A trip, and thoughts on zero-waste travel

Zero-waste travel is surely an oxymoron, isn’t it? Especially if you’re travelling by air, that massive carbon footprint - there’s no doing away with that. While the thought of the environmental impact makes me feel guilty, I’m learning to make peace with the fact that we all do what we can in whatever measure possible. I’m learning up on methods to compensate. Many airlines are experimenting with biofuel, or partially biofuel-powered flights. I’m also delighted to learn about Etihad’s pledge towards eliminating single-use plastics on their flights by at least 80% by 2022.

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A few of weeks ago, we came back from a lovely trip to Sri Lanka. Here are some things I did on the trip to ensure the amount of trash we generated on the trip was minimal. 

  • Carried two water bottles to refill water where we could. Since we were a bit paranoid about the water (given that we were travelling with a young child and a couple of senior citizens) we did have to buy bottled water. Instead of buying 1 Litre bottles, we’d buy 5 Litre cans of water and refill our reusable bottles.
  • Also, since we forgot to carry our reusable straw for our daughter to drink tender coconut with, we’d always ask for the tender coconut to be poured into one of the bottles so she could drink from the bottle. We adults are quite happy chugging the tender coconut straight up, no straws!
  •  Packed handkerchiefs and small hand towels for use in place of paper towels/tissues. A bar of soap is all we had to carry to keep them clean and reusable!
  • Carried bags to buy fruit from the local markets to eat as snacks on the trip. We ate the best avocados ever!

Here are a couple of things I wish we’d done differently this time. Learnings for the next trip, for sure! 

  • Wanted to, but forgot to carry a container or two to pack dry fruit in, and to pack leftover food etc.
  • Although breakfast was almost always delicious Idiyappam (string hoppers) and dal all through the trip, there was the odd occasion where we gave into the temptation of toast with butter and jam that came in single use packs.
  • I wish we had been able to take more public transport around the island. Of course, this isn’t most practical when you’re travelling with seniors and juniors, but as our daughter grows older, I definitely see us taking more public transport. 

To be honest, one some level, it feels trivial to talk about single-use plastics like butter and jam containers while the carbon footprint of the flights has more of an impact. What can we do besides planting more trees, or contributing Carbon Offset programs? I’d love to know what you think. In the meanwhile, I do believe that small steps add up in the long run. I hope to become more vocal and have  conversations about single-use plastics with strangers. And yes, I’m writing to hotels to talk about single-use plastic and their alternatives. Baby steps!


 

Small fish, big fish, plastics

How can starvation occur even if bellies are full?

Because, the bellies are full of plastic.

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There’s something terribly wrong if the stuff our marine creatures are eating is in turn killing them. There have been SO many whales, turtles and or marine animals who’ve died of starvation because their bellies were too filled with plastic (bags, fishing lines, netting etc) for them to be able to eat anything nourishing, life-sustaining. This needs to stop!

 And then there’s the whole other issue of tiny bits of micro plastic floating in the sea that our fish are ingesting. In turn we eat the fish. When will we wake up?

Zero Waste events - Cutlery Banks or Plate Rentals In India

I’ve been reading up a fair bit on going zero-waste in the past year. Enough to fill a small book, and another one*. One of the most fascinating things I’ve come across is the number of ‘Cutlery Banks’ or rental services for plates, spoons, cups etc to cater to small parties started by eco-conscious individuals across India.

We’ve all had small parties at home, for 15-20 people - a number small enough that regular caterers are unlikely to be needed, but a number large enough that we can’t make do with the cutlery that we already have at home. And so we go to the nearest big supermarket and lug home some disposable cups, plates and spoons. And what happens at the end of the party? We pull out those big black garbage bags (or green, if you’ve bought those seemingly ‘bio-degradable’ ones) and you dump all the used plates, cups and spoons into it, and you have THREE BAGS-FULL. Or several more. All of it gets unceremoniously thrown away with leftover food and other waste. Not the most eco-friendly way to party, is it?

Imagine if instead, there’s nothing thrown out because you used reusable cutlery and composted all the food waste? (Or donated the good leftover food if some of your guests didn’t show up.) Wouldn’t that be a celebration that’s beautiful and considerate of our planet?

Here’s where these Plate Banks or Cutlery Banks come in handy. And the best part is that many of these places offer to rent it out for free, or at a very minimal cost. That’s how devoted these folks are to the cause of the environment!

I hope this list below inspires you to use these services the next time you have a party. If you know a service in India that is not listed here, please leave a comment below, I will update the list. Even better, if your city isn’t listed here, I hope this inspires at least a few of you to maybe even start a service in your city or town.

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