What's Worth It

Challenging Zero-waste Travel: Is It Possible?

Tourism offers some of the best experiences out there. Through travel, you can see the world, learn about other cultures, and ultimately emerge as a better and more knowledgeable person. Yet it’s also true that tourism can affect the communities and environments that nurture it. Take beautiful hotspots like Hawaii. We’ve previously talked about how the spirit of aloha has helped create a naturally-healing getaway experience. This is where the double-edged nature of tourism comes into play: as visitor numbers climb, so does environmental degradation in the state. Zero-waste travel is touted as a solution to this issue. The problem is that travel is heavily dependent on convenience. Waste — like single-use plastic — is a product of that convenience. So is it possible to merge convenience with zero waste? Why is zero-waste travel so important in the first place? The need for zero waste Waste is a major contributor to climate change as it emits greenhouse gases as it decays. Despite this, countries around the globe continue churn out waste — and according to Statista’s 2022 report “Global Waste Generation,” the US is the biggest waste producer in the world. With waste production only predicted to increase, the demand for sustainability professionals is skyrocketing. Universities are helping fill this demand by providing comprehensive sustainability degrees designed and taught by international experts in sustainability. These degrees are equipping future generations of sustainability leaders when we need them the most — and they have experts who are actively searching for solutions as well as teaching the next generation. Zero waste is one solution these professionals have developed both as policymakers and designers. Many of their efforts have reached the realm of sustainable travel. Today, travel destinations and tourists alike can use them to further enable zero waste travel. We tackle this in depth below. How travel destinations are promoting zero waste The management behind tourist hotspots now tout zero-waste principles that both locals and tourists can follow to their advantage. Many locations now single-use plastics, but others have gone even further. Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana promotes itself as the world’s first zero-waste city. It recycles up to 70% of its waste, while recycling centers and door-to-door collections encourage others to do the same. Amsterdam is another city teeming with zero-waste activities. After helping the Plastic Whale organization fish for plastic in Amsterdam’s canals, you can head to the Albert Cuyp food market for organic eats. You can even rest at one of Amsterdam’s Conscious Hotels — part of a hotel chain that’s built with sustainable materials and operations. These are just a couple of examples of how destinations are making zero-waste travel possible. You can help out by filling in the other side of the equation. How you can try zero-waste travel Go paperless Download the digital versions of everything from boarding passes to guidebooks. Since you’ll probably dispose of them after your trip, opting for paperless is the better option. Make your own snacks Think fruit slices, homemade chips and granola bars, and sandwiches — foods that aren’t prepackaged and can be packed in reusable containers. Pack zero-waste toiletries Instead of using hotel supplies, try mini travel bottles that you can fill with essentials like soap, shampoo, and lotion. Women can consider menstrual cups instead of pads and tampons. Dine in It can be more sustainable and less of a hassle to dine in so you don’t need to lug packaged take outs around with you. If you really want takeout, consider bringing reusable containers, cutlery, and a thermos to pack it in. Support sustainable local businesses From hotels and restaurants to activity centers, opt for places that operate sustainably. Some examples are the aforementioned Conscious Hotels, New York’s package-free store Precycle, and Natural Habitat’s Safari America adventure in Yellowstone National Park. Now more than ever, it’s vital that we integrate a zero waste mindset into our daily lives — and this includes how we travel. Hopefully, this article proves that zero waste travel is possible. Article contributed by Rose James