I just arrived back from a trip to Japan. It was a spectacular experience that I will never forget. The people, the music, the atmosphere, the food (YUM) and unfortunately….the plastic (YUCK!)
Trying to reduce your waste at home can begin to feel easy (or easier). You know your local stores, you know how they will accommodate you, how they won’t, and you know the alternatives you have around you. When you go on holidays, it can feel completely OVERWHELMING and stressful to even think about the waste you may have no choice in creating.
The fact is, you will create waste, you just will. I don’t think anyone could argue any different. BUT – that is no reason to give up all hope – you can still do so much to reduce your waste.
Here are 5 things I learned about reducing my waste when traveling.
- Be prepared. YES – we all saw this one coming – pack for a Zero Waste trip. My essentials are listed below, and I can tell you that every single one of these items saved dozens of items from ending up in landfill. My partner drank 25 cups of coffee on our trip, which means in coffee cups alone we saved soooo much! (Check out a picture of, him above with his reusable coffee cup.)
- A reusable water bottle
- A reusable Coffee Cup
- Cutlery (More on this in point number 2)
- A reusable bag (preferably one that folds up small)
- A jar or Tupperware
- 2 or 3 reusable napkins
- A full zero waste bathroom kit
- A minimalist attitude (More on this in point 4)
It is important to note that in a country where we didn’t speak the language, sometimes we were misunderstood and we were given single-use items. Twice my partner was misunderstood, and the barrister made his coffee in a single use cup and poured it into his cup, (completely defeating the purpose) but that means that 23 other times, he was successful. The point is, keep on trying, every single decision is a new chance to minimize your waste.
2. Think about what you cant bring through the airport!
Let me tell you, I thought that not only was I Zero Waste Prepared – I had mastered the art of packing. BUT – come to find that you cannot pack a metal FORK in carry on luggage. I had researched several sites that said no knives, but forks and spoons were okay, but when they scanned my bag, well, let’s just say it wasn’t a fun conversation with border security. (NOTHING BAD HAPPENED – but my day would have been quicker if I didn’t have it.)
It’s also important to note that your water bottle and coffee cup MUST be empty when going through customs, as does your food container – wrapped food is fine, but unfortunately, at least on an international flight, they won’t let you bring food through. My partner and I just brought the empty containers through and filled them before we got on the plane.
3. Eat out! When you are at home, often, eating out is the opposite of Zero Waste, but when you are traveling – eating out is your friend. Unless you are going to cook all of your meals at the hotel (If you even can) then eating out is going to be the most Zero Waste option. While it is cheap to pick up a meal at the takeaway or convenience store, almost everything you find there is going to be wrapped in plastic, and even heated in plastic, only for it to go straight to landfill when you are done with it.
Eating out means less plastic waste, less packaging, and you get to experience the culture of the city you are visiting. And it doesn’t have to be more expensive – there are food places where you can eat in store, in all different price ranges.
4. A MINIMALIST attitude. There are so many pieces of waste you receive on a trip that you don’t even think of, and could completely be used again. When you go on a tour, visit a monument or landmark, you often get a brochure, pamphlet, menu or map. Most of this you think “Great, I can frame this or put it in my trip scrapbook when I get home” but I question how many of us actually do this. If you need the paper item to get around or learn about the exhibit, use the item for the duration of your visit, and keep it in a good condition – then you can often return it to the place you got it, so the next person can use it.
If you are someone who truly does cherish these items, try to limit them to one per group, and only really keep the ones you will use. I know sometimes it can be uncomfortable to refuse these items or trinkets from a tour guide, keep in mind that the company is saving money, as they can use the item on the next trip!
Different countries have very different programs when it comes to waste, recycling, food packaging and product packaging. I know it was super helpful to me to find a local fruit and veg market, a good supermarket that I could access during my trip – before I got on the plane. Plus, I researched what recycling programs were available, and what they would and wouldn’t take in Tokyo. I encourage you to try and learn about your holiday destination. Not only will you be super prepared for your holiday, you might learn something that will help you at home to minimize your waste.
DONT FORGET TO HAVE FUN – Get prepared at home so you don’t have to stress about it on your trip. Remember that your entire holiday shouldn’t be about Zero Waste. Do what you can, and learn from every setback!