Travelling can leave a huge impact on the Earth, whether we intend it or not. Using Planes, Cars, Buses, Cruise-liners, Boats and Motorbikes simply to get to our desired destination can cause a huge amount of pollution without even trying.
Being simply aware of our actions and more mindful throughout our wanderlust-seeking activities can greatly offset this pollution and make our footprint a little bit smaller.
Throughout my travels through South-East Asia I've seen single-use plastic consumption and waste on the highest of scales. Rivers of rubbish that people, animals and plants have to find a way to live with. Coming back home, my eyes were more open to the food waste and insane consumption of products and 'things' that we see as an integral part of our daily western lives.
All of this has lead to me trying to better my daily routines. Find alternatives to plastic and better yet, change my habits to make the world a slightly better place. These zero waste tips are things that I am now applying to my own adventures and lifestyle, eliminating one piece of trash at a time.
Zero Waste Travel Tips
Do What You Can
This is the most important tip anyone can take on board. Simply do what you can. A lot of these strategies to help you get to zero waste travel take preparation, patience and persistence. Some of these suggestions may seem like big changes that can be daunting when just starting your sustainable journey. If you can implement just one of the following tips into your daily or travel routine, you're doing good! Small steps lead to big change.
Say No To Plastic
With plastic being a part of so many daily activities and purchases, use your power and actions to make little changes. This is the easiest way to make the biggest change. Say no to plastic cups, coffee cups, water bottles, straws and bags. These few little changes have a massive impact on the Earth, with minimal effort.
Take a small, light tote bag that you can go shopping with. Keeping it small enough to roll down to the size of a small biscuit and machine washable makes this transition easy without any compromise.
Travel with a reusable water bottle. You can fill up bottles practically anywhere you go! Airports, cafes, Airplanes, Hotels all have bathrooms, sinks and taps with (usually) fresh clean water. If travelling somewhere where clean water isn't accessible, opt for a filtered bottle. Keeping you and the planet safe and healthy!
Carry a metal straw. There's so many on the market these days that there's just no excuse to not jump on this band wagon and make it a daily habit. They're light, easy to clean and now there's a Kickstarter campaign for the worlds first fold up, 'key-chain sized' straws that are easier to take with you everywhere!
Take a reusable cup. Australians drink through an estimated 1 billion single-use coffee cups every year! These cups, due to their plastic coating, cannot be recycled. It's a huge impact on our environment that can easily be reduced. 'Keep cups' come in so many colours, shapes, designs and sizes, the trickiest part is settling for just one! For travelling, you can even get fold down, flat cups, that pop up when you need them! Great for keeping to a minimal luggage size and reducing unnecessary waste.
Re-Usable Toiletry Containers and Bottles
We all need to keep clean and fresh, especially with hours of travel, dehydration and jet lag taking over. But this shouldn't come at a cost to our planets health. Single-use travel toiletry items are expensive and add unnecessary waste to our travel foot print. I usually find that most items are full of chemicals too, and rarely come in the eco-friendly brands that I love using at home. So there's 3 reasons for me to cut them out of my travel essentials kit. By using re-usable Containers, jars and bottles, you get to keep using the products you love, cut down on cost and keep the planet happy!
Don't Print Boarding Passes & Check-In Online
The airlines and travel companies have had this feature around for years, mainly for convenience. Though, it also cuts down on wasting paper. Download your boarding pass to your phone or email account, which can be scanned at the airport. Check-in online just before leaving your home or hotel to ensure a smooth journey through the Airport. Also try and avoid printing itineraries, insurance certificates etc. and instead, send them all to your personal email. This way you still have access to them no matter where you are and they cannot be lost. This, again, cuts down on paper usage.
Carry-On Luggage Only
Reducing the weight of your luggage has multiple environmental benefits. It reduces the amount of 'stuff' you carry around, reducing your urge to buy more stuff while in your destination. It reduces strain on transport, though a long term benefit, this will eventually add up to reducing your carbon footprint. You also avoid the unnecessary plastic and paper tags and tickets that go along with a checked-in bag. Less stuff = more money and time for adventures!
