Biosphere Expeditions was founded in 1999 and to celebrate its 20th anniversary has created these 20 tips for 20 years. 

In our first 20 years we were focused on citizen science and wildlife conservation (see our 20 year anniversary magazine). We will continue with this focus, but this, we feel, is no longer enough. The undeniable crisis our planet is in demands more action and activism. It demands a radical rethink of how we run our lives, societies and the way we treat our planet.

Below are some tips on how - from the light green of what we should all do as a bare minimum, to the dark green rejection of neoliberalism and the fallacy of endless growth to joing the revolution that is gathering pace as we speak.

Because sitting on our hands is simply not an option any more. We have a duty to act if we want to be able to look our grandchildren in the eye. On our 20th anniversary, we joined the revolution and we are becoming more activist for the sake of our planet. Join us now!

CATEGORY 1 - LIGHT GREEN

This is what we should all know and do, because it’s easy, does not cost much (or actually saves money) and is better for the planet.

Western societies and their food suppliers in particular waste an astonishing amount of perfectly good food (up to a third!). Try to minimise food waste at home and do not fall prey to “best before” rip-offs, which are aggressively promoted by the food industry to increase sales and profits. Also, reduce your meat intake drastically or go vegetarian for a few days a week (or completely). There’s a host of reasons why – health, climate change, carbon footprint, world hunger, compassion for animals, etc. Or go entirely plant-based (vegan) – with a few precautions, this can be even healthier, more compassionate for animals and better for the planet. Finally, eating regional and seasonal food is healthy, kind to your budget and kinder to the planet through reducing supply chains and carbon footprint. It’s a no-brainer.

No 1 - food

What Biosphere Expeditions does:  All our expeditions are vegetarian, as are events and other things we organise as an NGO. We buy almost exclusively regional and seasonal food on our expeditions in order to support local economies and reduce our impact. We do the same at our events.

There are many ways to do this; most of them are easy and much of this is about creating new habits that are kinder to the planet (and your budget).

No 2 - energy

What Biosphere Expeditions does: On our expeditions and administrative locations, we have strict energy saving policies and regimes.

Just like saving energy, this is about changing habits and there are hundreds of tips available online.

No 3 - water (picture courtesy of Noel van Bemmel)

What Biosphere Expeditions does: Just like with energy, our expeditions and administrative locations have water saving policies and regimes.

Many cleaning products contain chemicals that are extremely harmful to the environment and its inhabitants, including humans. Eco-friendly cleaning products are an easy alternative and solution.

No 4 - cleaning products

What Biosphere Expeditions does: We work hard to purchase eco-friendly cleaning products wherever they are available and encourage our partners (e.g. expedition accommodation and assembly points) to do the same.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has created Skin Deep, a searchable online database of cosmetics and personal care products where you can check your sunscreen, shampoo, deodorant, shaving cream and more for toxic ingredients.

No 5 - personal hygiene products

What Biosphere Expeditions does: We encourage expedition participants (and staff) to bring only eco-friendly/biodegradable personal hygiene products on expedition.

The Independent (a UK broadsheet newspaper) has called bottled water one of the “biggest scams of the century”. Just don’t do it in regions where tap water is a perfectly safe alternative. Buy a non-plastic refillable container instead.

No 5 - bottled water

What Biosphere Expeditions does: Bottled water is a big no-no on expedition. Where local water is not safe to drink, we use large, re-usable containers instead wherever possible.

The billions of disposable coffee cups thrown away each year are a waste of resources and harm forests in particular. Say no to the throwaway culture and switch to reusable coffee cups instead.

No 7 - disposable cups

What Biosphere Expeditions does: We simply don’t use throwaway cups.

The environmental impact of paper is significant. At the same time it’s easy to reduce paper use.

No 8 - printing

What Biosphere Expeditions does: We have gone largely paper-free in our administration; on expedition we do use more paper (datasheets, field guides, safety information, etc.), but we minimise this and recycle wherever possible.

Your local area administration will have details on its recycling scheme. Use it and make doubly sure you don’t just throw away toxic household waste such as batteries, paints, oils, etc., but dispose of them properly.

No 9 - recycle

What Biosphere Expeditions does: Our administration locations are on full recycling schemes; on expedition we use whatever recycling scheme is available locally and take home with us the most toxic waste (batteries etc.) to be disposed of properly there.

