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Model and marine biologist Laura Wells wants us all to travel more sustainably

By Kathryn Madden

Laura Wells is a thoroughly modern slashie. Her Instagram bio says it all: Science Communicator / Model / Sustainable Fashion Lover / Ocean Conserver / Plastic Reducer / Climate Activist. She’s a qualified marine biologist and lawyer, though she shot to prominence modelling swimwear and activewear in major Australian and international ad campaigns. Now she uses her mega platform to campaign for causes she’s passionate about: namely saving the ocean.

And this isn’t activism-lite; Wells walks her talk and has collaborated with everyone from Greenpeace to WWF Australia and Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef. Right now, she’s campaigning to save marine parks on the NSW south coast (find out how you can help below). She’s also aware her work travelling the globe as a model and activist is inherently polluting, so she’s developed strategies to reduce her footprint. Here she shares her trusty eco travel hacks, plus a few of her local holiday havens…

On her love of the ocean...

“My favourite holidays generally involve the sea – swimming, surfing, scuba, all of it… I grew up in Cronulla, in southern Sydney, and spent a lot of time at the beach as a kid. I went on to study marine biology at university, and I’m just curious about what’s below the surface. Once I started to learn about the ocean, I loved it even more, because I could understand how important it is to the wellbeing of humans, not only physically but mentally, too. That stimulus you get from looking at a body of the water, in particular, the ocean, is incredible.”

“I love the south coast area of NSW where the forest meets the sea – Narooma and Merimbula. It’s such a quiet and peaceful place that’s relatively untouched. There are beautiful beaches, great people and cool little businesses. It feels really wholesome.” See a full guide to the far-south coast of NSW here.

“I also love Lady Elliot Island, an eco resort at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. It only hosts about 150 guests, it’s all run in-house and on solar power, and it’s just such a nice space to connect with the world around you. There’s nothing else to do but get in the water or explore the island!” See a full guide to Lady Elliot Island here.

On how to travel more sustainably...

“My job forces me to fly, but whether it’s for work or pleasure, I always carbon offset my trips so that it’s completely carbon neutral. It’s best to do this via the direct airline websites like Qantas or Virgin, which have creditable carbon offset programs.

“For me, travelling sustainably means leaving as light a footprint on the destination as possible. I travel to experience the beauty around me and to get curious about the animals and ecosystems, so I don’t want to damage that place by my presence.

“Usually when I travel I take a whole lot of reusables with me – on a plane I pack my bag with a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, cutlery and plate. That way I can limit the amount of single-use disposable plastics that I use both on board and at the destination, too. That really cuts down on my footprint.

“I always pack a reef-safe sunscreen to limit the amount of damage I’m doing to the ocean environment.

“I also pack beauty products that are free of plastic packaging – I use shampoo bars and conditioners from a New Zealand-based brand called Ethique. That way I don’t have to leave [waste] at the places I’m visiting. Often these destinations have limited disposable facilities, so the less I leave in the area, the better.”

On the Great Barrier Reef...

“In 2019 I visited the Great Barrier Reef and witnessed coral spawning – it’s this amazing, once-a-year event where the reefs essentially release their eggs and sperm. It’s incredible to watch the reef come to life during the night. 

“I like to tell people to visit the Great Barrier Reef because we need people to connect with it and want to preserve it for the future. There are some incredibly beautiful places on the reef that are really accessible – everyone should go at least once. We’re all citizens of the reef and we need to protect it – and ensure that our children’s children get to enjoy it too.”

Right now, Wells is campaigning to save marine parks on the NSW south coast, which are under threat after the government removed protections and said it would turn a blind eye to illegal fishing. Watch the video above and follow @savebatemanssactuaries to find out how you can help!

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