Healthy Snacks For You & The Planet!
Avoid buying any foods that are packaged. For your journey and in your destination. Instead, opt for fruits and nuts that you can bulk buy or purchase using your tote bag or a mason jar. If you can't buy something without packaging, opt for paper of metal packaging that can easily be recycled. Shop at Farmer's markets and local small businesses to reduce the carbon footprint from the transport and processing of these products. Use the Bulk Locator App to find bulk supply stores worldwide. You'll feel better eating well, meaning you save time and money compared with chasing the wrong foods.
Avoid Plane Food
This one may be difficult for me to implement, especially on long-haul flights, but finding this interesting suggestion through my research, raises a lot of important issues that I really wasn't sure how to address before. Airplane meals come with a tremendous amount of waste. All the plastic cutlery, wrapped in plastic, sitting on the plastic tray liner with plastic cups and plates and plastic tea stirrers.... It's overwhelming when you sit there and look at it. Not only is there an immense amount of plastic waste, but also food waste. Making a 'general' meal for all, means there's going to be bits that people don't eat. They can't re-serve it and it simply gets thrown out. Due to the issue of convenience and the fact the airplane is 35000 feet in the air, recycling is not a priority for most airline companies. It's simply not worth their time and effort. If you can, depending on your destinations customs laws, pack your own food and snacks in reusable containers or napkins. You instantly reduce plastic and food waste on an immense scale.
Swap Books Instead Of Buying New Ones
Many wanderers call books their best friends - I agree! Trying to implement a zero waste or minimalist lifestyle, doesn't mean giving up the things you love most. Books are educational, entertaining and fill our lives with joy. Every hostel I have ever stayed in, has had a 'book swap' shelf. When you're finished reading, simply swap your book for one on the shelf and keep on your journey. It's a nice thought having all this knowledge and joy shared amongst the travelling community. Join the fun and save some cash!
Planet-Friendly Washing Detergent
Now that you've cut down on your 'things' and have saved money from not buying as much, you'll probably find yourself traveling longer and having a more frequent laundry routine. I've usually found the easiest way to do laundry on the go, is use a kettle for boiling water, the bathroom sink or empty trash bin and simply use my body soap or shampoo. A quick rinse through and it dries over night. That way I'm not carrying an extra product and if I'm using my bulk supply of my favourite body wash, I know that it's good for my skin and also the environment. A fantastic product that I have just stumbled upon is this powdered Laundry Detergent from The Simply Co. It's eco-friendly, organic, ethical and perfect for travellers in every possible way! Being powdered, you have no issue with airport security or worrying about it leaking. The glass jar it comes in is completely reusable and recyclable. The detergent itself is free from any harmful chemicals and actually does a great job! Zero waste travel has just been made even easier!
Do Your Research
When travelling, you're going to deal with dozens of companies in some way. A great way to reduce unnecessary waste while travelling is to check if your hotels, restaurants etc. recycle and have steps in place to reduce it's water consumption. Do they recycle paper, glass and cans? Do they re-use waste water for toilets and gardens? Do they support local farmers and small businesses to reduce their carbon footprint? Do they encourage guests to reduce water usage and re-use towels? All of these steps might seem small, but on a large industry scale, it can quickly add up. If you come across businesses that could easily implement these strategies, let them know in your feedback. They simply may not be aware of how little changes can add up to big savings for the environment and their bottom line.
Products To Help You Achieve Zero-Waste Travel
These products will help you make these small lifestyle changes easier. Use your daily actions, habits and routines to create positive change in this world. Use the power of your voice and spending choices wisely by supporting great brands and products and making the rest listen.
How have you become more responsible while travelling? Have you integrated any of these zero waste tips into your travel routines? Let me know in the comments!