Biodiversity is under threat like never before, populations of insects, birds and other species are collapsing at unprecedented rates, a UN report from May 2019 talks of unprecedented decline with species extinctions increasing. There is no doubt that our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals - the sixth wave of extinction in the past half-billion years. It may all sound like doom and gloom, and it is serious, but there are things you can do in your backyard to stem the tide and create a garden for native biodiversity. Leave lawns uncut and allow native plants to populate areas of your garden – weeds are only a matter of definition! Give them and other native plants a home and allow your garden to go wild. Nature conservation really does begin in your backyard!

No 10 - biodiverse gardens

What Biosphere Expeditions does: We tackle the problem from the other end, by not having centralised office space, which needs buildings that destroy green spaces. Instead we work with existing business centres around the world and run a highly decentralised operation with people working from home (or in the field) for the overwhelming majority of their time. We encourage staff and partners to create as many green spaces as possible and educate them about biodiversity gardening.

CATEGORY 2 – GREEN

This category is a darker shade of green. It requires more of an effort, but not much more. It is really what we should all do. It is where changing unsustainable habits of a lifetime starts and where we can turn the tide, because many small actions can add up to a movement. Take these as your first steps towards what comes next: being dark green (see points 18-20). Because really, that’s where we all need to be if our planet is to make it through its current crisis.

The more that protected areas are used, the bigger the incentive for governments and individuals to work to keep them intact. And joining organisations that care for wilderness, will give them money, motivation and a voice to talk to government – a membership organisation with one million (the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the UK is one example) will be listened to by politicians who want to stay in power. The more people we have supporting nature conservation organisations, the better.

No 11 - protected areas

What Biosphere Expeditions does: We work with nature conservation organisations around the world and we help to create protected areas and empower local people and organisations to care for them.

Whether it is a local litter pick or helping the local school with a bit of wildlife gardening, your help will be much appreciated. And if you can’t do the more physical tasks, try offering to help with tasks that you have skills in, such as talking to people at local shows or writing articles or distributing leaflets.

No 12 - volunteer

What Biosphere Expeditions does: We are one of those organisations, but there are many, many more organisations out there that need, deserve and will appreciate your support too.

Help out with conservation work without leaving your own home. The Zooniverse website is a great place to start. Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for citizen science, people-powered research. The research is made possible by volunteers — by now over a million people around the world who come together to assist professional researchers with great success. Their goal is to enable research that would not be possible, or practical, otherwise, and they have many different types of research that you can help with. Many projects have produced unique scientific results, ranging from individual discoveries to classifications that rely on input from thousands of volunteers. Click on the ‘Nature’ projects to get a sample of the wildlife research that you can get involved with.

No 13 - armchair citizen science

What Biosphere Expedition does: Citizen science is also what we are all about, but ours is on the more active, hands-on side of the spectrum (although we have some home-based projects too). The whole spectrum is important and armchair citizen science, when done well, is just as valid as expeditions in remote and challenging locations.

There is a host of citizen science apps to make records of things that you see in nature when you are out and about. A lot of conservation organisations now produce their own apps to help monitor a variety of species. The apps usually walk you through how the survey process and how to identify different types of animals, so you can learn as you go. Some good examples from the UK are Mammal Tracker and Bee Count, but there are many available. And of course apps extend well beyond nature monitoring. For example, citizen activism through air quality monitoring apps has helped tackle air pollution across Europe. So there is much for you to get involved in!

No 14 - citizen science apps

What Biosphere Expeditions does: See point 13 above.

Volunteer at your local nature park or reserve and help support organisations that look after our wild places. Many organisations will train volunteers to undertake physical work such as scrub removal or tree planting, as well as organising surveys of different species, so go along to your local nature organisations and see if you can take part in some invasive plant removal or a butterfly survey, or help count frogs, birds or a myriad of other species.

No 15 - volunteer

What Biosphere Expeditions does: Just that, only in more remote and challenging places abroad.

Combining conservation with your holiday is a growing trend. Combining some time away from work or domestic chores with a great outdoors experience is good for our mental health as well as the environment. NGOs such as Blue Ventures, Operation Wallacea and Biosphere Expeditions organise trips to many places around the world in support of scientists working in remote and challenging places so that you can work alongside them and help them out in the field. Remember not to fly, if at all possible, or, if you have to, make your flight really count!

