Environmental Considerations | Island Expeditions

Washing & Bathroom Facilities

When you are traveling with us out to the reef and/or on the river...

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Fresh water out on the cayes is at a premium.  Most water available on the islands is from rainwater catchment systems or has been imported from the mainland, so water conservation is of the utmost importance to the inhabitants of the islands. 
Each lodge will have a closed water system of their own which is controlled with hydro, solar and generator powered water pumps.  Water is pumped into raised black tanks to provide pressure to the system.  The water in these tanks are warmed by the sun.  At some lodges this will be the only source of heat. Some facilities will have a propane or electric hot-water-on-demand system.  Often generators will be stopped through the night as a conservation measure.  This can affect water pressure and availability of light in the night and early morning. 

The use of biodegradable soap is recommended as a way to help protect the islands and surrounding environment.  These products are difficult to source locally.  IE encourages guests to bring environmentally responsible soap products and use these when products provided by local businesses are not clearly marked as biodegradable.   

Showers should be taken sparingly and using a technique that helps conserve water; a quick rinse, soaping up while the water is turned off, then turning the water on to rinse off. 

Many of the lodges we use have a mixture of en-suite and shared bathroom facilities.  Toilets on the islands are generally flushing toilets, but some islands will have composting toilet facilities.  On days where we may be day tripping between islands, toilet facilities will be more limited and we will rely on minimal impact practices as directed by your guides.

Our island Adventure Basecamps have composting toilet facilities with private stalls and sinks with running tap water collected as described above.  There is a separate shower building with private stalls that use the same water system.

If your trip has a Moho River Paddle & Camping Component then your bathroom facilities will be low-impact pit toilets with thatch walls and roof, built by our Maya bush guides.

Biodegradable Sunscreen & Soap

Soap product links below... 

Q: Which ingredients in a sunscreen are harmful to the environment and my body?  Which brands should be avoided?

A:  There are five ingredients used in different sunscreens which are harmful to the reef as well as your body - Octinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone, Octocrylene & Avobenzone.  For more information, see this article - https://poolonomics.com/sunscreen-guide/

Q: What is biodegradable sunscreen?

A:  Biodegradable sun-block is environmentally friendly sunscreen that lacks the harmful ingredients that are destroying the world's coral reefs.  These sunscreens are biodegradable, meaning they break down naturally in the environment, and eco-friendly, meaning that they minimize damage to the environment.  We strongly encourage using only biodegradable sunscreen anytime you are going to be in the water if you have found one that works for you.

Q: How do I know if my sunscreen is biodegradable?

A: If it doesn't say it is on the package then it isn't.  None of the major brands are biodegradable - such as Coppertone, Banana Boat, No-Ad, etc.

Q: Are there certain ingredients to watch out for?

A:  Some of the most harmful ingredients that many sunscreens contain, including some that are actually biodegradable (such as those made by Nature's Gate), are PABA, octinoxate, oxybenzone, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor and the preservative butylparaben.  If your sunscreen has any of these ingredients, it is not safe for use on the reefs.

Q: What kind of damage does sunscreen do to the marine ecosystem?

A:  One of the most harmful things to the natural underwater environment is sunscreens, oils, and sun-block worn by people.  While swimming, these oils come off and settle on the coral reefs and other marine life, and in volume can act like an oil slick in water, creating damage to the delicate ecosystems.  The reefs are suffocated, and sunscreens are one of the biggest causes of bleaching to our reefs, and the death of much of the world's coral.

Q: Why does coral get bleached?  Is coral bleaching really a problem?

A:  The ingredients in normal sunscreens promote viral infection in the coral, as well as covering it with oils.  Between 4000 and 6000 tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers every year on their vacations. As much as 25% of the world's coral reefs are in imminent danger of collapse due to human pressures, and another 25% is in longer term danger.

Q: I've never heard of this before.  Are you making this stuff up?

A: See the links below for the latest information.
CBC: Study shows sunscreen is killing coral reefs

National Geographic: Swimmer's Suncreen Killing Off Corals

Environmental Science & Tech: Sunscreens go Viral on Coral

Discover Magazine: The Biology of Sunscreens

Q: What about product labeling?

A:  "Natural", "environmentally friendly", and "nontoxic" lack standard definitions. Even "biodegradable" means little unless the claim is specific: for example, "biodegradable in three days" or "certified biodegradable."

Meaningful claims. "Certified biodegradable" is independently verified, as is the Leaping Bunny symbol on Earth Friendly and Seventh Generation detergents. That logo indicates that a product wasn't tested on animals during any stage of its development. Another tip: Look for specific claims such as "contains no artificial dyes or fragrances," then look for an ingredients list, which might help confirm the claim.

A good source for product information is http://www.ewg.org/2013sunscreen/

Q: Where can I buy Biodegradable Sunscreen?

A:  You can find the following brands below available at REI or MEC. You may also find some brands on-line through various sources such as Amazon, at your local health food store, and some outdoor gear stores.  

REI – 5  products on their website 

Think Sport


Elemental Herbs  

Elemental Herbs Kids    

Goddess Gardner (lotion, not the spray)

Avoid Kiss My face and spray/can products

MEC – 3 products on their website

True Natural 

True Natural Ultra   

True Natural Baby     

Avoid the other bands

Garbage on the Cayes

Unfortunately, garbage (especially plastics) is found throughout the world's coastal regions, Belize is no exception.

Weather, wind, and currents can all cause excessive build-up of garbage to occur along the beaches and in the mangroves.  The sad part is that much of this garbage is from offshore and not from mainland Belize.  Besides making sure that we leave no garbage while on tour, we try wherever possible to pick up some of this extra refuse.  IE organizes a number of work crews each season to clean up the cayes where we camp and it is an integral part of our educational trip programs.