In our recent article on how to be a sustainable traveller, one of our tips is to reduce waste while you travel. As the zero waste challenges flourish around the world, and more and more people become conscious of the need to reduce waste, we wondered if it was so easy to be a zero-waste traveller.
How can you be zero waste when you travel?
If you’re on a staycation aka on holidays in your own country and going there by car, it certainly is easier to be a zero-waste traveller than if you’re flying abroad. But it still must be a major challenge.
Thinking of what you can do to be a zero-waste traveller, here’s what we listed you could start with. We’ve not tested all of them, but we’ll edit and review our thoughts if we try some new hacks or share some of your tips on being a waste-friendly traveller.
What to pack – travel with your own toiletries
Bea Johnson the goddess of zero waste would probably agree that the first easy step is to take your own toiletries to avoid using the single-use soaps and shampoos that are in your hotel room. If you’re facing the dilemma of using a carry-on bag on the plane and the limits of the number of liquids you can take… it is going to be even more tricky.
What about using solid toiletries? Shampoo, Deodorant, Toothpaste, and Soap. Most of the things you need in fact.
Of course, you will need to try the ones that are the most convenient to you and that match your skin type, hair type before you leave for your next trip around the world, but it is a good option.
Some of these items can be inconvenient, depending on the place you travel to. Here’s my real-life story with a solid toothpaste in Asia. My first personal #zerowastetravelfail. The toothpaste looked like a lollipop, basically, a piece of soap on a stick. I had tested it at home and even though the taste of it wasn’t that yummy, it did the job perfectly. Until I went in South East Asia during the rainy season and changed location frequently…. The humidity did not help, and the poor toothpaste was getting less and less solid as the holidays were moving on. Probably because the poor toothpaste lollipop was not in good conditions to dry (and no, I was not soaking it before use) End of the story? Guilty I am for abandoning the toothpaste in a bin….
What this teaches me? Next time I go for solid toiletries when I travel I’ll check if it’s wise to do so depending on my destination. And if not, I’ll find other alternatives or use less of my own liquid toiletries.
Another one on toiletries, should we talk about cotton buds? This 2017 viral picture from Justin Hofman speaks for itself
For zero waste ear cleaning, we have a life-changing hack, the bamboo ear pick, your ears and seahorses will say thanks!
What to pack – take your reusable water bottle
It is not because you quit plastic bottles at home and single-use coffee cups that you could not do the same when you travel. Travelling to France from the UK? Easy! Tap water is potable everywhere, so carrying your reusable bottle is fairly easy, if you really want to buy water, you can even buy water in bulk in an organic shop called Biocoop.
Potable tap water everywhere in the world? Not really. So, what can you do…. Use water filtering systems that make any water drinkable. To make it trickier, when you think no waste, you can also think, no chemicals. We’ve found a few solutions that are chemical free and seem to be good to try (Lifestraw, WatertoGo)We have not tested them, but for sure, next time, we leave in a country where tap water is not potable, we’ll take one with us.
When you’re there – say No to Plastic
How many times have you gone to a bar, ordered a soda and found yourself served with a glass full of ice and a pink straw floating in the middle of it, even without asking. Why do bars and restaurants keep the habit of doing this? I’ve always wondered why do you need to drink through a straw in the first place? To avoid spilling? To avoid the touch of the ice-cold soda on your teeth? To avoid staining your teeth after you’ve been to the dentist?
Of course, some people have medical reasons to use straws, but for anyone else, I have the feeling it is somewhat unnecessary.
The Ocean Conservancy organizes a coastal cleanup and collected plastic straws equal to the 145 times the height of the New York City One World Trade Center. It was the seventh most common trash item they found on beaches during their campaign!
If you really have to use a straw, bamboo and stainless-steel ones exist, and that’s lightweight to carry on anywhere in the world.
Plastic bags on a ban
I’ve seen a trend in Thailand: young people seemed to be very fond of. Takeaway drinks in mini plastic bags, filled with funky looking coloured drinks, packed with ice and a straw. Maybe that’s not really eco-friendly to try on your next trip there.
In more and more countries plastic bags are banned. It is the case in Italy and France, you might want to check in which country it is the case before you travel, just to remember to bring your tote/shopping bag with you. We found a nicely done map that is regularly updated here
Going on a picnic? Take regular cutlery say no to plastic plates. You’ll wash them when you get back in the home you rented.
Recycle when you travel
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle the three basic components of your eco-conscious life are easily applied at home. We’ve just talked about reducing and reusing, but what about recycling?
Well, it’s fair to say that no country has a 100% recycling rate of there municipal solid waste, but some countries are better than others. Some countries even do not have recycling policies yet.
Here’s an interesting graph from Eunomia on the top 25 recycling countries, that can help you in your research.
So far, it seems that being a zero waste traveller is possible even if it requires some effort and some tricks. But we all know that even the smallest step is a big on the path to more sustainability in our every day lives, on holidays or not.
How about your zero was travel experience ? Give us your zero waste travel hacks or fails!