The Gobi Goes Green

Plastics

The issue of plastic pollution isn’t going away and that statement should be taken quite literally.

Current estimates say plastics take anywhere from 450 years to forever to break down. Action needs to be taken, and while individuals cutting down their plastic use is a huge step, much more significant progress will be made when businesses do the same.

To that end Three Camel Lodge and Nomadic Expeditions have taken steps to eliminate plastic from our operations.

First up were the plastic water bottles at Three Camel Lodge. Nearly five years ago we replaced the plastic bottles guests would use with glass ones topped off with purified water from one of the filling stations on property.

In 2018, we took the next logical step. We eliminated plastic water bottles from our entire tour operations, so even during excursions and drives guests are no longer using unnecessary plastic and are instead making use of stainless steel bottles or the aforementioned glass bottles to stay hydrated.

In just this first year alone, this initiative kept us from buying and disposing of some 26,000 plastic water bottles. The costs naturally were going to be higher to do so–twice as costly, in fact–but so much plastic waste was avoided–about 600 pounds or a third of a ton–that the decision was an easy one to make.

Plastic garbage bags in guest yurts have also been replaced with bags made with recycled paper. Plastic straws have been banned, as has plastic packaging previously used for packed lunches. In our lodge’s kitchen, we’ve found ways to significantly reduce plastic use as well.

In an effort to get others to join the fight, the lodge launched a ‘No Plastic Bags in the Gobi’ program and is working with local residents and small businesses to encourage the use of cloth shopping bags.

We’re just one company and one lodge in the middle of the Gobi Desert, but if enough people and organizations are taking steps like these, forward progress will be made. Given the consequences of inaction, it’s really the only choice we have.

Water Use & Organic Waste

Considering our location in the Gobi, water is particularly precious. As such, we designed septic drainage fields four times larger than required to minimize the potential of adverse effects on the aquifer and the water supply. We also limit the water usage in showers.

The Lodge recycles its organic waste to local farms for use as fertilizer, builds and supports greenhouse projects, and helps local farmers grow vegetables. These efforts result in less waste being transported to Ulaanbaatar and a reduction in the amount of food being imported to the area, as local ger camps can now buy vegetables from nearby farms.

Environmental and Wildlife Conservation Programs

Past and present live as one in the Gobi, where wildlife preservation includes the protection of dinosaur fossils from nearby paleontological sites. We are proud to have led the fight against unauthorized removal from these sites.

The Three Camel Lodge has a first-of-its-kind cooperative agreement with the Bulgan Sum Township and Gobi-Gurvansaikhan National Park authorities. The Lodge serves as a base for scientific research and wildlife monitoring and actively fights against animal poaching and the unauthorized removal of dinosaur fossils from paleontological sites. Hunting has been prohibited within a 12-mile radius of the camp.

In its efforts to increase scientific knowledge and further paleontology throughout Mongolia, the Lodge continues to facilitate and support official paleontological expeditions throughout the Gobi Desert. Born out of our strong passion for these sanctioned expeditions was a groundbreaking dig in 2000, led by Dr. Phillip Currie, which unearthed a previously unknown species of ankylosaur. The new species, Zaraapelta nomadis, was named in 2014 for sister company Nomadic Expeditions (‘nomadis’), the provider of all our Gobi-led expeditions and official partner in facilitating crucial fieldwork.

In an effort to preserve the population of indigenous Gobi plants and provide cover for migratory birds that visit nearby Mt. Bulagtai, the Lodge has planted over 8,000 native plants and trees throughout the camp since 2003. The Lodge is an active supporter of the Ongii River Movement, an award-winning organization that aims to protect one of the few rivers that run into the Gobi from the damaging effects of mining activity. These desert rivers and the seasonal lakes where they end are critical resources for Gobi wildlife.

Economic and Social Engagement

Three Camel Lodge is actively engaged in the local community. We take our commitment to the region very seriously and have made donations to support struggling nomads who have lost their animals or those needing extra help preparing for harsh winters.

Three Camel Lodge rebuilt the community well, now used by nomads and local families to water their herds of livestock.

Every member of our staff, including top management, is Mongolian. Additionally, all food suppliers and tour guides are local to the area.

We are proud to have created a scholarship at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences and its Paleontology Department. It honors the late Dr. Badamgarav with whom we worked closely for over two decades. The scholarship supports young researchers working to preserve the Gobi’s paleontological heritage.

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Our program at the Three Camel Lodge with Pack for a Purpose benefits the lives of the children and general nomadic community in the nearby town of Bulgan sum through the provision of supplies for education, healthcare and music. It also helps our volunteers engage in efforts to reintroduce indigenous flora to the area. If you’d like to participate in our Pack for a Purpose program or are interested in more information, please click here.