A Traveller’s Guide to Ethical Buenos Aires

Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, is paradise of cultural traditions. Unfortunately, however, Buenos Aires isn’t exactly the greenest city in the world. Despite the fact that the local government is making progress towards a more sustainable city, this is more in baby steps than in strides. There are a few ways for tourists to limit their own impacts and see more of the ‘real’ Buenos Aires.

The most obvious way is to ‘choose ethical’, wherever possible. The Responsible Tourism Network provides travellers with a number of sustainable tourism operators and hotels. Organisations in this network all have to implement and follow a Code of Ethics shared by the network.

Many offer guided tours with a difference to help travellers discover the more sustainable and ethical side of many of the more popular tourism spots. Anda Travel, for example, conducts tours around the famed and very colourful La Boca district, taking travellers away from the tourist precinct of Caminito and introducing them to the ‘other’ side of La Boca.

Guided tours take travellers to meet the people that live and work in the area, to chat with them about politics and life in La Boca and to see some of the fair trade activities that go on in the area.

The Buenos Aires City Council have been implementing fantastic solutions to help turn the city green for the future, but despite these efforts pollution is still a major issue in Buenos Aires. Although it’s not the most polluted city in South America, you can’t help but notice the smog that envelopes the city of Buenos Aires.

If you take a walk around Buenos Aires at night you will also notice the piles of rubbish strewn along the footpaths only to find that if you return in the morning, it’s gone.

There is a noticeable waste problem in this city. Many conscious travellers are horrified to find out there is no waste separation system here. Even though some hotels and hostels do separate recyclables from general waste, chances are it will all be thrown together in the garbage truck that night. The best thing for eco-travellers to do is to limit their waste where possible by reusing plastic bags and disposable containers.

Another thing to bear in mind is that everywhere in South America you need to dispose of toilet paper in the bin, and not in the toilet bowl. This is because the sewerage systems can’t handle paper waste, but also because sewerage and effluent waste is often led straight back into the rivers and waterways.

Aside from the environmental aspect of visiting Buenos Aires, there is an immensely rich cultural and artistic side of the city to discover.

Buy anything your heart desires from local and regional artisans at the ritual Sunday antiques market on Avenida La Defensa in San Telmo. Contrary to the name, traders there sell a lot more than antiques. The road is closed off until  6pm and you can get your hands on locally made arts, crafts, clothing, food, decorations, homewares and souvenirs.

If you want to try something new, absorb the local culture and be ethical at the same time, swap your morning take away coffee for a yerba mate. This pungent tea can be found everywhere in Argentina. It’s not just a drink, it’s a way of life.

Unlike the western culture’s obsession with takeaway coffee that is both expensive and bad for the environment, mate is a ritual that necessitates a hollowed-out gourd that is used and reused and a spoon that doubles as a strainer. Not only is it eco, but also it brings together friends, family and strangers as a social activity.

Then there’s tango. Tango has become a symbol of this city and can be found in every aspect of daily life. Many travellers head to the well-known dinner and dance shows that are held all around town, but in many areas of the city you’ll find couples dancing in the street. Take time to check it out and give what you can. Not only is this type of tango more traditional, but you’ll be helping locals to keep doing something they’re so passionate about.

One Response to “A Traveller’s Guide to Ethical Buenos Aires”
  1. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is fantastic, let alone the content!

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  • Natasha Malinda from Melbourne, Australia
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