How to reduce waste while traveling – Zero waste travel
Are you excited or worried about travelling? If you are excited, you know travelling is definitely a valuable experience for many reasons. If you are worried, you are not alone. We are seeing the increasing negative impacts on the environment, local communities, and wildlife. So, how can you get the long-lasting experience you want while minimizing the impact? Or, how you could make positive impact by traveling?
Traveling could be a waste of time and money
Do you know why you want to travel? If you are traveling for no good reasons, you will waste your time and money. Many people get inspired by one-minute promotional video of the best place in famous destinations or someone’s recommendation, then think I should go there next. But is it good enough to invest your time and money?
So, what’s your reason for the trip you are planning? Here’re some common examples that will not bring a great experience.
You are traveling to escape from stress or problems – Traveling will not solve your problems or get rid of the cause of the stress. If you are stressed about your work, you will very quickly get stressed after your holiday ends. If your everyday life is boring, ask yourself why it is boring.
You don’t know what’s on your doorstep – It has become easy to hop on a plane, but do you really need to go that far? Do you know what you have within driving distance? People often spend extra time and money to go far away to just find the views and activities are similar to what they have near their home. Staying closer to your home is safer and cheaper in most cases.
You travel for things you don’t care a lot – Epic landscapes, museums, cultural ceremonies are only great if you like them. Don’t fill your schedule with must see and do things only because the guidebook says so. Are you itching to get the experiences and feelings that you can get only by physically being there?
You choose traveling because you don’t’ have anything else – We will talk about the real cost of traveling later, but it is crazy to just roam around different places because you don’t have anything else to do. Even just to lay on the beach to relax, it should be the purpose of the trip and you should look forward to it.
You want to find yourself – Some people might have found their true desire by making conscious decisions while travelling. But remember, your true self is right inside you and finding yourself is actually returning to yourself. Traveling is not only a way to find yourself. You don’t need to travel to see something new to find yourself, it is about how you see the person you already are.
What is “travel waste”?
Other than time and money, what could be wasted? Wasting something means use carelessly or to no purpose. We should be aware the inconvenient truth behind our individual travel experience. Some examples…
- Transportation is responsible for 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions contributing to the global warming. But we still want to travel.
- Building roads and accommodation around the popular places (usually has natural beauty) can damage the environment.
- Tourists in hotels consume so much more water and energy than locals. Sometimes, local people have limited usage to allocate enough for tourists.
- Many of beautiful destinations are ruined with the load of trash from tourists. For example, Bali’s Kuta and Legian beaches are being buried by 60 tonnes of plastic rubbish each day. Single-use items are convenient for traveling. But small pack of snacks, travel size toiletries, bottled drinks, take away food, are all polluting the natural beauty that is the reason for traveling.
- Locals’ life and culture is affected by tourists. For example, Venice in Italy had to restrict and turn away visitors that continue to strain its infrastructure so that it can guarantee public safety, security and livability.
You are on vacation, and it doesn’t mean you don’t need to worry about your waste. Try your best to save resources, minimize rubbish, and respect local environment and culture. Because we are already experiencing the consequences from careless consuming habit. We are seeing beautiful beaches, rainforest, wildlife, and landscapes are disappearing because of our unsustainable activities. You can travel as much as you want but in a more mindful way.
How much does your travel cost?
There are direct costs you need to pay such as transportation and accommodation. You can calculate how much they would cost when you plan your trip. What you cannot easily calculate is the cost for waste management, ecosystem recovery, greenhouse gas emissions, and societal lifetime. And these invisible costs can be very expensive. For example, coral restoration will cost US$10,000 ha-1 to US$5 million ha-1. Rainforest revegetation will cost about US$30,000 ha-1. Offsetting carbon emissions will cost about US$6 per ton.
You will not pay for these as “cost for traveling” but will pay as tax or service fees at some point.
How to reduce waste while traveling?
Planning – Sustainable travel companies, eco-friendly accommodations, and destinations committed to reducing waste will make you easier to make your trip more sustainable. When you book transportation, accommodation, and tours, check out what they do about sustainability. Natural Habitat Adventures operated the world’s first zero waste adventure guided by a commitment to “Refuse, Recycle, Compost, Upcycle and Re-Use”.
Minimize your luggage – Not only does travelling with 1 bag (carry-on luggage or weekender bag) reduce your carbon footprint, but it also saves you time. See how to pack all items in a carry-on.
Choose reusables – There are reusable alternatives to most of your essentials. For traveling, water bottle, coffee cup, and food bag/container can take up a space in your bag. Choose collapsible design made of silicone. Also, include a lightweight foldable bag.
Zero waste toiletries – Shower Balls, single use size shower tablets, are the most convenient and sustainable option as you don’t need bottles or containers. For oral care, there are toothpaste tablets and bamboo toothbrush. Reusable makeup pads are another wastefree alternative.
Use public transport – Avoiding taxi, driving a car, and flying can make a big difference. Greenhouse gas emissions from transportations is responsible for a large part of global emission. Find public transport services available at your destination before you arrive and use them wherever you can.
Energy and water consumption – Your home country may not have a problem with water supply. But only 0.3% of water on the Earth is drinkable and usable to be shared among our population. Saving water can also save energy, food, and wildlife. Say no to room cleaning services during your stay and wash less times with less water. Turn off lights and electric devices when you don’t use.
Zero waste dining – Buying local produces and cooking yourself is the most sustainable way. But when you dine in restaurants choose the one using local produces and sustainable ingredients. When you take away food, bring your own containers if you can. And do not waste food.
How to make positive impact while traveling
Reducing waste is only a small part. What we really hope to see is nature, culture, or community, in those destinations thrives and becomes more attractive for us to visit in the future again. So, why not consider being a part of their solution?
For example, you can make your itinerary including activities to support local communities and cultures. The opportunity for travelers to work on a project while venturing abroad is a way to build goodwill in local communities while having meaningful experience. There are many activities such as cleaning up beaches, building a school, or work a couple of weeks for an NGO in Africa.
It may not sound relaxing vacation, but your experience will be meaningful and lasting memory. Ask yourself again, why you want to travel.
Is traveling a waste of money? - https://www.debate.org/opinions/is-traveling-a-waste-of-money
Social Impact Travel Continues to Grow in Popularity - https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2020/social-impact-travel-continues-grow-popularity/86346
Purchasing Carbon Offsets FAQs - https://secondnature.org/climate-action-guidance/purchasing-carbon-offsets-faqs
Improving the Economic Effectiveness of Coral Reef Restoration - http://www.reefresilience.org/wp-content/uploads/Spurgeon-2001-Improving-the-economic-effectiveness-of-coral-reef-restoration.pdf
Achieving cost-effective landscape-scale forest restoration through targeted natural regeneration - https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12709