It’s that time of year again when everyone’s thoughts turn to a summer vacation. This year, of course, things might be a little less extravagant than usual, with global destinations either just reopening or remaining closed for the foreseeable future. However, there’s still plenty to explore and discover wherever you are, and there’s probably never been a better time to enjoy a staycation in your hometown.
So, whether you’re lucky enough to jet off abroad or you decide it’s time you finally experience that world-famous tourist attraction on your doorstep, here we explore how to enjoy a zero-waste vacation—so you can enjoy some R+R without destroying the planet at the same time! Read on and discover our zero-waste travel tips for your next journey of discovery!
Why Choose a Zero-Waste Vacation?
In 2019, 4.5 billion passengers were carried by airlines globally, creating 915 million tons of CO2. Plastic waste and food waste generated by tourists is estimated to be twice that of local residents, and water usage for tourist destinations is a significant drain on local resources. Overall, the industry is responsible for more than 5% of global greenhouse emissions.
Unfortunately, these facts point to the hospitality and tourism industry as a huge generator of waste and harmful emissions. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your vacation, and there are plenty of ways to be mindful of how much waste you produce while traveling and still reduce your carbon footprint.
Going zero waste on your next vacation can be part of your wider zero-waste strategy or it could be a chance to kickstart your zero-waste journey and commit to generating less waste in the future. Either way, choosing a zero-waste vacation gives you the opportunity to promote more sustainable travel and push for less wasteful practices across the entire industry.
Choosing your Zero Waste Vacation
Today, many places are becoming more conscious of the pollution and waste associated with tourism. In fact, you’ll find both airlines, travel companies, and hotels are now pushing towards more sustainable operations in line with consumer demand. Here are a few things to look for when choosing your zero-waste vacation.
- Skip the Plane – In many cases, particularly when considering a staycation, skipping the plane in favor of the bus, train, ferry, or even car can help you dramatically reduce your carbon footprint.
- Look for Carbon Offsets – Some airlines now offer travelers the chance to offset the carbon emissions of air travel by making a payment that is used in sustainable projects such as tree planting.
- Choose Self-Catering – Self-catering holidays are ideal because it enables you to have more control as to how much waste you produce and how to dispose of it. By booking self-catering you are also giving yourself the option to eat out or cook your own meals, making it practice locavorism.
- Book Eco Hotels – If you still want the hotel experience, eco options such as Sweden’s Treehotels, or any of these zero-waste vacation options in the US are a great place to start.
- Search with Ecosia – This one’s a no-brainer! When searching for your zero-waste holiday destination, be sure to use ecosia (one search = one tree planted)
Tips on How to Practice a Zero-Waste Beach Vacation
Most people love a beach vacation, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to experience sandy beaches and cerulean seascapes. Here are a few tips on how to take a zero-waste beach vacation so you can enjoy the beautiful landscape and ensure it remains that way when you leave.
- Use zero-waste sunscreens – believe it or not, normal sunscreens are extremely toxic to the ocean and the coral reefs so make sure you choose an eco-friendly sunscreen
- Take your own reusable water bottles/ coffee cups, reusable straws, and sustainable utensils to avoid single-use plastics.
- Preserve the wildlife – be mindful when you swim as to not touch the coral or wildlife to not only protect yourself but the environment too. It is their home!
- Use a towel made of natural fibers and that won’t shed microplastics. The same goes for your swimwear and beach clothing.
- Ditch the plastic bags and take a zero-waste reusable shopping bag for daily essentials and shopping trips
Tips on How to Create a Zero-Waste Vacation Home
If you have your own vacation home that you regularly visit, and if you already practice a zero-waste lifestyle, you may already be aware of how to go about reducing waste. However, if you’re just starting out on your zero-waste journey, here are some tips on how to create a zero-waste vacation home:
- Invest in a compost heap for your food waste – If you have one at home, why not have one in your vacation home! Here is a guide on how to make your own compost heap.
- When purchasing vacation clothing, go for more sustainable options made with natural bamboo fibers and organic cotton. In many cases, they are better than synthetic fabrics at keeping you cool and wicking away sweat!
- Try to walk as much as possible and take public transport. This way you will be immersed in your surroundings and may get to know the locals!
- Reuse and swap disposables for reusable napkins, refillable bottles, shopping totes, cloth napkins, etc. Check out this zero-waste kit to get you started.
- Shop at the local thrift shops and find truly unique vacation mementos!
- Remember the 3Rs – REDUCE; REUSE; RECYCLE!
Zero-Waste Personal Vacation Care
Personal care products and toiletries are big generators of plastic waste. This is particularly true of travel-size plastic bottles, with tiny containers instantly being discarded after a couple of uses.
- Try innovative products such as waste-free eco-deodorant cream, soap bars, shampoo bars, zero-waste toothpastes, and bamboo toothbrushes—or get started with this zero-waste travel kit!
- Refill old travel bottles with personal care products such as soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and sunscreen from home.
- Being on holiday while being on your menstrual cycle can be a bit annoying, however, it doesn’t have to be. For women looking to invest in more eco-friendly menstrual cycle products, period pants and menstrual cups are the way forward, along with organic tampons. Modibodi is a great period pants brand that sells a wide range of underwear suitable for all shapes and sizes. They also sell zero-waste period-friendly swimwear if you fancy a dip in the lake or sea.
- Men, if you want to shave, try investing in a wooden shaver, eco shaving kit, or perhaps let the beard grow!
Other useful zero waste tips and tricks
While on vacation, download the sharewaste app which pinpoints places where you can drop off your food scraps. The zero-waste bulkfinder app is also handy as it shows you where the local farmer’s markets and bulk stores are. There are also cities in Europe that offer free kayaking in exchange for cleaning rivers and beach clean-ups so it’is worth seeking out.
Subscribe to zerowaste.com for more information on zero-waste living and check out the store for great products made for your vacation—most importantly, however, don’t forget to enjoy yourself!