Tourists are great! They bring income to the local economy and it is a win-win situation for those who travel and for those who welcome the guests. However, it is not a secret that many cities and beautiful places around the world are suffering because of the large influx of people. Now every (informed) traveler has to contemplate how he can reduce his footprint on the place hi wishes to visit.
It is summer and time for travel. We took a weekend off and landed in Paris (France). Here are a few takeaways we had during our travel zero waste style. Before I start it is important to note that this post is our experience and we are learning our ways into zero waste, the stuff is not sophisticated and any feedback and suggestions of improvement are welcomed.
Learning from those who are ahead
First, we looked for and learned about the experiences of other people by reading some blogs online, it helped a lot. The approach to travel planning is essential. Once you know what you want during your visit, the rest is built around that.
We choose to maximize experiences. We are keen walkers, thus the information about the lean packing (logical but must be addressed nevertheless) and must-have items to reduce waste, such as wraps, cotton bags, reusable cups, insulated water bottles, was very helpful. Going through all this we still missed a lot and had our share of mistakes afterward. One of those was very simple – where to refill water and be confident that the water we drink is clean.
Here are the blog posts about zero waste traveling we used and there are plenty more:
We also did use 5 R’s as a basis for planning our travel. The planning is not difficult but necessary part of traveling, especially if there are some changes involved like traveling zero waste way. We encourage to spend some time on planning. Here are the principles of zero waste to look into and crosscheck during the planning phase.
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot, Recycle.
The food, the wraps, and the bags
Our goal was to take as little things with us as possible. It has many obvious benefits: it cheaper on the airplane, easier on the road and less to worry about. We packed a small backpack each (We traveled as a pair). Thus, Refuse part was taken care of.
We also decided to take care of most of our eating by ourselves. So we made healthy food bars. We calculated 3-4 snacks per day (not including lunch and dinner) for each. Here is a hint on how to make delicious and healthy food bars. We also planned to have at least one lunch or dinner in one of the many beautiful Paris street restaurants.
For packing the food we did use our beeswax reusable wraps. For food variety reasons we did make a few sandwiches and bought, dried fruits, nuts and apples in a local bulk store. All the food went into either wraps or beeswax pouches.
Thus, we reduced the possibility for us to buy any snacks on the road which aligned with “reduce” principle. All the wraps went into reusable organic cotton bags.
We strongly recommend reusable bags as a part of your travel, as they can serve various purposes. For us, they served as food storage into one direction and as laundry storage on the way back. They are easily washable afterward. With that, we fixed also the “reuse” principle.
We wanted to bring wooden utensils as well but there was no need for them as the wraps were perfect to eat food with hands.
Experience is more important than things
Another principle that we applied during preparation was to put more and most emphasis on the experiences rather than on physical things and shopping (although we did not completely avoid them). Probably this principle made the trip pleasant as time went by very fast and our feet were sore a bit afterward.
In two full days in Paris we did manage to visit: Arc de Triumf, Basilica of the Sacred Heart, had a walk-in Montmartre, walk by the Seine river and beautiful Tuileries gardens, Saint Chapelle, walked by Notre Dame de Paris, Latin Quarter, spend half a day in Louvre, as well as had a luck to see the finish of the Tour de France race on Champs-Elysees and yes, the Eiffel Tower.
Our travel was on the budget and we stayed in a 3-star hotel. All went well, except our view from the window was one of a kind. We did negotiate and got relocated to a better room though. It is always good to know that negotiations can help when you do them. We did not like the view and we got a better one.
The hotel had great and healthy breakfast each morning, thus after leaving the Paris we still had some of our food bars left and as we stored them in the hotel fridge they served well on the trip home. In the breakfast, we filled up our insulated water bottle and headed for the day. This is where we miscalculated the amount of water needed.
Municipalities and businesses go green and sustainable
A great thing to see in Paris was reusable coffee cups in Starbucks cafe, cups can be bought with deposit and used across the Starbucks cafe network in Paris, beautiful idea to reduce single-use plastic cups.
From the hindsight, the waste bins on the streets were not as ubiquitous as we expected and waste sorting possibilities were limited as well.
We did not manage to go completely zero waste and had to leave some waste in the hotel bin. The reason was we were not sure about the quality of tap water (missed that in preparation phase) and Paris was experiencing heatwave so our bodies needed hydration. Our single insulated bottle went dry quite fast and we did buy some water from local stores and had to leave pet bottles in the hotel.
What could have been our options for refilling the water? We found this information about water quality in Paris bit late and will use this knowledge (filling the water bottles in restaurants was an option as well) in our next trip.
The traveling zero waste was challenging for us and at the same time, we had fun with it.
We hope this article helps anyone who starts to get aware of the waste we create and ways to address it.
Let us know your thoughts on this by leaving the comment below.
One of the highlights We also visited one of the most prominent flea markets in Paris Marche Vernaison, an impressive amount of small stores full with old used stuff and things that wait to be reused, if you like such things, it is the place to visit. I could have spent the whole day there.