Hello again! This week I am writing from sunny Portugal as I am here for a couple of days visiting my parents so it seemed like a good opportunity to start a zero waste travel experience series both generally and specific things that I have encountered on my trips.
Zero waste travel is already an oxymoron, there is no way to be completely zero waste while jet setting around the world, so the name of the game here is damage limitation! Depending on your preferred mode of transport and destination , you may be in more control of what you can bring along with you, where you can go, and what you can expect. Whether it be a couple of days away in the country or two weeks half way across the world, the same basic stages of travel apply and it’s worth knowing how to make a little less impact wherever you are. The series begins before you even set off with Step one, packing :
Packing is the ground floor of every holiday, this is the base of how you will live for the next day/ week/ month/ however long you are away, so it’s important to get it right and make a positive start. Every time I travel, I promise myself that I will pack light. I never use even half of the clothes that I think I will and planning for every eventuality isn’t particularly practical when only one eventuality is in any way likely! Cutting back and having a no waste mentality is important even in this context, pack consciously, live consciously. Packing light also opens up the opportunity to travel in different and more sustainable ways, for example using public transport instead of having to hire a car. Going to visit my parents is usually easy for me as I already have everything I need in their house so I only have to take a small backpack with me, but as this is my first visit since the start of my zero waste journey, I needed to pack a few extras. My usual zero waste kit consisting of straw, toothbrush, reusable water bottle and travel mug, cutlery, and napkin came with me (I will write a whole post in a few weeks about my zero waste essentials kit) along with some extra plastic free toiletries to keep here. It’s always a good idea to have a small bag with zero waste essentials that you may not be able to get a hold of at your destination ready for each time you travel.
If you are flying to your destination then you may have hand luggage only and will have to negotiate the 150ml limit for your toiletries which can be a real challenge depending on what you usually use. Luckily a lot of zero waste products work well in this situation, soap, shampoo and conditioner in bar form, tooth powder and mouthwash tabs are all great for traveling. The only things that I had to negotiate this time were makeup remover, perfume and body lotion which came in containers larger than 150ml. It can be tempting in some cases to just head out and grab some travel miniatures because it’s easy, but if you can avoid it then do. Use what you have and decant your usual products into reusable smaller containers for traveling, small bottles, spritzers and containers are available all over the high street and online and are a good investment as they can be used over and over for a multitude of purposes. On a standard journey I would always be bringing my own toiletries, but in the interest of discussing my cheats on this blog I will admit that I have been using some plastic toiletries during my visit as it made sense to use those already available in my parents house. Occasional slips in your zero waste routine are not failings, as long as you are conscious of what you are using and think about ways to avoid the same situation in the future, then cheating is only human.
Depending on the length of my journey, I will always try to pack some snacks with me to avoid having to buy any on the journey. Not only does this save on buying prepackaged foods, but also makes financial sense as the prices for food are often very high in airports, train stations etc. The water bottle from my zero waste kit comes in handy for the same reason as you can often find refill stations or ask in a cafe or restaurant on the way for a free refill.
Just remember that packing is your first step, and it is a lot easier to keep your environmental cost down later in your trip if you get this first stage right. Make conscious decisions but don’t beat yourself up if you need to make some compromises. As I say, zero waste travel is an oxymoron but you shouldn’t have to give up things you love for this lifestyle. Even if you aren’t a 10, it’s better to be a 6.5 than a 3!