Dahab Defender: Dive Urge

Dahab Defenders 3It’s been awhile since we’ve nominated a Dahab Defender, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t out there doing some amazing things. Just that we here at Don’t Mess with Dahab have been a little busy with other projects. Now that summer is here, we hope to have more time to devote to this project. So let’s kick off this summer with our newest Dahab Defender: Dive Urge ~ Dive Resort, Hotel, and Restaurant!

Last week, I had the chance to chat with the owners, English/Egyptian couple Lynne and Helal. We were joined by two of their three children. This is truly a family-run enterprise and each of them is a Dahab Defender in their own right. Together they have created a truly eco-friendly dive center. As Lynne and her son, Samah, gave me a tour of the compound, I was in awe of all the simple yet effective practices that they have put into place to care for the environment.

As Lynne explained, their logo, a hand cradling several starfish, sums up the philosophy that they have built their business on – caring for the sea and surrounding environment. When Dive Urge opened over 15 years ago, Lynne and Helal knew that they wanted to do things differently than other dive centers. The first decision they made was limiting the ratio of divers to guides to 4:1. (Most dive centers do 8:1.) This helps ensure that a guide is able to care for each guest and helps lessen the impact on the marine environment. But they didn’t stop there.

Waste Reduction and Management

Dive Urge sorts their trash – plastic, glass, and metal – for recycling. They provide bins both inside their compound and also along the boardwalk so that people walking by can also use them.

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To cut down on the waste that needs recycling, there is a water dispenser in the central room that all guests pass through. Guests are provided with bottled water but are also strongly encouraged to refill these bottles from the dispenser.

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Besides water bottles, guests are also provided reusable cotton bags for their personal use during their stay. They are encouraged to use these instead of accepting the plastic bags from the shops.

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It’s not just the guests who use cotton bags! The staff at Food Urge, the restaurant, also bring reusable cotton bags with them with they go shopping for veggies. The restaurant also sorts their trash and any appropriate food waste is given to the family goats. Goats eat everything! 😉

Dive Urge also organizes desert safaris and mountain dinners. To reduce the waste produced on these excursions, they have ditched the disposable plastic cups and have switched to providing reusable cups and utensils. Not only is that a lot less trash, the reusable cups don’t get blown away in the wind. That’s important in our very breezy town!

Energy and Water Consumption

Tips for guests on how to be responsible travelers can be found in each room. Guests are encouraged to reduce their energy consumption by turning off the lights and air conditioning when no one is in the room. Management also reserves the right to switch off the A.C. if left on while guests are away. Guests are also encouraged to take short showers, unplug electrical devices that aren’t in use, and to set their air-conditioning to 24 – 27 °.

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To further conserve resources, Dive Urge does not clean and launder the rooms every day. Guests must ask for cleaning services. This saves a lot of energy and water!

The rinse pool at the dive center has recently been made shallower, allowing them to use less water for each rinse. After the equipment has been rinsed, the water is used for the grass in the garden.

On top of all of this, Dive Urge also cleans the sea every time that they dive. The guides will always collect any trash that they can (without it interfering in their guests’ safety). Lynne and her family also clean litter from the beach and the streets on a nearly daily basis. What super role models for new divers and local residents!

Because of their dedication to the environment and the needs of local people, you can now find Dive Urge on ResponsibleTravel.com, an excellent website focused on small holiday companies that give something back to their communities.

It is obvious that Dive Urge does an outstanding job protecting our local environment and teaching others to do the same. Please, if you pass by the dive center, stop in and tell them what a great job they are doing! Share their story with other owners or managers you may know. It might just be the inspiration and ideas that others are looking for.

A very big THANK YOU to Lynne and Helal for all their hard work and dedication!!

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How Refusing Plastic on Tuesday Helps Save our Planet

I’m thrilled that we have Annemieke of Plastic Free Tuesday back for another guest blog! Today she shares the story of why she started her plastic-free Tuesday habit, how it helps the environment, and tips for for joining the Plastic Free Tuesday movement.


A few years ago I stumbled upon a TED video in which plastic-free pioneer Beth Terry tells about her plastic-free life. I was intrigued. During the years that followed I increasingly often read and heard about how plastic kills animals and ruins the planet. After seeing yet another photo series of bird stomachs filled with plastic, I decided to do something about it. Because I strongly believe that “we should be the change you want to see in the world,” my goal was to reduce my own plastic consumption and waste. Like Beth Terry, I decided to document my journey towards less plastic. So, in April 2013 I started writing on my Dutch weblog Plasticminimalism.

