Thursday, May 15, 2014

Be a Better Jet Setter, by MCRs Sam P. and Leigh-Anna P.

How to Reduce Waste While Travelling

Before we started the MCR course, we had planned a road trip down the Pacific Coast. We love to travel, and get very excited at the prospect of relaxing and enjoying new places. Within the first few classes of our course, we started to become more aware of how wasteful travel can be and came up with an idea. We would use our road trip as an opportunity to change our own behaviours and educate others about how to reduce waste while away from home!

While planning our environmentally-conscious trip, we quickly learned that the key to reducing our waste while on the road was planning ahead. Here are some of the most beneficial ideas we came up with:

1. Make a packing list. Forgetting to pack personal items is an easy way to increase waste by buying and consuming more products. Being prepared will not only reduce your stress prior to and during the trip but it will also decrease the amount of packaging waste created on your trip.

2. Bring toiletries in reusable containers. Travel size toiletries are convenient and take up less space in your bag, but they produce a lot more waste than buying regular-sized or bulk bottles. Plus, those little bottles rarely get recycled. They're usually too small to make it through the machine sorting process, even in places that have comprehensive plastics recycling. If you're buying them, plan on saving them to refill for your next trip.

Pro tip: Avoid the urge to use the toiletries in the hotel washrooms. If the hotel staff notice that even the smallest amount of product is used, they will throw out the whole bottle, wasting a lot of product and packaging.

3. Bring a reusable water bottle and travel mug. Disposable coffee cups add up, especially on a road trip! As an added bonus, the reusable mugs keep your coffee hot for longer as an added bonus. You can even bring a reusable beverage container on a plane as long as it is empty when you go through security.

Pick up some local produce to snack on

4. Plan meals ahead of time. Takeout food creates a lot of waste from plastic or Styrofoam containers. Prepare meals and snacks at home, or bring reuseable containers and cutlery for takeout. Cloth napkins will save the amount of paper you use up, and they work wonders for spills and kids! Try grocery shopping instead of always eating at restaurants, and if it's in the budget, choose sit-down places to avoid being served on disposable dishes.

5. Research the waste process of the destination you’re visiting.
You don't have to go crazy, but it helps to know what items you are going to be able to recycle and whether the city you are in has a municipal compost system. In places that don’t have recycling or have limited recycling, save your recyclables to dispose of them when you get home! If you're extra keen, you can save organic material in a leak proof container to compost when you return.

Many cities offer bike rentals
6. Use alternative transportation. Explore your destination in a unique and exciting way! Public transportation, like the bus or subway, is an easy, Earth-friendly travel method. Renting bicycles and walking are pleasant ways to explore the city or town at your own pace. In larger cities, bicycle taxis are great ways to explore downtown without creating excess pollution.

Keep it gorgeous!
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reducing your waste while travelling. Get creative and look for opportunities to reduce waste all along your trip. It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of travelling and let your waste habits take a backseat to convenience, but it’s important that we make conscious choices with our garbage. The place you're visiting is beautiful; help keep it that way! We all want to continue to have an amazing, waste-free world to travel for years to come.

Samantha P. and Leigh-Anna P. took the MCR course together in 2014 and jumped straight into volunteering. Between the two of them, they've hosted booths, joined pop-up compost sessions, and done a whole lot of chit-chatting about waste.

Do you have any fantastic less-waste tips for travelers? Share them in the comments below!

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