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How to Be a Greener Traveller

Love to travel but want to do so in a way that has the least possible impact on the environment? Lauren and Oberon Carter share their tricks on how to holiday sustainably

the carter family live a waste free life
The Carter family live a waste-free life

In an age where we are all becoming more and more conscious of our impact on the planet, travelling can be a dilemma. Think of all those tiny sachets of jam and vegemite and single-serve plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles you are likely to encounter, let alone the plastic cutlery, take-away food, packaged snacks and bottled water… and that’s after you’ve travelled the long distance to get there.

Zero Waste Tasmania founders Lauren and Oberon Carter believe that just because you expect to see some waste whilst on holidays does not mean you have to accept excessive waste. They say with a little forward planning and preparation you can enjoy a waste-free holiday without taking all the fun out of it. Four years ago the couple, who live in southern Tasmania with their three daughters – Audrey, 15, Xanthe, 12, and Maisie, 8 – decided to get serious about minimising their ecological footprint, successfully reducing their energy consumption by more than 60 per cent and transitioning to living completely waste and recycling free. They wrote A Family Guide to Waste-free Living to help and encourage other families do the same. Here are their travel tips:

ON HOLIDAYS
  • Explore travel destinations closer to home, to avoid the fuel consumption brought about by travelling long distances
  • Look into transport methods, such as train, boat, bike, bus and carpooling to reach your destination
  • Choose accommodation options where you can self-cater and bring food along with you or find low-waste food suppliers nearby
  • You may find items that are free to take in hotel rooms or other holiday locations. But you know, you don’t have to take them just because they are being offered! If you know that you’re going somewhere that offers free sample-size offerings of toiletries and so on, you might like to come prepared with your own products from home, in a reusable container
  • If you’re staying somewhere that happens to offer a self-serve buffet-style breakfast, then look for the options that do not involve excess packaging or single-use plastics. Note that laid-out spreads of bread and cheese and cereals in selfserve canisters may have been decanted from regular store packaging
  • Take along your waste-free outings kit so you’re prepared for eating out
  • Look for a local market or greengrocer and buy fresh food snacks, such as fruit and veggies, that naturally come without packaging
  • Check if there are composting and recycling facilities where you’re staying and make the most of them, or if it’s feasible, come prepared with your own container to collect them for composting when you get home
IN THE AIR
  • Take your own snacks in your own home-bought container. If you are in a rush to get to the airport, take your empty container and ask a food vendor at the airport to put food into it (we recommend something non-leaky like a nice bit of lemon tart). Choose foods that don’t require utensils, as you’re unlikely to be permitted to take your own on the plane. Check your airline’s restrictions with regards to this
  • Carry your own reusable drink bottle. Free water can be found at the airport in the bathrooms or water fountain stations
  • Carry your own fabric napkin or serviette, for those turbulence spills
  • Say ‘no thanks’ to wasteful airline food. You have the power of choice
  • Utilise on-board recycling facilities, if available. Otherwise, keep your waste with you until you find a suitable recycling location for it afterwards
  • Keep food scraps for composting later, but only if you’re allowed to bring those food items into your destination location – check local quarantine laws
  • You may want to carry on a lightweight bag or container for storing food scraps
  • Take your own headphones, because really, why does anyone need those free  in-flight ones
  • Take your own reusable cup for your warm drink of choice. You may like to check beforehand whether these will be accepted by your airline. However, most cafes in airports should accept them.
  • Carry lighter luggage, because a reduced load will mean less fuel required and fewer greenhouse gas emissions
  • Offer solutions to your  airline – you may want  to let them know that you  would like them to reduce their food and packaging waste and provide in-flight recycling or composting facilities
  • Support airlines that are accountable for the waste they produce and that demonstrate significant positive actions to reduce waste
  • Carbon offsetting is a widely promoted action that is intended to address the greenhouse gas emissions produced by flying. This involves paying money for someone to plant enough trees or undertake clean-energy projects that offset the emissions from your flight. However, there are criticisms of this approach; for example, that offsetting somehow absolves people of their wasteful or environmentally harmful actions and effectively allows people to pay for their complacency around waste. We recommend that people give priority to their own behaviours and try to reduce waste through their actions.
WHAT TO PACK
what to pack breakout. never leave home without these essentials 1
Never leave home without these essentials

Before you go away, make sure you’ve popped these essential items in your reusables kit.

  • Thermos
  • Reusable coffee cup
  • Reusable straws
  • Reusable chopsticks
  • Reusable cutlery
  • Cloth napkin
  • Drink bottle
  • Enamel plates and cups
  • A lunchbox or container

This is an edited extract from A Family Guide to Waste-free Living, published by Plum/Pan Macmillan Australia.

a family guide to waste free living by lauren and oberon carter. image lauren oberon
A Family Guide to Waste Free Living by Lauren and Oberon Carter. Image: Lauren Oberon

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