Tiny steps towards a smaller plastic footprint

Because at that time I had no idea how much plastic I consumed, I began (again inspired by Beth Terry) with weekly tallies of the plastic our two persons household threw away. I put any plastic waste in a separate garbage bag. Every week I took the big black garbage bag with plastic waste, turned it upside down and divided it into categories such as veggies, legumes, and nuts. I would then take pictures of each category, identify key problem areas, and decide which product or category to tackle in the week ahead.

During the week I would try find plastic-free alternatives for each and every product or product group. For example, my goals after the first tally included using reusable bags for all my veggies and fruits as well as buying bananas at the organic supermarket rather than at the mainstream grocery store. Over the course of ten months all these small steps contributed to a great reduction of our plastic footprint. I believe that key to my success was that I only took a little step at a time. Only when I felt that I had created a new habit, I would plan the next step.

Plastic-Free Tuesday = one day no plastic consumption, no plastic waste

Over the course of ten months all these small steps contributed to a great reduction of our plastic footprint. We barely bought or threw away any plastic. Nonetheless, news about plastic pollution kept appearing on television and in the newspapers. I started wondering how I could get more people aware of the problem of plastic pollution.

Suddenly, the concept of Plastic-Free Tuesday came to my mind. Inspired by the success of Meatless Monday, I thought this would be an easy way for people to test what it is like to skip plastic. I discussed the idea with some close friends and then launched the concept on my Dutch blog. Soon my close friend Marlies joined, and in the following months, Gerda and others got on board too.

On Plastic-Free Tuesday we skip plastic to reduce our plastic footprint. That means we don’t buy anything that is made of plastic or contains plastic. We also don’t use anything made of plastic that we have to throw away after using it. So no bananas wrapped in plastic, no plastic bags, no take-away coffee in plastic cups, and so on.

Tips for your first Plastic-Free Tuesday

Before you go for a Tuesday without buying or throwing away any plastic, I would highly recommend to first document the plastic you use throughout a Tuesday. Collect all the plastic you buy or throw away during the day and take pictures of it. If you have a camera on your telephone you could easily take pictures throughout the day, for example of that plastic wrapping around the sandwich you bought for lunch (and the plastic bag you got with it!). You will be surprised how much plastic waste you create. This will definitely be an eye-opener. It will also help you plan your first Plastic-Free Tuesday. Here are five tips to get you started.

Make sure to never leave the house without extra bag(s). I have a couple of shopping bags hanging next to the door. This works fine for me. I always carry a few wherever I go. Other people put an extra bag in their purse, backpack, or in the car.

Get some reusable bags for veggies and fruit. Countless small plastic bags are used for fresh produce. Put your items in your own bags. Stick the price tag on the bag. If you buy only one or two items, simply put the price tag straight on the products. No bags needed! My favorite are Re-Sacks, but you can also try find a local alternative or make your own.

Think beyond the regular grocery stores. Those are filled with plastic. Once you pay attention, you will be amazed by the amounts of plastic in your supermarket. For more plastic-free options, check out local markets and specialized stores such as tea shops and bakeries.

#BringYourOwn bottle, jar, or mug for water, coffee, and tea. For health and environmental reasons, choose one made of glass or stainless steel. A budget option is to reuse a glass bottle you got at the grocery store (for example those for fresh juice or pasta sauce). Living plastic-free doesn’t have to be expensive.

Be creative. Forgot your bag? No problem. Ask for or look for an empty cardboard box to put your products in. Or just simply carry the items in your hands. If you do shopping by car, put the items back in the shopping cart and unload it straight into your car.

Yes, you can make a difference!

While some argue that on a global scale, this won’t make any difference, I strongly disagree. First of all, this argument does not make sense if you reflect on the core of our plastic problem. Where does the plastic come from? How come birds are building nests made of plastic? How did the plastic get into the living environment of the bird in the first place?

Exactly. It’s because you and me are supporting the use of unnecessary plastic in our society by constantly accepting and buying it and then disposing of it. If you and me would not buy any plastic, there would not be any (or at least a lot less) plastic.

Secondly, you are not alone! Over the course of the past year or so, people around me noticed my plastic behavior and started to change their behavior too. Amongst the first to do so were my husband, family, and friends. And in turn, they too inspire others to change habits and are creating awareness about the plastic problem.

So please join us next Plastic-Free Tuesday! Living with less plastic isn’t as daunting as it may sound. Take small steps at a time. For example, start #BringYourOwnBag on your first Plastic-Free Tuesday. Once you’re used to doing that, get yourself a reusable water bottle. And so on.

