I’m zero-waste, and I’ll admit that my traveling is less than desirable when assessing my carbon footprint.
I sacrifice things every day in order to accommodate my zero-waste life, but traveling is something I cannot give up. I grew up overseas (mostly in Europe and Asia) and have been taking airplanes since I was two weeks old.
My first plane ride was to Liberia in 1989; my parents set me up for a life of adventure and curiosity. I am so thankful that I was able to experience other cultures and interact with a variety of environments from such a young age, which shaped me into who I am. I feel most alive when I’m in an unfamiliar zone.
A lot of us love to travel, and I hope that one day there will be more carbon neutral ways to do so. Until that day, we can try to do our best to reduce our personal environmental footprint whilst in transit.
Zero waste is more of a goal than a hard target—working towards eliminating waste. It is something we strive for, and it’s unrealistic and impossible for anyone to be completely waste free in today’s society. We are all trying the best we can.
If you plan on exploring the world, here are some zero waste adventure tips that I’ve learned through my own travels:
1. Bring a reusable bottle.
You can’t bring liquids through customs, but a refillable, empty bottle is okay. You can fill it up with water at various restaurants or drinking fountains throughout the airport. I also find a reusable bottle better on the plane—you can ask the stewardess to fill it up—because I get way more water compared to one of those little plastic cups. Yay for no plastic, and yay for extra hydration.
2. Pack your own food.
Most airports carry overpriced junk food, so the best way to combat this is to prepare your own meals before you fly and pack them in jars. One of my favourite snacks is baked chickpeas.
(Preheat oven to 450F, in a bowl toss chickpeas with sunflower/olive oil and spices of your choice (I love cinnamon and paprika with a squeeze of lemon), bake on baking sheet for 30-40 minutes or until they are crunchy. Put them in a container and snack away.)
I’ve also brought leftover curry, rice, salads and vegetable medleys; the world’s your oyster with this one. Bulk snacks in reusable bags are great too if you don’t want to carry around containers. It’s more pleasurable to eat your own food, especially when you have a layover somewhere, and it ends up being more cost effective.
3. Bring reusable cutlery.
Since you’re packing your own food, bring your own cutlery too. I have a bamboo set that I carry in my purse with me everywhere I go. Airports and planes only offer plastic cutlery, so having at least a fork on you is helpful. I’ve never had any problems bringing mine through customs.
4. Get the App.
Download the app for the airline you’re flying with so you can check in online. This way you get a virtual boarding pass, not a paper one. I’ve managed to check in this way with no problems using the apps for Delta, Air Canada, United, West Jet and Alaska Air.
5. Bring an empty jar/container.
Bring an empty jar for compost. This has saved me numerous times. I always tend to pack some fruit with me, and a lot of airports barely have decent recycling systems set up, let alone efficient compost systems. A jar is perfect because it can be sealed.
I once forgot about my jar at the bottom of my bag and got checked coming back from Mexico. When the customs officials opened the lid, it smelled like my compost had begun to ferment. Luckily, I was in Seattle, so I asked them to please compost it and they assured me they would. It’s great that Seattle airport has an organics program set up.
6. Most importantly…
My final tip is to always have compassion for yourself. Having compassion for yourself isn’t any different than having compassion for others or the planet. We are not perfect beings; we are all just navigating the world the best way that we can. We do what we can, when we can. I will continue to travel, but I’ll also do what I can to protect the environment the best way I know how, without compromising what nourishes and feeds my soul.
Author: Ella Vint
Editor: Toby Israel