Reducing your personal waste while traveling helps you reduce your environmental footprint, shows respect for other countries and often inspires other travelers and even locals to be more environmentally conscious.
Most non-first world countries are not very conscious of waste management. For example, in 7-11 in Thailand, even if you buy a single water bottle to drink from right away, they’ll give you a plastic bag.
Often times to reduce your personal waste, you need to take the initiative. Here are a few tips for doing this.
Cut Out the Water Bottles
Water bottles are perhaps the traveler’s most common waste item. Since tap water isn’t drinkable in many of the countries in the world, it’s common to constantly buy water bottles for clean water.
Unfortunately, that results in between one and four discarded water bottles every single day. In a month of traveling, that’s as many as 120 discarded water bottles!
Start reducing your footprint by not using disposable bottles whenever possible.
In countries where water is more or less drinkable (e.g. Poland), use a portable filter. These cost under $30 and can easily pay for itself in a week of travel on saved water costs.
In countries where the water is clearly not drinkable (e.g. Cambodia), try to use water refilling stations rather than buying water bottles.
Learn to Say “No Bag, Thank You”
In many countries in the world, it’s almost traditional to pack purchases in a plastic bag. This can add up to a lot of environmental waste. Learn to say “no bag, thank you” in whatever country you’re visiting. Bring your own bag around to reduce the amount of waste you’re producing.
Bring Your Own Forks, Spoons & Chopsticks
Disposable forks, spoons and chopsticks are another big source of waste for travelers.
Travelers are often eating on the go. For example, on a trek up to a waterfall, a local merchant might sell you a small box of noodles and give you a plastic fork along with a pair of wooden chopsticks.
There’s not much you can do about the noodle’s packaging. But if you have your own fork or chopsticks, you’ll save a lot of cutlery over the course of your travels.
Learn the Public Transportation Systems
As a tourist, it’s often easier to just take cabs. After all, trying to learn a new public transportation system in a language you don’t understand can be quite a hassle.
However, if you really want to reduce your footprint, this is one of the best ways to do it. Instead of burning gas for a cab to drive you around, you use resources the city would expend anyway.
Whenever possible, go paperless. Book your flights online and don’t have them mail you a ticket. Cancel your credit card statements. Book with hotels that don’t require a printed reservation to look you up.
In short, be conscious of your paper usage and reduce paper waste whenever possible.
These are a few different ways you can reduce your personal waste. Generating less trash in a foreign country is a great way to help move the world towards a more sustainable mindset.
Have you ever tried any of these suggestions?