Small steps matter. Together we can make a difference. Please share your plastic-free story on social media using #PlasticFreeTuesday. For more tips and inspiration, visit our website, like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter or Instagram and join the conversation!

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How to clean your kitchen plastic-free

To kick off our discussion on REDUCING the amount of plastic waste from household cleaning and personal care products, we have a guest blogger! It is an honor to have Annemieke, founder of Plastic Free Tuesday, discuss her 6 plastic-free kitchen cleaning tips here on Don’t Mess with Dahab.


Since the launch of Plastic-Free Tuesday, a campaign to create awareness about plastic pollution and reduce our plastic footprint, I have been experimenting with plastic-free tools to clean my kitchen. I am so happy to share my findings with you today. Taking small steps, together we can make a big difference and help stop the plastic waste stream. Should you have other plastic-free cleaning tips, please share!

Sustainable, rubber household gloves

My hands easily become very dry and itchy. Water is one of the culprits. Therefore, a couple of months ago I started to use household gloves. It makes a world of a difference! I no longer have dry hands. They look and feel so much better now.

Unfortunately, household gloves are almost always packed in plastic and made of plastic. Watertight household gloves are usually made of vinyl or latex. Vinyl is a kind of plastic. Latex can be either natural or synthetic.

The production process of both synthetic and natural latex gloves includes chemicals to process and dye the material. It is unclear to me exactly what chemicals are being used, but they might not necessarily be healthy for me or our planet. Moreover, latex sourced from rubber plantations is a source of deforestation and loss of biodiversity.

Thankfully, there are sustainable household gloves on the market. If You Care produces gloves made of FSC certified latex. These gloves are available through Amazon. Ideally, you would buy these or other household gloves locally. If you can’t find them in your area, ask your local sustainable shop to start selling them. If you order the gloves online, make sure to request reused packaging material and zero plastic.

Wooden dish brush with replaceable head

The best plastic-free dish brush is one made of wood and plant-based fibers, has a replaceable head, and is sold without packaging. While you would normally ditch the entire brush in the waste bin, once it is time to buy a new brush, you only need to replace the head. Saves a lot of waste, especially if you cook frequently and thus generate a lot of dirty dishes.

The most durable brush of this kind, I found in a home decoration & kitchen store that sells most of its products without packaging. It’s heaven for those into cooking and plastic-free living. The organic supermarket in the city we previously lived in also sells this kind of dish brush, but I found the quality inferior.

Dish brush

At the moment, I live in Beijing, China. Here it was hard to find a plastic-free dish brush. At some point, my sister (who also lived here) bought one for me from a salesman downtown. Unfortunately, the brush wasn’t of such good quality… it fell apart… so it ended up in the waste bin way too early.

Plastic free cleaning and other tools II

Baking soda and vinegar as dish detergent

Some plastic-free bloggers make their own dish wash detergent. These recipes commonly include so called Marseille soap or household soap. However, here in Beijing I haven’t seen any healthy, plastic-free soap here. By healthy I mean a soap that does not include harmful chemicals.

Instead of making my own dish detergent, I simply use baking soda and vinegar. Unfortunately, Chinese supermarkets only sell baking soda in plastic bags, so I buy imported baking soda in cardboard boxes. Vinegar is easy to find and cheap. Any supermarket sells it. I usually buy vinegar with a high acid content.

To save dish wash detergent, it is crucial to fill bowl, pots, and pans right after usage. So right after cooking, I transfer the food to our plates and then fill the pots with warm water. This way dish washing becomes a lot easier.

To dish wash, I simply spread some baking soda in an empty (no water!) pot or bowl and then use my brush to scrub the item clean. For products made of glass, I pour a few drops of vinegar on the item and them use my brush to clean it. After brushing, I rinse the item and let them dry on the kitchen desk.

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Dishcloth made of organic cotton

Disposable dish wipes might be convenient but are an environmental disaster. They not only come in plastic packaging, but also generate a lot of completely unnecessary waste. Instead, I opt for a washable dishcloth made of organic cotton that comes without packaging. When I still lived in the Netherlands, I found some of these at the same decoration & kitchen stuff store where I bought my dish brush.

Here in China, I haven’t been able to find dishcloths that are not packed in plastic, let alone dishcloths made of organic cotton. So, here in Beijing, I use some small towels as dishcloth.

