1. No plastic water bottles please: it is best to bring a refillable, so at each hostel you ask for a refill. Most hostels will charge you for a refill, which costs less than buying new plastic water bottles.
2. Leave no trace: Do not throw away bottles and any kind of waste along the trails. Bring any waste with you and throw it away at the bins at your hostel. Some eco-friendly places will ask you to separate your waste.
3. Biodegradable toiletries: for the hike, bring planet safe soaps and detergents with you, as well as eco-friendly sun creams.
4. Contract a guide or a tour: Many people on the Quilotoa Loop live in extreme poverty, and for many of them life is very tough. This is a paradise for trekkers, but for the local population, it is home. You can support the locals in many ways – contract a local guide for your hike, rent a mountain bike, or take a horse-riding trip or a community tour! By contracting these services, you are directly contributing!
5. Buy a souvenir: Another great way to support the locals. Buy a soap or candle at the Mama Quilla shop, a wooden box at the Don Bosco wood workshop, a cheese at the cheese factory, or a beautiful scarf at the market! You are motivating and stimulating the people who make all these things!
6. Look for accommodations with responsible tourism practices: Look for accommodations with fairly paid local employment, clear environmental goals, and deep seated cultural engagement. Search for hostels with waste management, composting toilets, and investments in the community. This way you make sure your trip is going to have a positive impact!
7. Bring a donation: If you want to give, then it’s best to not give money but bring a donation. You can bring crayons, coloring books, notebooks and pens to the children along the trail, or you can organize a donation directly at one of the schools. Another option is to give to a respected charity in Ecuador.
8. Don’t go for budget: If your trip was very cheap, it is likely that the locals are bearing the brunt of your budget tour, and are being paid less than they should. It’s ok to ask for a discount, but don’t push too hard, locals will all too quickly drop prizes to even just gain something for the day. Guides, staff in accommodations, and people on the trails are all people – pay them well, chat with them, engage with them, sing songs with them and don’t patronize them!