After 3 weeks in Vanuatu, a weekend to Picton and 2 weeks in Dunedin (including a camping trip) I have learnt a few bits and pieces about travelling with zero waste goals.
Take what you know you will need. Soap, soap dish, bamboo toothbrush, reusable containers, cloth bags, produce bags, stainless steel straws, coffee keep cups.
If you need to shop, try your best to buy zero waste. The easiest example of this is buy a soap bar instead of liquid, fruit from the market instead of the supermarket, use paper mushroom bags at the supermarket instead of plastic.
Following on from the previous point, why not go second hand shopping!? We went and brought some random plates and cutlery for our camping trip before heading out of the city rather than buying new plastic camping ones from The Warehouse or similar.
By taking what you need, you can say no to a straw or a bag or a takeaway cup. The best way to do this is have your straw in your hand when you order your drink, that way you can show people you don’t need one and you wont forget to mention it. People will probably still bring you a straw anyway (either they forgot or someone else made the drink and didn’t get the memo) but I just take it home and reuse them or make sure they get disposed of properly.
Eat in – don’t bother with takeaways if you can avoid it. There will be a heck of a lot less rubbish if you take the time to chill at the café or restaurant. Easier said than done but that is when your reusable container and reusable coffee cups come in handy.
Buy zero waste souvenirs. While wandering around the market we managed to find ourselves a pot hot plate made of scrap fabric from the woman's dress sewing! My husband nabbed a Beatles tshirt from the second hand store in Port Villa for a few bucks!
Bring your rubbish home with you. We tried to precycle by buying things in recyclable packaging but in Vanuatu there is no recycling at all! So, anything that couldn’t go in the compost came home.
Things I have learnt
Get a bamboo toothbrush over wood – my wooden one got moldy in the tropics while my husbands bamboo didn’t. Here is the best place I have found to buy them
10 cloth nappies isn’t enough. I thought with it being a warm climate they would have a high turnover but the humidity had another idea! It took at least 2 days to get the inners dry.
You cant pick up all the rubbish. I couldn’t switch off and found myself wanting to pick up every piece of litter I saw. That is totally impractical in that I would be in a 1m square space for an hour. I settled on picking up selected items: bottle tops, straws and any other items that pose a risk to wildlife. The other thing to be aware of when picking up litter is that there is a social etiquette when visiting other cultures and you may give off a bad impression like ‘I am here to clean up your mess’. Not at all how I feel but how it might be perceived.
Glass baby bottles break easily. It may be worth considering getting a plastic one for travelling… we broke 2 on our holiday and that to me offsets the plastic saved by using glass.
Above is a photo of the bottle tops that I picked up from 200 metres of beach in Vanuatu in November.