Respecting the environment means many things when you are traveling to Antarctica.
First, it means figuring out what to pack! It is summer now in Antarctica, and the Antarctic Peninsula, where we will be, may experience sunny days with highs in the range of 40-50 degrees F, or the weather could be more like a blizzard with freezing temperatures. So, we will be packing lots of layers! And since we will be taking excursions in Zodiacs and Special Operations boats, we have to be prepared for water spray, wind and possible sunburn (really – from the reflection off the water on sunny days). So, more packing – waterproof gloves, goggles, gaitors (not scarves because they blow off in the wind), waterproof phone cases, sunscreen, etc…. And finally, we will need some lighter weight clothes for our stop in Buenos Aires on the way, and for the time we spend onboard the cruise ship. Getting all that into our suitcases will be a challenge!
Respect the environment also means being a responsible visitor to Antarctica. Antarctica is a nearly pristine environment and it is extremely important not to bring any non-native species onto the land. It is recommended that all clothing be washed before packing to ensure no dirt (that may have microbes in it), seeds, insects or other living things are transported into Antarctica. Boots should be cleaned before each visit to shore (the ship has a method for that which they strictly enforce). And while on land, stay to the marked trails and don’t approach the wildlife (our excursion guides will ensure that). And definitely don’t leave any trash behind. In other words, “take only memories, leave only footprints” (Chief Seattle)
(See the Antarctic Folder on the More Information page for the “Don’t Pack a Pest” flier from IAATO)
And finally, think about respect for the environment in a larger context. Decisions we make every day impact our planet, including Antarctica. Remember the ozone hole over Antarctica? It grew because of man-made chemicals, used in refrigeration, were released into the air, and it is now beginning to shrink because that chemical was banned from use. And, sadly, microplastics can now be found in the ocean water around antarctica, carried there by ocean currents from more populated areas. This is a reminder that the day-to-day decisions that we make can have a wide-ranging impact.