The Gobi Goes Green
Plastic pollution threatens the functioning of vast ecosystems and their inhabitants, a global crisis worsening by the day, with no end in sight. Current estimates say plastics take anywhere from 450 to 1,000 years to break down. Action needs to be taken, if not for ourselves, then for future generations. And while individuals cutting down on their plastic use is an important 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.
Nearly five years ago, Three Camel Lodge replaced the plastic bottles offered to guests with glass containers topped off with purified water from one of the filling stations on property. In 2018, we took the next big step by eliminating plastic water bottles entirely from our tour operations. During excursions and drives, guests are instead encouraged to make use of stainless steel bottles or the Lodge-provided glass containers to stay hydrated. In just this first year alone, this initiative has prevented the purchase and disposal of some 26,000 plastic water bottles, translating to nearly 600 pounds of plastic.
As of 2017, plastic garbage bags in guest yurts have been replaced with bags made from recycled paper; plastic straws have been banned, as has plastic packaging previously used for packed lunches; and in our Lodge’s kitchen, we’ve found ways to significantly reduce plastic use in our everyday operations. In an effort to get others to join the fight, the Lodge has launched a ‘No Plastic Bags in the Gobi’ program, 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 of us are taking steps like these, progress can and will be made. Right now, the future of our ecosystems and the critical wildlife they contain is in trouble, but together, we can be the change.
Water Use & Organic Waste
Given our location in the Gobi, water is particularly precious. As such, we have 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 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. Three Camel Lodge has a first-of-its-kind cooperative agreement with the Bulgan Sum Township and Gobi-Gurvansaikhan National Park authorities, serving as a base for scientific research and wildlife monitoring and actively fighting 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 our 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, we have planted over 8,000 native plants and trees throughout the camp since 2003. Three Camel 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. The Lodge has rebuilt the community well, now used by nomads and local families to water their herds of livestock. In fact, every member of our staff, including top management, is Mongolian. We source over 50% of our foods locally from Dalanzadgad as much as possible. The items we cannot buy locally, such as wine, cheese, etc., are purchased from Ulaanbaatar. All of our tour guides are Mongolian.
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.
Our program 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.