It can be tempting to take a break from all the daily grind while travelling, including zero waste routine. We especially tend to do this if it's difficult or not the norm in our country of destination. But the planet doesn’t take holidays! It needs us every day. Frankly speaking, spending your holiday sustainably may not be easy as ABC, but we believe you'll find a way! And we're here to support and inspire you with our tips.
If you want your zero waste trip to go without any surprises, it helps to plan the nuances beforehand. Sustainability is one more thing the modern person needs to take care of in their holiday planning, on a par with choosing a destination or picking out a holiday wardrobe.
The major reason why you should reduce flying to a minimum is CO2 emissions, which planes release in huge amounts. A flight abroad emits 25 times more greenhouse gases than a train ride, and the global warming effect of the pollution has an even greater impact when released at altitude. While many industries are trying to reduce their emissions, aviation’s share continues to grow every year. A train is the best option for a long trip, but a ferry can be a good choice too if you need to cross a sea. Don’t hesitate to ask experienced travellers for advice on how to plan your flight-free trip.
If you really have to fly somewhere, choose companies that are working on minimising their impact: using efficient planes and biofuel alternatives, flying with few empty seats and offsetting their carbon footprint.
And of course, staying closer to home and exploring your own region or country is an even more eco-friendly way to holiday! We bet there are loads of places you could discover without any flights at all.
Smartphones replace cameras and dozens of other gadgets for us. And they cope perfectly with the task of showing an e-ticket on board, or guiding you to landmarks in place of paper maps. If you can refuse to print out anything you need during the holiday, do it, and save the trees.
Just think, how many clothes do you take but never wear on a trip? They just take up room and make your luggage heavier. Instead, choose smaller bags or suitcases and pack fewer things. This way, you’ll also avoid unnecessary impulse buys during a trip, as you simply won't have space for it!
Take a small kit of zero waste swaps that will help you avoid producing a lot of trash while exploring your destination:
Hotel shower gels and shampoos almost always come in plastic packaging, and the bottles are rarely recycled. If you leave them untouched, they will be offered to the next guest instead of being thrown away. So, get your solid personal care alternatives in advance so as not to experiment with the impact of hotel miniatures on your body and take care of nature.
The most exciting part starts when you finally reach your destination. Now you need to integrate your zero waste habits into your new circumstances. Let your efforts to spend your holiday sustainably be a way to get to know the country more deeply. The old you might say “You don’t know the country if you haven’t tasted its national cuisine”. The new you will say “You don’t know the country if you haven’t recycled there”.
Do you change your towels every single day at home? We guess not. So why do this on holiday? In many hotels, if you hang your towel up it shows the cleaner you don’t want it washed. You could also refuse general cleaning and sheet changing, to save water and other resources.
A souvenir made in the region of your trip not only supports the local economy but also has a lower impact on the environment. Because the greater the distance your souvenir travels to get to you, the more packaging and fuel it needs. Hence, check the “made in” details on the label or talk to the vendor before you buy a memento.
A zero waste approach also implies buying (and giving) only necessary things. You could hardly call a magnet or keyring a must-have. Instead, try to select a gift for a certain person by thinking carefully about what they will really like among traditional gifts in your destination, such as accessories, pottery, jewellery, etc. In any case, we bet your friends would appreciate something tasty as a souvenir.
The fast-food industry is a large contributor to the waste problem. The McDonald's chain uses about 2.8 tonnes of packaging every minute. Most takeaway meal packaging isn’t recycled, because it’s usually contaminated with food leftovers or made of unrecyclable materials. So, enjoy a slow lifestyle, at least while on holiday: taste national cuisine unhurriedly in an original spot that’s popular with the locals, rather than downing fast food on the go.
Ask locals about what you should do with recyclable packaging and organic waste. In some countries, it will be easy to find recycling bins and instructions, while in others you will need to research quite hard to understand how people recycle in that area. In countries with a low recycling rate, many citizens will not be aware of how to advise you. If tracking down a recycling point becomes an impossible mission, toss recyclables into the regular waste bin in a separate bag, in case there’s an informal recycling economy.
We are used to thanking the owner of a guest house, hotel staff or couchsurfing host for their hospitality. But what about the environment itself? You visited the lovely location, made the best memories, and got recharged by its atmosphere. It would be fair enough to pay back nature with a cleanup, wouldn’t it? There are a lot of places in the world that are struggling with the waste problem. If everyone who visits them goes the extra mile and helps to clean it up, the problem will be much smaller. So, get into the habit of taking a spare bag with you to pick up trash on a walk. This habit is a great one to take into your daily life too.
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Are your sustainable holidays always successful? What was the hardest? Share your story with your friends and us on your social media!