On The Couch: 10 Pieces Litter Collection Initiative Founder Lisa Vitaris

With the multitude of environmental issues we are faced with around the globe, we can often feel like a small part of a massive problem. Yet, this didn't deter 10 Pieces litter collection initiative founder Lisa Vitaris.

A love for travel and adventure from a young age combined with a passion for the environment drove Lisa to create an innovative and powerful litter collection initiative called "10 Pieces" that World Expeditions has proudly taken on board.

Read on to find out how it was Lisa's determination, coupled with a strong background in marketing, that resulted in Lisa creating this visionary program. Her initiative encourages travellers to "take only photographs and some litter, leave only footprints" - so that collectively we can make a difference, and is available for our travellers who embark on selected treks in Nepal and Bhutan.

1. With a life-long background in marketing, what was it that inspired you to start the clean-up initiative 10 Pieces? Have you always had a strong passion for the environment and sustainability?

Travelling, which I’ve been fortunate enough to do fairly extensively from a young age (thanks Mum and Dad!), has definitely been a driving force in inspiring me to help both people and the environment. Clean Up Australia has been a strong influence for me and I’ve volunteered for them for many years. I’ve also volunteered for a variety of different causes close to my heart from wildlife conservation to supporting torture and trauma victims to suicide prevention to helping the homeless. Marketing is another passion of mine and I’ve been able to leverage this to help create 10 Pieces.

The idea for 10 Pieces came to me on a hike in Ala Archa National Park in Kyrgyzstan. Litter was strewn around the picnic areas and mountain trails and I couldn’t help but pick it up. Knowing that this would only assist in the short term, this time I started thinking about what would help in the long term and thought about the collective power of individuals. If we all pick up litter – even a nominal amount – we can make a difference.


2. Why do you think that an initiative like 10 Pieces is important, especially in developing countries like Nepal and Bhutan?

In Nepal and Bhutan, litter never really used to be a problem as traditionally products were biodegradable. With the increasing uptake of modern packaging and the onset of tourism came non-biodegradable litter. Couple this with limited litter disposal options and it can start to cause damage to the local environment, wildlife and even people.

When travellers pick up litter, not only does it help reduce this damage, it also sets a good example to others and can inspire them to do the same. When World Expeditions travellers were picking up their 10 pieces at Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan, they had people clapping them, monks blessing them and other people grabbing a bag and joining in.


World Ex Chomolhari Trek

3. Often it’s overwhelming for people to think about the enormity of the issue of litter and waste in the environment, yet 10 Pieces breaks the problem into doable ‘bite size’ chunks  - with the core message that collectively we can make a difference. What was your reasoning behind calling your clean-up initiative “10 Pieces” and how did you come up with the idea?

Litter can be very overwhelming and there are many fantastic initiatives like Clean Up Australia and dedicated overseas tours that clean up large amounts of litter all at once. With the often-limited time people have on their holidays, it can be hard to justify spending the time picking up litter. However, 10 Pieces is incorporated into daily activities and can be done in under 60 seconds.

10 Pieces seemed incredibly simple to me, and hard to decline! Whilst we say 10 Pieces, 10 is really a nominal number and travellers can choose to pick up as little or as much litter as they wish.

10 pieces can also make a difference. If it’s just you, you pick up 10 pieces. But if you’re in a group of 10 travellers that 10 pieces quickly turns into 100. And if there’s a new group of 10 travellers at the same place the next day that’s another 100. So over time, a huge difference can be made just by getting each traveller to pick up 10 pieces of litter. And for travellers, it’s really empowering that they can actually make a difference.

4. How can a movement like 10 Pieces make a positive impact on the environment, particularly in developing countries that don’t have good waste disposal systems in place?

10 Pieces’ mantra is all about taking out more litter than what you take in and therefore leaving the environment in a better state.

In Nepal and Bhutan, waste disposal facilities are extremely limited, particularly in the remote areas visited on trips. World Expeditions have facilitated litter disposal by developing portable incinerators that burn the paper and plastic waste collected without leaving any fire scars.

