When it comes to travel — especially when visiting national parks, outdoor attractions, and places that are known for their natural beauty — many of us are familiar with and adhere to the old adage “Leave the Earth as you found it”. But when it comes to spending time in your hotel room or dining out, there are plenty of ways to be an environmentally responsible traveller that we might not consider. It only takes small changes to get big results!

We sat down with Ayers Rock Resort’s Environmental Officer, Linda Harper, to talk about ideas for traveling sustainably during your next vacation. Here are her top tips.

 

Choose reusable items when you can

“When you come to remote areas like Uluru, it’s important to be really mindful of the waste you are generating — especially if it is waste that can be avoided,” Linda says. “When you buy/bring single use plastic items and put them in the general waste bin out here those items will still be here long after you leave.”

Ayers Rock Resort and Yulara are making efforts to reduce the amount of single-use plastics at the local IGA supermarket. Resort restaurants no longer carry plastic straws, and compostable cutlery and lunch packs are now in use.

 

Bringing a reusable water bottle and reusable tote bags is recommended. These items are small, lightweight, and will get a lot of use during your time in the Outback. There are water bottle refill stations located throughout the resort, so guests don’t need to rely on purchasing single-use bottles.

Recycling is a great alternative to throwing away waste — but, as Linda points out, “many remote locations don’t have the facilities that big cities do. If you have things that you know can be recycled elsewhere, take them with you and recycle them properly.”

In 2019, Ayers Rock Resort and the surrounding communities recycled an impressive 400+ tonnes of materials. Currently, residents can recycle plastic, glass, aluminum, and cardboard — materials which are all collected and then freighted out of the area. The resort also recycles cooking oil, e-waste, lead acid batteries, LPG cylinders, and hydrocarbon waste through various companies.

A community recycling programme was recently launched, where hard to recycle items are collected (razors, coffee pods, oral care products, and air fresheners) and used to raise money for community projects.

 

Be mindful of hotel room energy use

One of the easiest things travellers can do to conserve natural resources is to reuse their towels, which reduces the amount of water that is being used for laundry. The same goes for bedding — you likely don’t change your sheets at home each night, so consider skipping a night during your vacation, too.

“Turn off the lights and air conditioners when you’re not in the room and unplug your appliances when you’re not using them,” Linda recommends, noting that keeping computers and electronics plugged in uses up valuable energy.

Linda also suggests keeping doors and windows closed when the hotel air conditioning is running. “Some hotel rooms even have sensors, like our rooms at Desert Gardens Hotel, that switch off the air conditioning if the door is open,” she says.

Up to 30% of the energy at Ayers Rock Resort can be powered by the Tjintu solar field during peak times. Tjintu means ‘sun’ in local Pitjantjatjara language — a fitting name for a solar field located in what is considered one of the world’s best solar energy locations.

 

Respect the landscape

When visiting Ayers Rock Resort, Linda says, “One really important thing guests can do is stay on the designated tracks. It’s estimated the sand dunes in the Central Desert have been in the same positions for 30,000 years. The vegetation that holds the dunes together is incredibly fragile, and consistent trampling of the plants and soil leads to a reduction in vegetation cover and this leads to erosion, as well as destroying the homes and shelters of animals that live on the dunes such as the spinifex hopping mouse.”

 

Paths around the resort and around Uluru are well marked, but if you’re in doubt about which areas are off-limits, sign up for a guided tour or simply ask one of the resort staff for clarification. An ongoing project is creating more trails to explore around Ayers Rock Resort, which will help to educate guests even more about the incredible environment surrounding the resort.

“An awareness of the unique and fragile environment will give guests the knowledge and capacity to help us protect our environment. This will also be created with Indigenous voices at the forefront,” Linda adds.

 

Other Initiatives at Ayers Rock Resort

Two EV chargers have been installed at the resort — and yes, electric cars can make it all the way to the centre of Australia! “We’ll now be looking at adding some electric additions to our own fleet,” Linda says.

The resort’s central landscaping team is focused on using local native plants around the resort. This process starts from collecting the seeds of native plant species in the area and cultivating these in the resort gardens. The real jobs team from Mutitjulu are a part of this initiative as well. “This work is really beneficial because we’re providing food and shelter for native animals, we’re reducing carbon emissions by not freighting in plants or seeds, and we aren't introducing new species to the area,” Linda explains.

On the topic of native species, the resort has introduced a successful pest control program to reduce the numbers of rabbits and cats, which are considered threats to native animals and vegetation, as well as causing harmful erosion when their numbers are too plentiful. “I think the massive reduction in these two pests from the area has taken a lot of stress off our native marsupials and reptiles and given the threatened species in the region a chance to thrive,” Linda says.

To learn more about environmental initiatives at Ayers Rock Resort, please visit our Sustainability section, and don’t forget to sign up for our e-newsletter to stay in the loop!