I know you shop at bulk stores. I know plastic bags have disappeared from your life and when you are offered, you proudly decline. I also know that you squirm when you see packaged fruit in the supermarket. And I know you go above and beyond and find ways to even replace things like plastic containers for toothpaste or shampoo.
You do all of this for moral reasons and it makes you feel better. You’ve realized that less is more. Now, when you travel you could feel confused because you’re not sure how to keep up your zero-waste lifestyle. That’s why I’ve decided to write this article with the collaboration of Carla Heras, an expert that is a part of the Zero Waste Barcelona Network, an association which main goal is to educate people on waste reduction. They do this through workshops, talks, and meetings, creating a space in Barcelona in which people with the same concerns and interests can share their experiences.
So the two of us bring you a very practical and fast-action article for your next trip. At the end of the article you will find a series of resources in case you decide to travel to Catalonia and visit Barcelona. Let’s begin!
As Carla says, the most important thing to having a zero-waste attitude is planning, that way you don’t make it to your destination and end up at the first supermarket you see and buying something that’s not good for the environment. It’s better to come prepared with a list of all the bulk stores and local markets.
Have you ever spent idle hours on an airport or station with nothing to eat, and end up buying food wrapped in plastic? To avoid these situations, it’s important to plan in advanced and bring something from your house; like sandwiches, fruit, or nuts. If you didn’t manage to remember, try to buy food wrapped in paper and canned beverages.
What do you do when a hotel or inn gives you individual containers of butter or marmalade? When it happens to me I always feel bad for using them, or if I’m feeling particularly rebellious I refuse to use them and eat my bread plain. That’s why I like to stay in small, locally run accommodations who tend to be more likely to be environmentally conscious. I’ve gotten used to call and make sure beforehand. Carla gives us a little advice: If you go online you can see the pictures that people have posted on the place’s social media and get an idea about their take on plastic containers. Nevertheless, Carla prefers to rent an apartment and buy her own food.
Let’s take a closer look at the toiletry bag Carla days that it’s always best to bring your own cleaning and beauty products. Sometimes it’s impossible to know if the soaps or shampoos we are offered have dangerous chemicals or have been tested on animals. Plus, if you bring your own solid soap and shampoo, you avoid problems during airport security controls or having anything spill in your bag. It’s a win-win! Also, like one of my friend says about these “amenities”, if Marie Kondo wouldn’t take them home, you shouldn’t either.
This one is a controversial issue: water. You probably take your own steel bottle everywhere, and in some cities like Barcelona or Ljubljana, tap water is perfectly drinkable so you can avoid buying plastic bottles. Carla shares with us an app that shows the locations of Barcelona’s drinking fountains. We will put in under the resources.
Even though there are water bottles who also filter the water, it is recommended that we use bottled water when we travel to certain countries where the tap water could be contaminated. If you have done your research on water bottles, you’ve probably seen that they come in a very wide variety of filters (It’s so complicated you almost need a degree to do it!) but they don’t guarantee that the water will come out 100% drinkable. There are also filters that can be adapted to the tap, and if all else fails, we can always boil the water, though carefully to avoid more contamination.
→Let’s reflect: Usually countries with water problems have little or no way to treat waste, and that’s where we use bottled water the most.
What restaurants should I choose? I always recommend going to restaurants where they serve local and organic food, since they’ll always be more conscious about reducing waste. In the resources section you will find an article about the best restaurants to eat locally in Catalonia.
Are you one of those people who can’t help themselves from buying all their friends a refrigerator magnet when they travel? Here, Carla and I both agree that the best thing to do is to buy souvenirs that are useful, and to do that we can ask ourselves these questions first:
- Do I need it?
- How long will it last?
- What would happen to this when it’s no longer useful?
- Where was it made?
- What material is it made from?
→Carla suggests sending a postcard, because it will surely be more exciting than a plain t-shirt that reads ‘I love Paris’. Another option is to visit the local arts and crafts markets and finding souvenirs that are handmade and with good materials.
Recycling and waste separation
And lastly, a good ally to zero-waste is recycling and waste separation, but be careful because some materials like plastic don’t recycle well (it’s also a very environmentally taxing process), it loses its properties and becomes worse quality each time.
To sum up…
…what would be the zero-waste traveler kit?
- Your own toiletry bag
- A few cloth reusable bags
- Water bottle everywhere
- A fork, spoon, and tupperware can be very useful for outings or picnics
- A good handkerchief
What else would you add to this kit? I’d love to read your comments!
The following are a few resources I’ve been mentioned during the article in cause you decide to travel to Catalonia and Barcelona!