No 16 - holiday with a purpose

What Biosphere Expeditions does: Combining citizen science, wildlife conservation and a different kind of holiday is the bread and butter of what we do. There are also many other organisations offering these kinds of experiences. But be aware that there are lots of charlatans amongst them, so check out our Top Ten Tips on how to choose an experience that’s great for you and for the planet.

Just search the internet for “sixth extinction” or “climate change” or “planetary crisis”. Much is being written about this at the moment – and for good reason. It’s good that the world is waking up to what is happening and you can be amongst those spreading the word, often in informal ways. So arm yourself with facts about the current state of nature and the most effective ways that people can help.

No 17 - planetary crisis

What Biosphere Expeditions does: We are part of this process and on our 20th anniversary have added activism, such as this campaign, to what we do for nature. In our first 20 years we were focused on citizen science and wildlife conservation. This is no longer enough, because the undeniable crisis our planet is in demands more action and activism. It demands a radical rethink of how we run our lives, societies and the way we treat our planet.

CATEGORY 3 – DARK GREEN

The sixth extinction, climate breakdown and general crisis our planet is going through are serious, threatening nature and our lives as we know them today. So we must be serious too and this category demands commitment. And indeed, we need nothing short of a revolution if we are to come out of this intact as the human stewards of our planet. It may seem like a long shot now, but remember that things always seem unchangeable right up to the moment when a revolution starts and society flips from one state to the next. With this dark green category, you are putting yourself on the right side of history and you will have an answer when the next generation asks you what you did to prevent our planet from sliding into disaster.

Human demands on the earth are now well beyond unsustainable. It is estimated that by 2030 (and this is not far away) the world will need 30 percent more water, 40 percent more energy and 50 percent more food if it continues on its current trajectory. This is disastrous and things will need to change, especially in our western world of high impact and consumerism. Focusing on your personal carbon footprint is a good place to start. Use one of the many calculators (e.g. WWF, Carbon Footprint, C2ES, Earth Day) and, most importantly, act on their recommendations on how to reduce your footprint. Walk and cycle more, use public transport, become vegetarian or vegan, only use aeroplanes when you have to (and when you do, make your flights count), take offset action, etc. Be mindful of your actions and research what you personally can do to reduce your footprint.

No 18 - carbon footprint

What Biosphere Expeditions does: We have strict procedures to minimise our carbon footprint and offset what is left with Climate Care. We encourage our staff, expeditioners and partners to do the same. We make them aware of the concept of carbon footprint too and take action ourselves. Our expeditions are now all vegetarian too.

You might not even know what neoliberalism is, but it is the elephant in the room. Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. This ideology has failed us and the planet and has given rise to destructive corporate power. It is the largest Ponzi scheme in Earth’s history and no longer fit for purpose. It is connected to the irrational and irresponsible idea that we can have endless growth on a finite planet – in fact it needs this impossible fantasy to keep it alive. Reject it! Reject it in favour of doughnut economics, whereby social and ecological factors are equally respected. At the moment, one (social progress such as better health, jobs, and education) is built on the sacrifice of the other (ecological systems). With doughnut economics the two can thrive together. Elect politicians who support doughnut economics, buy from firms who build the concept into their business strategies and support campaigns that promote human welfare within planetary limits. Arm yourself with facts and be an activist in educating people about destructive neoliberalism and its healthier alternatives.

No 19 - doughnut economics

What Biosphere Expeditions does: We reject neoliberalism in our economic policy and act accordingly. We reject continuous growth and in the end we want to make ourselves redundant by empowering local people and communities. We educate those around us through campaigns like this.

It has been argued that only rebellion will prevent ecological collapse, and we tend to agree. So get politically active! Tell your politicians and leaders what you think and ask them to do more of the things you care about. Join revolutionary organisations such as Extinction Rebellion, Eradicating Ecocide, Client Earth and Fridays for Future, because facts about our ecological crisis are incontrovertible and sitting on our hands is simply no longer good enough. We have a duty to act to save our planet from sliding into destruction and if we want to be able to look our grandchildren in the eye.

No 20 - rebellion

What Biosphere Expeditions does: On our 20th anniversary, we joined the revolution and we are taking action, because our planet needs all the help it can get. Join us now!