December 2017 – Wilderness Safaris Group Environmental Coordinator, Warren Ozorio, recently took part in the Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) Best Practices Conference, which took place in Stellenbosch on 27 November to address solutions to the pressing water crisis in Africa. This year’s theme, No Time to Waste, was inspired by Africa’s growing waste and water issues, focusing on the role that the tourism industry is playing to address these concerns.
Warren Ozorio, Wilderness Safaris Group Environmental Coordinator, who is passionate about driving the company's initiative to reduce the use of plastic water bottles.
“As a leading authentic and sustainable ecotourism company, we have always attempted, wherever possible, to promote positive impacts and mitigate any negative impacts that our business may have on the environment and all stakeholders. As the only representatives from the safari industry to address the FTT conference, it was a great opportunity to present our case study on reducing bottled water usage – Banning the Plastic Bottle. In addition to creating a platform to encourage other ecotourism companies to start thinking of new ways to minimise environmental impact produced by waste, the conference also gave us the opportunity to explore even more ways to improve our own Environmental Management Systems (EMS)”, said Ozorio.
Wilderness Safaris’ overall philosophy is based on operating according to the 4Cs of Commerce, Community, Culture and Conservation. In line with this sustainability ethos, the Conservation C is divided into Biodiversity Conservation and Environmental Management Systems (EMS). In 2012, the company’s EMS team identified bottled water usage as a challenge that needed to be urgently addressed across the Group. A revised and proactive five-year water conservation strategy was therefore launched with a key target to reduce the Group’s bottled water usage per guest bednight to a Group average of 0.8 litres by the end of the 2017 financial year.
Wilderness therefore installed on-site water purification systems at many of its camps across all regions and gives each guest a reusable aluminium water bottle at the start of their safari, which they can fill up whenever they need to. A description of the policy and why it was implemented is placed on the bottle for the guest’s perusal and to raise awareness. This is coupled with informative talks by the guides and managers, and guests are afforded the opportunity to visit the back-of-house areas to witness the filtration process – amongst other sustainable practices that are in place, such as solar plants, waste treatment and vermiculture.
“We are proud to have hit our target and to have seen a reduction of bottled water usage from 288 940 to 137 186 bottles across the Group. To further mitigate the indirect impacts of bottled water use, we have also renewed our efforts on effective waste separation at all camps and have gone to great lengths to ensure that recyclable materials, including plastic, are recycled and not placed in a landfill”, he added.
In Botswana, Wilderness Safaris has also recently launched an active campaign to reduce the use of packaging and plastic wrap across all camps, sourcing locally-produced fresh produce wherever possible and setting up agreements with suppliers to recycle and reuse packaging material; most importantly banning the use of plastic straws.
“Our ultimate goal is to conserve and restore Africa’s wilderness and wildlife by creating life-changing journeys and inspiring positive action. This commitment is evident in the way that we choose to operate all of our camps with as light an eco-footprint as possible, ensuring that our waste production is carefully managed and measured according to our Minimum Environmental Standards across the Group”, concluded Ozorio.