Vinegar as cleaning detergent

We haven’t bought cleaning detergent for ages. Instead of buying cleaning detergent in a plastic bottle at the supermarket, I use vinegar. I just pour some vinegar on a dishcloth and use this to wipe the stove and kitchen countertop. Vinegar excels in removing grease stains. Fantastic tool after baking pancakes or cooking Chinese food.

Vinegar + baking soda for a hygienic cutting board

Some foods, for example garlic or onion, leave your cutting board smelling after usage. Other foods such as meat leave behind potentially dangerous bacteria. In order to erase any odor and bacteria, I spread some baking soda on the cutting board. I then pour some vinegar on it. What follows is a chemical reaction with bubbles and a sizzling sound. After a few minutes, the chemical reaction is finished. I then brush the cutting board clean and rinse with warm water. The result is a clean and hygienic cutting board, ready for the next meal.


Many thanks to Annemieke and Plastic Free Tuesday for all their hard work in spreading awareness and practical tips regarding plastic! Be sure to check their site for more great info and inspiration:

Plastic Free Tuesday

Website: http://plasticfreetuesday.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PlasticFreeTuesday

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PlasticFreeTues

Tips on Reducing Plastic at the Supermarket

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Lately, I’ve been blogging mostly about how to REDUCE plastic when shopping for food at supermarkets and green grocers. Here’s a quick summary of tips:

And if all else fails,

    • BUY THE LARGEST PACKAGE AVAILABLE. Skip the individual size packages. Instead buy the largest box or bottle possible. This cuts down on the amount of plastic needed for each product.

I will continue to share tips and practical advice on shopping for food with less plastic. I will also start to discuss how we can reduce the plastic involved with household cleaning and self-care products so visit again soon!

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Trash Bucket Challenge

trash bucket challenge

Have you heard of the recent Ice Bucket Challenge? Well, a man in Hawaii is trying to start a spinoff  – the Trash Bucket Challenge. (Watch his video here.) He says, “The issue we wanted to bring light to is the ridiculous amount of trash that litter our beaches as a result of the world’s overuse of plastic.” (Read more here.)

The challenge is simply to collect a bucket (or bag) of trash from a public area, dispose of it, and challenge others to do the same. I’m not usually into these types of social media activities, but I’m all for raising awareness about the amount of waste we produce and thought this might be a fun way to get some rubbish off our streets and beaches. It’s too hot these days for big clean-up events, but it doesn’t take long to fill a bucket with trash so if enough of us accept the challenge, it will be like a big beach clean-up! Only we won’t get heat stroke.

So to get us started, I cleaned the street I live on. I did sort the recyclables (plastic bottles) out. I am sharing a photo instead of a video, well, because it’s just easier and faster. I pass the challenge on to all Dahabians! I also passed it on to some individual friends on Facebook. Who will you nominate?

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Dahab Defender: Eid Al Atrash

Dahab Defenders 3

It’s time to finally kick off our Dahab Defender project! If you missed the first post about this project, you can visit this page for more information, but basically we are thanking and cheering on individuals and businesses who are working toward reducing waste here in Dahab.

The first person I have chosen to dub a “Dahab Defender” is Eid Al Atrash, owner and manager of Bedouin History Desert Safari tour company which offers camel, trekking, and jeep safaris throughout the region. Eid’s passions include slow food, nature, the environment, and his traditional Bedouin culture. He is from Ras Sudr and for the past several years that is where he has been based. But Eid has a long history and a deep connection to Dahab, having lived and worked here for several of the past 25 years. 

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Eid Al Atrash

Earlier this year when Eid was visiting Dahab, I mentioned to him that I wanted to organize an event to clean up a part of the coast. Not only did Eid agree that this was a much-needed action, he volunteered to help organize and sponsor the clean-up event, which we had decided would take place in less than 5 days, on January 25th. Eid arranged the transport to an area south of Dahab in Nabq Protected Area, provided snacks and refreshments for everyone who participated, and organized the pick-up of all the trash we had collected. He also ensured the plastic trash would be recycled by finding a man who would bring the trash to Sharm el Sheikh, where it was purchased by traders in recyclable items. All of this for a town that he no longer calls home.

Here are a few photos from our first Coastal Clean-Up:

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And so, Eid’s dedication to Dahab and passion for a cleaner environment make him our very first Dahab Defender! We thank him for all of his support in our first clean-up event and we look forward to our next one. 🙂

Bedouin History Desert Safari

Website: https://bedouinhistory.com

Blog: http://bedouinhistorydesertsafari.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BedouinHistory

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BedouinHistory

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle