Ginette Bariteau owns Scuba 6 Eco in Panama and first stumbled across Green Fins in May this year. Since then she has downloaded the Green Fins Dive and Snorkel Centre Handbook and has been working systematically to implement the environmental code of best practice within her operations ever since.
Changing our way of life towards one focused more on sustainable living can feel a little overwhelming, how on earth do we know where to start? Using a unique assessment system based on risk to marine biodiversity, the Green Fins approach helps dive businesses to identify high risk practices. They can then prioritise action and use the comprehensive Green Fins guidance material to identify realistic and low-cost alternatives. With the support of The Reef-World Foundation, international coordinators of Green Fins, Ginette assessed the performance of her current environmental practices and identified three clear priority actions to focus on addressing in the short term.
Reef-World’s Chloe Harvey has been helping dive centres in some of the most popular dive destinations in the world to follow the Green Fins code of conduct since 2008. Thus she has helped dive centre owners overcome some of the most common, and less common, challenges they face in their journey towards sustainability. With the team at Reef-World she has gathered the best examples of solutions to these challenges, which are often incredibly innovative, sometimes locally unique but more often easily replicable around the world. It is this hands-on experience that has helped to ensure Green Fins delivers the most applicable, practical and realistic guidance responding directly to the industry’s needs.
Chloe and Ginette dived into the daily practices of Scuba 6 Eco and assessed these against the Green Fins best practice recommendation. This process would usually be conducted by a qualified assessor who would actually observe business practices in operation above and below the waves in order to assess performance. Green Fins activities are supported by public funds, grant making and fundraising, and the demand from the industry is growing fast. In order to ensure those conservation funding dollars go further, Chloe and the team at Reef-World are investigating how much support they can provide to dive centres remotely using the Green Fins Toolbox. However, they do truly believe that nothing beats a face to face encounter (think whale sharks, or blue whales) so Reef-World will be sending a staff member to visit Scuba 6 Eco in January next year to meet the team and see how effective the remote support has been.
The assessment process highlighted areas where Ginette and her team are really stepping above and beyond the norm in terms of managing their risk to the local environment. Shining out of the interviews with Ginette has been the passion of the team she leads. They are clearly a committed bunch made up of individuals who are not strangers to changing their own way of life to reduce the impact they are having on our ocean planet.
The three actions we agreed for Ginette to focus on in the immediate future included:
- To provide environmental training for dive staff to streamline role model diver behaviour through the dive operations
- To identify alternatives to sending used oil to landfill
- To find alternatives to sending used batteries to landfill
Ginette set to work immediately on these action points, spurred by the really positive feedback she had already received from her team and customers on the new Green Fins additions to the company practices.
Even with a passionate and receptive audience, change is often met with resistance. The idea of turning relatively simple tasks into more laborious processes amongst what seems like an endless to do list of daily dive centre operations is not an easy sell. Luckily Ginette was able to spur the team through this, helping them to see that this good environmental practice is part of their company’s DNA and is what is keeping their dive centre unusually busy even through the depths of low season. Recognising that these actions will benefit the environment as well as the profitability of the business and those working for it, is an important part of initiating change.
It’s hard to negotiate policies such as “strictly no touching marine life”, when some dive guides feel this forms an essential essence of the product they offer to their guest. Today unsustainable practices are still acceptable and in some cases met by praise by seemingly leading voices in marine conservation (for example dive centres receiving publicity by marine science institutions for hand feeding sharks in popular diving destinations on the globe). As any leaders of revolutionary change will say, being the people in the driving seat is not easy. However, strong and positive messages for sustainability being the only accepted norm within the industry are becoming more common. Divers are choosing green services and are willing to pay more and travel further to receive them. The Scuba6Eco team are seeing this first hand with their customers willing to pay extra boat ferry fees to travel to her dive centre over other more accessible ones.
Ginette is making concrete steps towards greening her dive centre. She has talked through the essence of the Green Fins diver best practice with the whole team and introduced a suggestion board for the team to log challenges they are meeting. “I want to raise issues to the staff, but I want them to find a solution” Ginette said. This resonates closely to the Green Fins philosophy as every recommended Green Fins solution, trick, tool and practice has come from working directly with over 500 dive centres over 10 years in eight different Asian countries.
Simple solutions for the safer disposal of oil has been identified in a local vendor selling gas and oil, who collects and recycles used oil. Ginette just needs to develop the protocol within the dive centre to ensure the used oil is collected during maintenance activities, stored safely and handed over to the vendor. By putting the right management controls and protocols in place, these systems can be easily introduced and reliably maintained.
Reducing waste is far better than having to identify safe disposal systems, so Ginette is looking to switch to rechargeable batteries. This represents a significant financial investment so she will look to phase this in over time. Meanwhile she has set up a used battery collection station in the dive centre and will start to ask guests who have access to safe battery disposal systems at home, to take some back with them.
Hopefully by mapping these steps we can show you how anyone can start changing the world. By approaching sustainability in a progressive fashion and identifying realistic steps, not expecting to see change overnight, we are all able to change our ways of life and business for a more sustainable outlook. This needn’t be in anyway a business sacrifice, but instead a unique selling point. Some steps might require small investments, but the proof of return on investment is evident. The industry is changing, jump on board and ensure you’ve got your Green Fins on!
Pick up a copy of the Green Fins Dive and Snorkel Handbook here and take your first step towards Greening your Fins, visit the website for more information or contact the brains behind Green Fins any time at firstname.lastname@example.org