I’ve travelled a lot in my time. Maybe not as much as travel bloggers but definitely more than your average Joe. And I’ve been to a few places that can truly be called unique, like the Western Steppes of Mongolia. Places like Mongolia aren’t frequented the way places like New York, Rome, or London are – and you can tell. The air is clearer, the landscape unmarked, the atmosphere quiet. The way the world is going, all places will eventually be overrun. Perhaps a slightly depressing thought.
But it’s a thought we should have. We should be thinking about it now, while we can do our bit to help the environment recover from our existence. Sounds a bit bleak, but I don’t mean it to be.
I don’t for one second think that we should stop exploring. Stop seeing the world, stop venturing to new places as a society. But I do think we can do better. That’s one thing about Rabbie’s that I appreciated and respected when I decided to join the company.
They call it their ‘We Care About There’ initiative.
Yes, you can argue that we’re taking tourists to frequented destinations. Yes, you can argue that we use buses to get there.
But we also take our travelers to those lesser-known spots. We aim to drive support to the local economies that we visit, by bringing ourselves and passengers to their doorsteps. We use small mini-coaches to reduce the amount of pollution we input into the air. We donate, volunteer, and do as much as possible to ensure the places we love are there for future generations to enjoy.
One thing I love about Rabbie’s is that, while the company of course uses fuel in order to see our adventures come to life, they do their best to make up for it. Rabbie’s taxes themselves £10 for every tonne of carbon they use. That money is then distributed to various communities and environmental projects every year. And since 2008, they’ve raised over £120,000.
So, when I joined the company last year, I was on board (pardon the pun) with this mindset. Rabbie’s runs regular volunteering opportunities, and I knew immediately it was something I wanted to partake in. The latest of which I’m going to tell you about now.
It involves the Isle of Skye, a bag of goo, several heavy rocks, and a whole lot of extreme Scottish weather.
Early one Tuesday morning, I joined a group of my fellow Rabbie’s colleagues on an expedition to the Isle of Skye. Rabbie’s offers its employees paid volunteer days each year, to encourage us to give back to the communities where our small-group tours visit.
The drive to Skye is a pretty long one from Edinburgh, so we broke up the journey with lots of little stops, each time grabbing our litter pickers and hunting for rubbish by the side of the road. I found it an oddly satisfying experience and kind of want to do it on every road trip from now on. We stopped at this gorgeous place called Patak Falls in Strathmashie and were gifted with wild woodlands and a stunning waterfall as we hunted for rubbish.
In a way, it became a game of sorts. How much rubbish could we each find? And who would find the strangest thing? I found a shoe. Just one. Where the other one is, I’ll never know. It may haunt me forever.
We found a bag of goo. It was so heavy; it took two of us to pick it up. What exactly was the substance? Perhaps it was harmless. Perhaps it was radioactive and one touch to the skin would have transformed me into a superhero. I’d rather not find out for sure.
Mostly it was tissues, bottles, cans, and chip packets. Goes to show that there are still many people out there who don’t take care with their rubbish.
Then we reached Skye and had two days working with Staffin Trust out by Lealt Falls. Who are Staffin Community Trust? They’re a charity with the objective to improve the region's economic opportunities and services, as well as energise social and cultural activities. It’s run by Staffin residents who voluntarily give up their own time to attend meetings and lead projects which are key to the health of the region.
We love what they do, so each year for the past few years, we’ve mucked in with them. Some of our staff volunteer to spend a few days helping Staffin with their current projects.
"I don’t think most visitors know who establishes and maintains rural and remote paths. Most have been put in place by public agencies or community trusts with one-off funding, with no budget set aside for future maintenance. This ends up being left to community groups and volunteers to look after.
Skye has always been a popular visitor destination, but following the increased use of social media from around 2012 to present day we have seen footfall at our popular sites increase by over 500%. So the pressures on our paths, habitat and landscape has grown significantly.
Having a regular commitment from Rabbie's to Staffin Community Trust to undertake some path maintenance work really helps us to repair some of that erosion and reinforce the paths for the coming seasons."
- Mark Crowe (Outdoor Access Officer, Highland Council)
Back in 2016, our partnership began. Together we upgraded the path at the Quiraing by doubling its surface width and adding additional material. Large boulders were then used to line the edge and increase its durability.
That reflects the work we did this past week at Lealt Falls. Due to tourism footfall and wild weather, the paths around Lealt Falls have been worn away. We spent a few days hauling wheelbarrow-loads of gravel back and forth to build up the paths. Many rocks were lifted. Water drains were cleared of muck and new ones were added along the paths to direct waterflow away from the areas where tourists mainly traverse.
Hard work, to be sure, but it’s good, honest work. It felt great to be outside, helping repair some of the damage done by humans. Of course, we took a wee break to clamber down the side of the cliff to see the waterfall in all its glory.
If this resonates with you, then to that I say welcome, friend. Think about it: if we all did our part, just a tiny little bit, imagine how much easier it could be.
If I was Queen of the World (not sure if this would be a good or bad job), I would make it so that every single person on the planet had one dedicated day a year where they were required to clean up their local area. It would be a paid annual leave day from work, and all you’d have to do is clean up the area around your house. The local suburb.
With eight billion people on the planet, can you imagine how much easier that would be than allowing the trash to simply float on by?
Back home in Australia, I have a favourite beach called Jimmy’s Beach. My family and I holiday there multiple times a year. And every day we walk that stretch of sand, once if not twice. Each time I walk on that beach, I take a reusable bag and I pick up every bit of trash I can see. It’s not hard. It doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the walk. In fact, it becomes a game of sorts. Could be a good one to play with kids, I imagine.
What if we all did this? That’s all I’m saying. There are plenty of ways you can help your environment, and places like Skye. Check out our blog on it here.
No single person, no single company, can do it all. But if we all just did something to help the environment, I can only imagine the power that might hold and the results it could yield.
Bronwyn lives and breathes words. Before coming to work at Rabbie's, she spent 7 years in publishing and is a published author of YA fantasy books. Born and raised in Sydney, she was drawn to Scotland and affectionately calls it her 'soul home'. An avid traveller herself, Bronwyn's favourite places (so far) are Mongolia, Iceland, Morocco, and Scotland (of course). When she's not writing, she can be found exploring the Scottish Highlands with her camera, on the lookout for coos and men in kilts.