Traveling the world and reducing waste are two goals held by many people. It makes sense that the two go together: cutting back on waste protects the environment; traveling allows us to see firsthand the natural beauty the world has to offer.
Zero-waste travel might seem like a daunting challenge. Stores are lined with shampoo, deodorant, and sun cream miniatures, offering consumers the convenience of short-term, disposable products.
But, for any traveler looking to keep our beaches pristine, here are eleven simple steps that can be taken to protect the planet while you travel.
11 Tips For Zero-Waste Travelling
1. Go Paperless
Before your travels even begin, you can reduce your waste. Most airlines, trains, and coaches now offer downloadable tickets, enabling travelers to keep their e-tickets on their phone. Not only does this save the hassle of locating a printer, but it also saves paper.
2. Pre-Plan Entertainment
Travelling often involves hours in transit, waiting in airline lounges, and hanging around. During these times, it’s natural to seek some mental stimulation. But rather than reaching for the magazine stand, there are plenty of zero-waste alternatives to keep you entertained. You can download podcasts, apps such as HeadSpace to help you relax, or games to keep you busy, and, of course, e-books. If you’re someone who prefers a paper copy book, opt for second-hand: pre-loved books can easily be found in charity shops and lending libraries. You could also bring a pack of playing cards, which you can re-use time and time again.
3. Pack Zero-Waste Toiletries and Cosmetics
From shampoo and soap bars, chewable toothpaste tablets, and powder deodorant, to metal razors and menstrual cups, there are minimal-waste and multi-use versions of every product you might need, perfect to keep you clean, glowing, and waste-free on your travels.
4. Travel Light
If possible, travel with a carry-on bag only. This way, you’ll avoid the paper tags added to your suitcase at check-in. It will also force you to minimise your buying when away.
5. Be Snack Ready
When heading somewhere you know will have limited zero-waste options, bring your own snacks. Although improving, airlines are notorious for their limited veggie and vegan meal options, meaning plant-based travelers are best preparing on-flight snacks anyway. Homemade flapjacks, sandwiches, and fruit items – packed in reusable containers, of course – are all convenient and easy to bag and eat on-the-go.
6. Pack Reusable Containers and Cutlery
To avoid using single-use cups, food containers, and plastic cutlery, bring your own. Flasks, water bottles, reusable coffee cups, lunch boxes, and mason jars are all easy to acquire and can be used repeatedly. You can also buy special travel cutlery, made of bamboo, steel, and even wheat straw, so that you always have a fork, knife, spoon, and chopsticks on hand. Also consider bringing reusable napkins and towels to wrap up food and clean up after yourself, removing the need for disposable napkins.
7. Bring a Reusable Straw
Similarly, don’t get sucked into using single-use plastic straws when you find yourself sipping cocktails at a beach bar. Many retailers now sell reusable staws, including collapsable metal straws which can be kept in your pocket. Remember, you’re traveling to enjoy the oceans, not pollute them.
8. Stay in Hostels and Airbnbs
Staying in hostels and Airbnbs can not only save you money, but help minimise your waste. Known for their convenience, most hotels offer individually wrapped soaps and toiletries. They also replace bedding every day, which is rather wasteful. Plus, in a hostel or Airbnb there may be more scope to prepare your own meals, allowing you to control food waste.
9. Don’t Buy Souvenirs
It can be tempting to buy a knick-knack from each destination you go to, whether it be to bring back as a gift to loved ones or as a memento. However, far better than a keyring or dishcloth, focus on photographing the best places you see. You’ll have not only the memories, but digital images of your fave places forever – all waste-free.
10. Bring a Bag
When you’re tired of lugging your rucksack around, it might be tempting to head out to the local markets or beach without a bag on you. However, if you carry a small material or mesh bag, you’ll always be prepared to pick up groceries or whatever else you might need to buy, without needing to buy a plastic bag to carry your goods home in.
It’s possible that despite your best efforts there’ll be a time when you end up with something that you just can’t reuse. If this happens, remain calm! Keep the item on you until you find a suitable place to recycle the item, even if that means storing a dirty wrapper in your mason jar for a few days. The more effort you make to keep your waste out of the environment, the more beautiful the landscape is for yourself and other travelers in the future.