This year water was definitely a full inspiration for me, the concern of many of my co-workers, and my unforgettable travellers who have also been crucial to changing the way we work. I am Paula Quiros, CEO (Chief Experience Officer – tour leader) for G Adventures and Peru Planeterra Ambassador, and this is my story about how I am trying to change the way tourism impacts Peru’s precious environment. In Peru, drinking water must be bottled, and treated, since you cannot drink tap water. To start this great little Project I had to convince all the managers at hotels used by G Adventures around the country to install water coolers for all our customers, instead of selling bottled water (or providing no option at all but for everyone to purchase multiple plastic bottles a day).
When I presented the project to Planeterra, it was approved right away, and with such responsibility in my hands and emotion I started to share the news with all my colleagues, travellers, and hotels to start working together and I still think getting to a point where we have minimized water bottle usage is a matter of ATTITUDE. While tourism leaves a very small negative impact compared to other activities, in Peru our travellers alone leave behind around 3,750,000 plastic bottles a year….
I started sending emails with messages for hotels, and little by little, meeting with managers and with all these meetings we came to an agreement. The agreement is that Planeterra pays the upfront cost to install the water coolers and that G Adventures CEOs collect the money for filling the bottles and deliver to hotel reception. Each traveller contributes a small sum of money per day to fill their reusable bottles (less than $2), to keep them filled and for the hotel to not lose any money, they can easily recover their costs and keep the water available at all times.
Last month I took advantage of the tour I was leading (Absolute Peru) to implement this project: buying water containers for hotels in each city I passed through. Seeing my passengers commit to this project was amazing. They were very helpful and some made sure the whole group was supplied with water. I did not realize it was so challenging to get suppliers in places like Nazca and Puno but unfortunately it’s true, there are no local suppliers there. Eventually all the hotels I have talked to decided they want to change the plastic bottles for water coolers and that gives me a lot of positive energy to go all the way… I wish there was a better way (like potable tap water) but for now this is what we can do and I need the support of everyone at G Adventures to communicate and raise awareness among our travellers. I hope we can finish before the end of the year and put the containers in all the places that are missing so that we can finally say we are helping to reduce all the water bottle waste throughout the country of Peru. We are one organization, but we can make a big difference.