them doesn’t make them degrade any faster or better – but also things such as plastic takeaway containers or cutlery from restaurants, juice and smoothie cups, sauce packets and more. Ibiza’s own ‘home of health and happiness’, Passion Café (of which there are now six across the island) now serve all takeout items in Vegware – completely compostable, award-winning packaging that can be recycled along with food waste. Passion founder (and all round green goddess) Lana Love also likes to encourage her customers to think before they ask for their order ‘to go’. After all – what’s the point of creating extra waste if you’re going to slurp up your smoothie or scoff down your sandwich before you get back to the car? Wouldn’t it be nicer to just take ten minutes out for yourself to enjoy your drink or snack in the sun (or shade), then get on with your day without sticky fingers? It’s just a thought, not a rule by any means – and when your brain starts ticking over on the topic for a few minutes, it just makes sense to choose glass over plastic. Refusing plastic bags can be really simple here in Ibiza – and you can look good in the process. The Ibicencos have actually been doing it for many years. You may have seen the oversized woven baskets with leather handles hanging on the walls of shops in Ibiza town, in beach boutiques, roadside grocery markets and even in the petrol station – these traditional ‘cestas’ (and these days, you can find some nice upscale versions too) are perfect for carrying groceries and then double as a beach bag. Sustainable fashion!
There’s a common misconception – an urban myth, if you will – in Ibiza that there is no recycling plant on the island. THIS IS 100% NOT TRUE. Sure, in the past things may have been all thrown into the same truck, but do you REALLY think the local government would have recently invested all that money into installing new recycling bins all over the island, buying specific vehicles with three sections for waste, launching an initiative to provide residents with colour coded, plastic recycling bags for their homes (with super strong handles that make it easy for certain bloggers to transport all their empty vino tinto bottles to the right receptacle!) and education programmes and tours of the recycling plant for school kids? For every conspiracy theory, there is also a fact (or three) and the fact of the matter is, recycling is real in Ibiza. Hotels are doing it. Restaurants are doing it. Schools are doing it. And so we, the people of Ibiza, should be doing it too.
Last – but by no means least – are the emissions we create by driving back and forth across the island. How can we reduce these? I know public transport in Ibiza isn’t easy. And cycling from one end of the island to the other for a long lunch isn’t the most glamorous way to make an entrance. So the smaller changes I can suggest include: carpooling with friends to parties and beaches, walking smaller distances where possible and driving at a slower pace, which not only consumes less fuel, it also makes our roads safer. When you’re hiring your holiday runaround or buying a new car, choose vehicles that use non-leaded petrol, or even better, are electric. When I first moved here, I was shocked to discover diesel petrol was not only legal, it was encouraged (coming from a very eco-friendly country myself) in hire cars due to its ratio of kilometres to litres. What the? Today, diesel cars are still found in every hire car company but I believe it’s time for these companies to step up and start to offer a different option. In the UK, diesel petrol is finally being phased out – let’s hope Spain follows suit. I can’t say that I have the answers to making Ibiza an eco-friendly haven. But I do have the platform to raise awareness for it, so if you have read this far I thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you implement even one of the points made in my blog, I am forever grateful. And if you believe you can contribute on a larger scale – please get in touch. We’d love to know more and see if we can help!