It is a movement to live without creating any waste by changing your lifestyle so that you are no longer relying on single use items; particularly plastics, with the end goal of sending nothing to landfill. Does that sound impossible? It’s actually not! There is a whole worldwide community of people trying to reduce their impact on the environment by cutting down their consumption and reliability on single use plastics. I am one of those people; I have been living low waste for just over a year now. One of my favourite hobbies is camping and hiking, before my transition to zero waste there would always be squabbles amongst the group as to who has to carry the smelly bag of trash in their backpack. I don’t have that problem anymore, the only ‘trash’ that comes back home with me is food scraps to be composted. I initially found it difficult to disappear in to the forest for several days without creating trash. Isn’t that ironic?
One of the first things I noticed when travelling, especially in urban areas, is that travelling results in so much ‘stuff’. Travelling often accumulates a lot of waste; single use plastics, stickers, tickets, receipts, individual use products and so on. Here we are trying to carry everything we own on our backs or in our suitcases and yet we are constantly amassing items we don’t necessarily want or need. Most of these items are used once and then tossed ‘away.’ But there is no away. Away usually means being buried in a landfill where it will last forever, contaminating the environment around it. Or it ends up in the ocean, where it will (again) last forever or eventually over hundreds of years break down to small micro plastics. Travellers often end up inadvertently trashing the very place they came to see – so there needs to be a movement towards zero waste travel….
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The best option is to avoid this waste altogether, to avoid having to throw it ‘away’ or carry it around in your backpack. This is known as zero waste travel. While some of these things are a lot harder to avoid as they are necessary, other single use plastics can very easily be avoided with a bit of preparation.
Say no to unnecessary single use plastic such as straws and plastic bags. This can easily be done by being prepared.
Reusable coffee cup, menstrual cup, bamboo toothbrush, mesh bag, reusable water bottle, and a jar full of snacks.
Don’t panic; you don’t need to run out and buy all of new fancy ‘zero waste items’, if you are in to camping then you likely own a reusable cutlery set or picnic set. Use what you have, reuse an old jam jar instead of a branded mason jar with a handle. If your jam jar doesn’t have a handle just use an old sock or a napkin to stop your fingers burning from hot drinks. I already owned a lot of these items and most can easily be found in second hand shops.
I know this seems like an oxymoron, after I just said to be prepared, but a lot of the above items are light weight and have multiple uses (except for the menstrual cup!). Travelling light is advantageous because you have less stuff to lug around making you more mobile. You don’t have to check in your luggage and therefore can avoid bag tags at the airport and waiting around for your gear. By travelling with less you pack with intention and multi-purposely, that’s less time packing and more time adventuring. Having less stuff means there are less things to worry about forgetting every time you repack.
When travelling eat in when you can, this way you avoid nasty single use plastic/Styrofoam and have time to enjoy the experience and observe your surroundings.
Don’t buy tacky souvenirs; most of these are made in another country and end up collecting dust years later. Spend your money on experiences or buy from local handicraft shops, this way you give back to the local economy.
While most of us love travelling and experiencing new adventures, it can be hard to keep a clean conscious when you consider yourself to be an environmentalist. You may have heard of carbon miles, which is the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions your chosen mode of transport emits in to the atmosphere, thus contributing to greenhouse gases. I have seen many environmentalists having to explain themselves on their social media accounts, that ‘sorry, I know flying is bad for the environment and all, but unfortunately it’s my only option.’ Living in New Zealand makes avoiding planes very difficult when it comes to leaving the country. Fortunately many airlines now offer an option to offset your journey by charging a price to pay for the equivalent number of trees to the carbon miles produced from your journey. In some cases where the option to drive is available flying is the more efficient option due to the high number of passengers over the distance. Reducing your rubbish consumption can be a bit easier than minimising your carbon miles. There is a whole support network out there of people living zero waste (ZW), use their knowledge! From my experience many of ZW community are happy to meet likeminded people and help them out. Make use of the Bulk App (an app that shows you were local bulk food stores are) and the Zero Waste Bloggers Network. Travelling provides many opportunities and experiences that we wouldn’t necessarily get to experience at home, it can sometimes takes us out of our comfort zone. When travelling it is about accepting what you are in control of, and understanding the part you are playing on the environment both locally and globally.
Guest post by Amanda in Waste-Free Land. Amanda is an Environmentalist, Zero Waster and Tramper based in New Zealand. Feed up with all waste in the world she wants to make a change in the world and help others follow in her footsteps. She is currently blogging on her adventures and attempts to live waste-free in Auckland and afar. Check out her blog here or follow her on Google+ and Instagram!