Zero waste vacation: Is this possible?
Blogs, news articles, interviews, and even some Youtube videos have been buzzing around the attainability of a zero waste lifestyle. Sustainable living usually begins at home – from cleaning, storage, and food. This movement is a call for everyone to be more mindful of our waste and consumption.
Drastic changes do not happen overnight. It happens gradually by incorporating these practices intentionally in our daily lives.
However, zero-waste lifestyle goes beyond buying metal straws and ditching plastic straws to save the turtles or buying organic food. Mindfulness is essential in the successful integration of this lifestyle.
Lauren Singer, a zero-waste lifestyle influencer who popularized the zero-waste jar, applies sustainable living not only in her home but on other aspects of her life. In her interview with Wanderlust, she mentioned that a zero waste vacation is possible!
Normal Vacations: How Wasteful can they be?
How can it be possible? Before we get to that point, let’s break down the things we usually do on a normal vacation.
First, we aren’t aware of the paper waste we accumulate in purchases (e.g tickets, sticker tags, receipts etc.). In hindsight, it’s just a small piece of paper but if that small piece of paper is collected from hundreds or thousands of people, imagine how much those small pieces of paper take up space in the landfill.
This leads to our next point. Not all companies have taken an effort to reduce single-use plastics in their packaging. So when you purchase stuff, baggers use plastic or paper bags to pack your purchases.
Takeouts and in-flight snacks are just some of the examples. Even at the earliest flight, you’ll notice that the trash bins are already full of plastic wrappers and styrofoam cups. Another nonbiodegradable waste in the landfill.
Shopping is tempting when we visit a new place, especially if the items can’t be found in our own hometown.. For Filipinos, it is embedded in our culture to buy pasalubong (gifts) to our loved ones from a trip. The common gifts are souvenirs, clothes, toys, and books. Chances are, most of these items are left untouched in our storage spaces for a long time until we have forgotten about them.
When travelling to an unfamiliar place, walking is the last option for a tourist. Getting from one point to another, tourists would normally take private cars or taxis instead of taking public transport or walking. Because of our fear of getting lost, we leave carbon footprints. We become contributors to heavy traffic and pollution.
Are you guilty of doing all these? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered for your next trip. You don’t need to do these tips perfectly. Small efforts from thousands and thousands of people can make huge changes in our environment. Becoming mindful of our activities on our trips can get us ahead.
But how, you ask. Is it even possible, knowing that plastics play a huge role in convenient travelling? You’re probably thinking that there’s no way you could pull it off. Remember, zero waste lifestyle is a journey. You don’t have to do everything right the first time. Once you consistently do these tips every time you travel it slowly becomes natural to you.
How to Have a Zero Waste Vacation
1. Paperless travel
Airlines nowadays streamline their processes by developing websites for customers to purchase their tickets online. This development makes the system more efficient and cost-effective.
Because of this development, you don’t have to print your tickets anymore. Technology made it possible for people to show e-tickets instead. “It’s just a small piece of paper.”
It is but paper production is a major contributor to pollution, too. Most plants use non-renewable resources to produce paper. Thus, it leads to acquiring more resources and more waste. These plants also emit toxic wastes on the planet.
2. Travel light.
Whether it’s a month-long travel or a three-day trip, only pack the essentials. You don’t have to bring all the cute clothes in your closet to look good in travel photos. If you don’t wear them often, chances are, you won’t even use them on your trip.
Pack clothes in neutral colors that you could easily coordinate with other piece of clothing. Create a travel capsule wardrobe. Wear heavy clothes during your flight to make room for important stuff. When there’s more luggage in the carrier, more fuel is needed. Which means, more resources is needed and more carbon waste is secreted.
3. Pack reusable essentials.
Tissues, menstrual pads, earbuds, cotton pads, and other single-use toiletries go straight to the landfill, contributing to more and more pile of waste. Also, solid toiletries like shampoo and deodorant bars are taking the center stage gradually.
Travel-sized bottles were essentials years ago but the rise of eco-friendly products took the spot. Pack your own zero-waste kit like bamboo toothbrushes and shampoo bars.
4. Walk or use public transport as much as possible.
Travelling is not an excuse to skip exercise. If going to a gym in a new place scares you, walking can keep you fit. Walking allows you to immerse yourself deeper as you bump into locals who would be glad to show you around their place. It hones your social skills as well.
But if you aren’t comfortable with walking or bumping into strangers (which eventually lead to a full-blown conversation) then use public transport instead of renting a private car to visit places. Yes, it may be convenient to you but renting a private car costs a lot and contributes to carbon emission. Taking the public transport saves money and allows you to meet new people.
5. Shop sustainably.
Be mindful of the items you’ll buy. Is it necessary? Will the person receiving the gift use this? As much as possible, buy souvenirs that are functional or multipurpose.
As much as possible, do not give brand new clothes as presents. Fast fashion is a major contributor in waste from textile industry. So, take advantage of searching thrift finds. Shop for secondhand clothes and other items from thrift shops.
Thrift shopping may seem tedious to you but this activity is enjoyable and low-impact, too. It costs less than buying brand new items that could go out of trend and stay untouched for several months in your closet.
6. Dine in restaurants.
As much as possible, dine in restaurants to avoid waste in purchasing takeouts. Takeouts are packaged in styrofoam or paper, disposable cups and disposable spoon and fork that are major contributors to huge piles of nonbiodegradable waste in landfills.
7. Bring your own utensils, and to-go items for takeout and shopping.
If you can’t avoid takeouts, use your own utensils instead of the disposable ones. Bring a reusable cup for coffee instead of the commercial disposable cups. Coffee shops like Starbucks encourage customers to bring their own tumblrs for their daily dose of caffeine instead of using the styro and plastic cups.
When shopping, bring your own tote bag for your purchases.
8. Pack your own in-flight snacks.
Before taking off or boarding the plane, the trash bins are already full of plastics and styrocups. To avoid this mess, pack enough snacks that your appetite can handle. Ditch snacks in wrappers like your favorite chocolate bar.
Make your own sandwich or pack fruit slices or salad in reusable containers. Food waste is the most disgusting waste so you have to be mindful of your food consumption. Bring your own empty water tumbler and fill it in drinking fountains or dispensers in the airport.
9. Check the contents of your fridge before leaving.
If you’re out for a week or so, do not store foods that have short shelf-life. Storage hacks for keeping your fruits and vegetables fresh can be found in this article.
10. Be mindful of your energy consumption.
Check all electric outlets in your house and unplug every appliance before leaving. Hotels already have this system where it automatically shuts down any electric outlets when you leave the room with your key card.
But if you’re staying in a conventional hotel room, turn off the airconditioning unit and the lights before going out to save energy consumption.
11. Do your research.
It’s best to do your own research first before heading to your destination. Find the best possible transport to get from your hotel room to your itinerary. Research restaurants and hotels that implement sustainable practices. Prepare a zero waste vacation plan with your research at least a month before your vacation.
As much as possible, go to places that are bolstered by eco-tourism. These places are preserved in their natural state and even support local communities.
Plastics have been part of our lives for so long that it seems impossible to live without them. Zero waste seems unattainable because our lifestyles do not align with this concept. Sustainable practices at home seems daunting; how much more sustainable practices while on vacation? It seems impossible at first look but when you’ll never know unless you try. In fact, you will even find yourself enjoying a zero waste vacation.
It’s time for us to be more mindful of our practices that harm the environment. It’s time for us to be aware of the effects of our mindless consumption and living. It’s time to collect memories instead of unnecessary things and leave footprints instead of waste.