5 Tips for Reducing Waste While Travelling
While many of us may strive to lead a conscious and sustainable lifestyle in our home environment, travelling presents a whole new set of challenges in terms of reducing waste. Daily routines and practices are often interrupted (or impossible to carry out) and the comfort of familiar products, equipment and infrastructure, is no longer a luxury.
It starts on the plane ride: blankets, headsets and cutlery are all plastic-wrapped and the complementary toiletries are tailored for single-use only. Back when I was a student, I would pocket the shampoo and conditioner combos at motels thinking it was an easy way to save some money. Now all I can think about is just how many of those SINGLE-USE plastic bottles end up in landfills all over the world, or even worse, in our oceans.
The true challenge lies in avoiding what may be easy and convenient at the time, in favour of the more sustainable, eco-friendly alternative, which may be perceived as being more difficult.
To help get you started, I've compiled a list of 5 tips for reducing waste while travelling, which I have tried and tested throughout my own overseas adventures. Of course these may not all be relevant or practical for you, however I encourage you to give one or two a go and see what works best!
#1 Prepare yourself with eco-friendly toiletries and equipment in advance
Self-care and beauty products are notorious for having non-biodegradable packaging such as plastic. While empty bottles can be recycled, when we are travelling we do not always have access to (or time to seek out) the correct recycling facilities. Under these circumstances, it is best to avoid single-use plastic altogether by adopting the following sustainable alternatives:
What to pack:
Solid shampoo / conditioner / soap bars (stored inside a durable container) - an added benefit is that these usually weigh less than the bottled alternative and take up less space in your tramping pack / suitcase!
Deodorant bars - there are so many beautiful smelling, all natural options out there.
Menstrual cups - these will seriously change your life!
Bamboo toothbrushes - better for your teeth and the environment!
Pack your own reusable face-cloth to use instead of single-use face wipes that are also packed with nasty chemicals.
Stainless steel straws and cutlery - these are an alternative to single-use plastic cutlery and take up very little room (shout out to my dear friend Rosalie Sinclair who bought these for me as a travel gift!).
Carrying around a re-usable drink bottle will not only save you money, but it will also mean you’re saving the ocean from swallowing up yet another plastic bottle.
Small mesh bags for purchasing fruit / veggies / nuts (these pack down to virtually nothing and serve multiple functions including a washing bag for delicates).
Always bring a large reusable bag when out and about for any purchases.
Beeswax wraps are fantastic for wrapping up and storing leftover food for later.
Bring your own towel and sleeping bag that you will re-use so hotels/hostels don't have to constantly wash linen. Tip: Turkish cotton towels are great for travelling as they are super light and can pack down very small.
Pack a raincoat – avoid cheap and nasty plastic ponchos!
#2 Buy local
One of my all time favourite things to do when exploring a new place is to visit local markets. From spice markets in Marrakesh to flower markets in Amsterdam, purchasing locally-sourced, fresh produce is a fun and rewarding way to support the environment and the local community.
The key point here is that local products do not have to travel very far to reach the end-consumer. Imported goods that you often see in large supermarkets may have travelled thousands of miles via ships or planes, which emit large amounts of carbon dioxide. Just remember to bring along your reusable shopping bag!
#3 Utilise public transport, or better yet, walk or cycle!
Wherever possible, try to use public transport over private vehicles (rental cars, Ubers and Taxis) when planning your journey. Mass transit is much more efficient at moving people and is less harmful on the environment than private vehicles. It's also a great way to mix with locals and get to know the place you are visiting!
#4 Take the time to learn about local recycling
No matter where you are travelling to, it is important to enquire about local waste disposal to ensure that the waste you create is disposed of in the correct manner.
Back home in Auckland, New Zealand, we put all of our recycling in one bin, which is collected outside our home each week and then sorted at the recycling centre. However, when I moved to Amsterdam, I quickly learnt that like many other European cities, all recyclable products need to be taken to a communal spot on the streets and manually separated by material (plastic, glass and paper).
#5 Go electronic when possible!
In the past, I often took the complementary maps and brochures from reception desks when available, and often printed my tickets. I have recently realised that although it’s a nice idea to collect these momentos, it’s actually not so environmentally friendly.
An easy way to reduce the amount of waste you produce while out exploring is by avoiding the paper copies of information you can otherwise get electronically. For example:
Download the offline map of a city using Google Maps - you can then access the map later on without needing the internet.
Take a photo of the piece of information you need from a brochure, poster or card for your reference.
Try not to print tickets (plane, train, bus, accommodation and events) if there is an option to download the ticket and display the electronic version from your phone. Just make sure you take a screenshot in case you lose internet connection.
If you have your own tips for reducing waste while travelling, please share these with us and the rest of The Conscious Club community – we are always interested in learning more and would love to hear from you.
Conscious Contributor: Ella Davis
Ella is one of our very own - she worked as a Karma Yogi Host at The Conscious Club. She moved to Amsterdam from New Zealand late last year and has since been travelling around Western Europe as well as exploring what The Netherlands has to offer! Her passion for living a more sustainable and conscious lifestyle first developed during her final year at University while studying environmental politics. She continued to learn more about specific lifestyle changes and eco-friendly products through community events such as the Go Green Expo and those hosted by Conscious Action in Auckland. She also cites the Plant Power Podcast, hosted by Dylan Steeples, and her close friend Rosalie Sinclair, as key inspirations and sources of knowledge and support throughout her journey towards a more conscious lifestyle.