How Much Waste Do You Leave Behind When You Travel?


The United Nations declared 2017 the Year of Sustainable Tourism, and according to the UN World Tourism Organisations, 1.8 billion people will travel abroad in 2030. And while going on holidays is a chance to relax, it is important to be mindful of the waste we produce in the process. Excessive litter and pollution can tarnish and easily damage the very environments we go to admire, and often remote and impoverished communities in developing nations do not have the resources to clean up after ignorant tourists. From the remote streets of Leh in Ladakh, to the picturesque beaches of Northern Scotland, litter, waste and pollution has been found at an ever-increasing rate, and the locals are struggling to keep up with the demand for disposal systems and clean up. In the case of Mount Everest, the amount of plastic bottles left on the slopes has prompted measures to curb disposable waste in the region. Litter – particularly non-biodegradable materials – has been banned and the Sherpas who live in the area are strictly enforcing these rules, not just because of the environmental damage already being done, but because the harsh terrain of the area makes any wide scale clean up difficult. And Everest is not the only place to suffer from man-made pollution problems; travellers repeatedly report back about beaches across the globe swimming in rubbish (pun intended), footpaths and public walkways suffering a distinct lack of care, and once-pristine parkland littered with… well, litter. As a tourist, it is our responsibility to ensure we are not contributing to an existing problem or making an emerging problem worse. Simple acts like using a Keep Cup and/or metal water bottle, buying fresh food free of unnecessary packaging, and taking rubbish with you to dispose of properly later, can all make a huge difference in these cases. It can also work out cheaper for you, as you purchase less and re-use more. And taking the pressure off the locals, who are already catering to a tourism industry and may be struggling to keep up with the infrastructure demands that new people bring, can ensure these exciting destinations remain clean and healthy for future visitors.

Being a ‘zero waste’ traveller is not easy, but it is important. It’s all about making conscientious choices and making just a little bit more effort to find better options. Other common travel practices such as throwing out old clothes as you go, and using travel-sized plastic toiletry bottles or plastic bags for rubbish, shows little care for the environment and causes unnecessary waste at your destination. Instead of continuing these habits, try packing lighter and washing clothes while you’re there, only take what you will really need, and use locally sourced products where possible instead of bringing it with you. Looking up some local eco-friendly brands or making your own homegrown cleansing products can end up being cheaper and much kinder to the environment too, and make sure you reuse any towels or linen when staying multiple nights at a hotel in order to save on energy and water consumption. Having a more old fashioned make-do attitude, instead of the disposable consumerist attitude we’re all used to these days, will eventually make these lifestyle changes feel like second nature. And you can rest easy knowing you’re helping the environment, the locals, and your hip pocket in the process.

Seven Women