Our world faces a wide range of threats from climate change and natural resource consumption to extreme poverty. Tourism accounts for around 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Travel and tourism can be a contributing factor to many of these problems, including misuse and degradation of precious ecosystems, economic leakage, and loss of cultural traditions. Tourism contributes to 10 percent of the global gross domestic product and accounts for one in 10 jobs worldwide. While these numbers are great job prospects, research conducted by the UN Environment has shown that the industry’s use of key resources, like energy and water, is growing commensurately. It is leading to generation of solid waste, including marine plastic pollution, sewage, loss of biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions. Having come face to face with the ongoing climate catastrophe, we were bound to take action.
The 90 day challenge:
Varanasi has always been an attractive destination for travelers around the world. In 2017, the holy city hosted approx 1.3 million tourists. And in a hostel of 50 beds we hosted five thousand travelers in the last year. With travelers come a lot of plastic that we had deposited in one of our rooms. We didn’t want to throw the plastic out as we were not sure of what happens to the waste. Varanasi doesn’t have any proper waste management system in place. Most of the plastic waste either gets burnt or disposed of in the Ganga. The room where we stored our plastic was becoming unmanageable and very disgusting. There was no space in the room and we thought it was time to do something. Something that would inspire travelers to give up plastic and embrace sustainability.
The 3 month challenge is one such action that team Wander Station has taken up which promotes travellers to minimise their plastic footprint by doing simple things. Our first priority is to reduce and put a blanket ban on single use plastic inside the hostel premises by providing alternatives such as usage of copper and glass bottles instead of plastic ones to ensure easy shift towards zero plastic generation.
How are we doing it? We spent an ample amount of time educating our staff about plastic pollution and its effects on the environment and health. The wander staff personnel instantly connected when they observed trash burning in parts of the city while commuting. The core team and the staff personnel were the first members to pledge a plastic free lifestyle.Travellers at Wander Station have been provided with alternatives such as free water refilling point to cut down the use of plastic packaged drinking water, providing glass/copper bottles so that the consumers are not forced to buy packaged drinking water which can be harmful since micro plastics have been profoundly found in water samples and an addition of a waste audit system and a plastic metre to analyse how the usage of single used plastic can be stopped.
A plastic metre has been affixed which is a simple technique to store single use plastic in a used plastic bottle which is collected from the guests. Also, focused group discussions with travellers are held to understand the travellers’ point of view regarding plastic pollution and seeking solutions on taking simple steps to control their plastic wastage. In addition, wastes are segregated by replacing normal dustbins with special dustbins made of recycled plastic where waste can be segregated into dry and wet waste. A continual effort to cut down the usage of single use plastic by providing with alternates such as jute bags for plastic bean bags and purchase of amenities in bulk and providing them glass jars to store food inside the hostel premises .
Who are we?
What started from two friends who traveled together has become a group of five in the core and 15 employees and 4 interns. We started Wander Station as an open house for people with the wandering spirit, explorers. That’s how we thought we should add value to a person who travels.
Wander Station offers quality accommodation embedded with unique local experiences. We started operations in September 2018, and we had over 500 reviews on Booking.com within 5 months and we were one of the first in the industry to garner these many reviews within such a short span of time. We host open mics, parties, discussions, meetups very regularly to build a community which is aware and acts for the cause. We all owe something to the places and people we visit.