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Zero waste travel tips

Coming back from our latest trip to Mallorca this weekend I got chatting to the most interesting Australian gal who along with her girlfriend was heading to inland Spain after a week-long of island exploration. She shared some really good tips about zero-carbon footprint travelling which I initially challenged her on, given we were both about to board a plane. Could we really be talking about climate neutral travel at an airport? It turned out there are many ways you can reduce the impact that your holidays may have on the environment even if you cannot completely reduce your carbon footprint.

With flight ticket prices on the decline and the number of passenger flights in a record high in the last couple of years, the news can only be bad for the environment. A single return flight from Germany to the Canary Islands emits almost as much CO2 as the typical car produces in an entire year. So the general point of view is that if you choose to fly, you should offset. But how?

Ronda explained that if you prepare your travels thoroughly, and keep 'carbon footprint' on your radar, your choices can end up being socially responsible and ecologically sensitive without missing out on the overall experience. It is a must she said, and having read that global tourism contributes up to 8% of the greenhouse emissions, I can see why. Do you really want to be the one that takes a seaplane to an eco-heaven? Erm... (you can also read about the rubbish island in the Maldives - because all those tropical paradises we see HAVE to get rid of your rubbish somehow, right?).

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Photo by Shifaaz Shamoon
Fly responsibly

This firstly means, I guess, that if you can avoid flying in the first place, do so. Can you travel by train or boat? Do you have to fly to Tenerife? Why not choose Mallorca (smaller distance) instead? Take the train from London to Paris rather than fly and Eurostar found you’ll cut carbon emissions by 90%. Flying by plane is the dirtiest way of travelling. Period.

And if the distance is great and you have to fly, why not fly economy (more seats, less footprint) and fly light (less luggage makes for lighter planes, that consume less fuel to carry it after all). If you can, look for airlines that use the latest models of planes that are by default more economical than older models.

Did you know that even the time of your travel can have an effect on the overall carbon footprint of the flight? Have you noticed a plane's contrails - that long streak of white condensation that is left behind by planes in the sky? Well apparently this reflects the suns's rays back into the sky during the day but not at night. So it is better to travel during the day.

plane in the sky during sunset
Photo by Tom Barrett

Stay in low carbon impact accommodation

Would it not be great to spend your holidays relaxing in a hotel that has every comfort and at the same time respects nature? A large number of hotels (large chains and smaller establishments) now consider using energy more efficiently, recycling and even using ecological cleaners as some of the way to reducing their CO2 emissions.

You will need a car to get to the stunning Tivoli Évora Ecoresort, near Lisbon in Évora, Portugal, but you will be rewarded by this swoon worthy hotel with high eco-credentials: shaded by old cork, oak and olive trees, the 56-suite hotel blends effortlessly into the sunny Portuguese scenery. And geothermal energy heats the building while solar panels heat the water and pools.

In Copenhagen, Manon les Suites is a Green Globe-certified hotel where all the food is organic, and is full of living walls, goods are recycled, and products are packaged sustainably.

Manon les Suites hotel Copenhagen
Manon les Suites hotel Copenhagen

Manon les Suites hotel Copenhagen
Manon les Suites hotel Copenhagen

Manon les Suites hotel Copenhagen
Manon les Suites hotel Copenhagen

Eco-sustainability within a hotel can be achieved through:

  • Car-free accessibility

  • Green buildings

  • More than 80% waste recycling

  • Use of reneable energy - e.g. through solar panels

  • Geothermal Heating

  • Serving organic or Local Food

  • Ecological cleaning products

  • Use of energy saving lights

  • Solar thermal panels for hot water

  • Water flow reducers

  • Recovery & reuse of rainwater

  • Appliances in energy class A

  • Water-saving toilets

  • Environmental-friendly furniture

  • Biodiversity of green areas

  • Bicycle rental (something we saw excessively in Mallorca, which is promoted as a bicycle holiday destination).

Image of bicycle
Photo by Marten Bjork
Eat local food

Something I absolutely hate: restaurant chains like Burger King and McDonalds in places just like Mallorca and my native Crete island in Greece. Did you really travel all the way to these places to savour another whopper that is nothing more than processed meat that was frozen and transported in plastic containers to the island? Come on!! And what about that fizzy drink in a plastic can that you are just about to dispose of ?

Talking of drinks - have a BPA free bottle with you that you can re-fill with water at the hotel instead of buying more plastic bottles of water while out having your fun exploring.

Trying local food is part of the experience. So why not try it out? It is produced locally, it's not transferred far and it is not processed like that meat burger you are craving. And if you are in a hotel that offers half-board, why not leave a comment for management if you see their kitchen overcooking food that is then left un-touched and possibly thrown away? While you are at it, make your comment work harder by adding that management should inspire guests more with locally produced food, and indeed organic food. There you go.

Photo by Monika Grabkowska
Pack the right way

You have just arrived and your ear is itching so you head to the nearest supermarket to buy a plastic box of cotton ear buds. Why not pack 10 of them in your wash bag before leaving your home? And instead of picking up a big bottle of shampoo at the airport, why not keep smaller bottles and re-fill them for every trip (which is what I do lately).

Ronda also explained that if you want to pack lightly, you need to pack the right clothes: 100% cotton clothes wash far better and you can keep a small bag of eco-detergent (we use Ecover at home) to keep them fresh on longer trips like hers. She also used washable bamboo pads for removing the make up off her face, instead of what I bought at the airport: make up removal wipes. Doh. Queue face palm emoji.


Most hotels offer a reminder that you can re-use your towels and do your bit for the environment. It's not really difficult and you wouldn't really change your towels after just one use at home. So why not fold them back after you dried them instead of asking for an even fresher pair the next morning?

Instead of going for the plastic bag in super markets, why not pack a couple re-usable produce bags like these that not only do good but also look great ?

There are so many ways you can have fun in your holidays and have less of an impact to the environment. Have you tried any lately?

What other zero-waste tips have you discovered through your travel experiences?



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