5. The 10 Pieces initiative is closely aligned to World Expeditions responsible travel policies to “leave no trace”. How did the partnership with World Expeditions come about?

As part of my Masters in International Marketing, I conducted detailed research on whether 10 Pieces would be supported by the travel industry and travellers alike. Fortunately the response was overwhelmingly positive, particularly thanks to Donna Lawrence, Responsible Travel Manager at World Expeditions. Donna has been a big believer in 10 Pieces right from the start and gave me the confidence I needed to launch it.

World Expeditions are leaders in responsible travel and constantly seeking ways to improve the environment and 10 Pieces provides a new and simple way of achieving this.

6. Could you tell us about how 10 Pieces is incorporated into World Expeditions trips so travellers are able to make a difference to the local environment?

10 Pieces is fully integrated in the day-to-day activities of selected World Expeditions trips. Travellers bring their own gloves and hand sanitiser and World Expeditions provides litter collection bags that clip easily onto a belt or backpack. In certain, typically remote, locations travellers are encouraged to pick up their 10 pieces, which are then carried to, and incinerated at, the next campsite. The positive impact is multiplied by the regular flow of travellers.

7. What difference has World Expeditions travellers implementing the 10 Pieces initiative made to the environment and to the local communities (for example in Nepal)?

World Expeditions travellers have cleaned up a range of trails in Bhutan and Nepal. By taking out more than what they took in, they’ve not only had a positive impact on the local environment but also set a good example to others who have joined in. One particular benefit is that there are far less Mars Bar wrappers littering Nepal! (unfortunately a common sight along trails).

8. What are your top 3 tips for people to becoming more responsible travellers? In what ways can we further reduce our footprint?

  1. Take only photographs and 10 pieces of litter, leave only footprints (and dispose of all litter thoughtfully in the best way possible for the area you are in)
  2. Try to buy products that can be used multiple times and that come with minimal packaging (travelling with a water bottle for example can save so much waste)
  3. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should (exploitation is sadly often a reality; think twice about where you stay, what you buy, what you eat, your interactions with animals, even where you volunteer)

Georgia with tour guides

9. What is your vision for the future of 10 Pieces? Where do you want to see it in 5-10 years time?

Recently 10 Pieces expanded to include Indonesia and soon will include Peru. I’d like to see it expand to cover all 7 continents and become a natural part of travellers’ trips. It would be great if we can collectively change the behaviour of littering in the countries we’re operating in and improve the litter disposal options. Sue Badyari, World Expeditions CEO, has been instrumental in this, lobbying overseas governments to improve their environmental policies.

10. How can we inspire and encourage other travellers and locals to make small changes, join the movement and do their bit for the environment? What steps can we take to do this?

I believe 10 Pieces and World Expeditions should show the difference that 10 Pieces can make over time when harnessing the collective power of individuals. Perhaps it’s time for a before and after series?

And for those of you who want to help make a difference:

  1. Set a good example by picking up 10 pieces and others will often follow.
  2. Join a World Expeditions trip and participate in 10 Pieces.
  3. Spread the word via family, friends and colleagues.
  4. Share your experience on social media.
  5. Remember that together, we can make a difference.

How to Join the 10 Pieces Initiative with World Expeditions

Since World Expeditions was founded in 1975, we have been committed to sustainable travel, and today with the magnitude of threats to the environment and society, our commitment is stronger than ever. World Expeditions has stuck to the responsible travel principals of Leave No Trace and aims to have as little impact on the environments we travel to as possible. Now, we've gone one step further, and introduced the 1o Pieces litter collection program to a selection of our trips, which aims to not only Leave No Trace, but also improve the environments we travel to through encouraging travellers to collect 10 pieces of litter everyday.

World Expeditions has partnered with 10 Pieces and travellers who embark on treks in the Annapurna and Everest regions as well as a selection of treks in Bhutan can now volunteer to participate in 10 Pieces. We’ll alert you to the opportunity before departure, when you can volunteer to participate.

>>>Find out more about World Expeditions and 10 Pieces

World Ex Chomolhari Trek 2

Thoughtful Traveller, on the couch

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