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!