Plastic Free Gambia

A Blog Post from Footsteps Eco-Lodge in The Gambia

by David White - 26 July 2018

Plastic waste in The Gambia

The best time to make a change is NOW!

A plastic-free Gambia may be a long way off, however, at Footsteps we have always taken our social and environmental responsibilities seriously and each year we try and find new ways of becoming more responsible to not only our local community and staff but also The Gambia as a whole and indeed our planet.

To this end we felt the task was deserving the attention of a full time employed position so created one with the title Eco-Warrior.

We identified two areas of concern that we wanted to tackle as priorities NOW!

  • The use of plastics
  • The use of detergents and cleaning substances.

Let's achieve a plastic free Gambia together!

I was frankly surprised at the amount of plastic that was passing through our lodge. Water bottles alone ran to over 2000 per season and we pledged there and then we would find a way to eliminate them.

One reason for using shop-bought water was we couldn't guarantee our water was pathogen and virus free. It is pumped from a tube well at the lodge and is considered by the community as being the purest water around, but for me to advise our guests to drink our water in preference to bottled water, I had to be sure it was safe.

The answer was a lot easier to find than I imagined, water purification systems come in all shapes and sizes. They can filter out anything so in the UK you may want to filter out fluoride and in The Gambia you certainly wont have fluoride but you may have some pesky pathogens just waiting to upset an unsuspecting tourist.

Our answer was to install a Berkey Water purification system which can easily filter 20 litres per hour. It boasts the water will be over 99% pure which I think is as good as it gets.

We are also giving our guests upon arrival their very own stainless steel drinking bottle. Because hydration is so important in hot climates such as ours we have gone for the largest size we could find, 750 ml. Which means for most situations you will have enough water to keep you hydrated and healthy during your time away from Footsteps. We are also forming a network of businesses which will offer filtered water so you can top up whilst your out!

Cleaning agents and how to use less.

Sarani's family

In Gambia, unless you're taking your laundry to a laundromat it's probably being washed by hand.

This means it gets scrubbed to within an inch of its life against a wooden wash board in cold water and plenty of detergent.

Modern washing powders over the years have become more powerful mainly due to washing machine manufacturers convincing us all that washing at lower temperatures is more Eco-friendly or better for the environment because it saves energy.

This may be true in some parts of the world, however, in The Gambia we employ solar technology to heat water. What we found is that by installing a solar water heater specifically for our laundry use is that we can reduce the amount of detergent we use by up to 75%. Also by pre-soaking our washing, our laundry staff don't have to work so hard!

In our next blog we are going to be looking at ways to reduce using clingfilm and also alternatives to plastic straws.

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