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6 Zero Waste Travel Tips from an Island Manager and a Solo Female Traveler


#MUNIonThis: If we are not more mindful, travel can be one of our most environmentally disruptive activities, shared Dave Albao, Executive Director of the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation Inc. (PRRCFI), the organization behind the conservation and management of Danjugan Island, during the MUNI Meetup on Zero Waste Ways in Travel last September 30, 2017.

Dave invited us to consider that when we visit another place, we expect entertainment and demand convenience, and in that process, we create shifts in cultural norms and natural landscapes.

However, have you wondered what life (and island “development” and sanitation) was like in Boracay before its nightlife came to be? Or what the feeding and migratory patterns of the butanding (whale sharks) were before people flocked Oslob to see them?

“When we travel, we usually expect our surroundings to adjust to us and the comforts we are used to. In order to truly travel sustainably and mindfully, this perspective has to shift towards us, as visitors of a place, adjusting to the environment and the norms of the place we are visiting,” Chiara de Castro of GRID shared as an takeaway from what Dave said during the meetup.

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L-R: Dave Albao on Danjugan Island & Jen Horn of MUNI who led a discussion about Zero Waste in Travel, and Bea Crisostomo shared Zero Waste Ways at Home.

Part of Filipino hospitality includes wanting our guests have the best time when they visit. “It’s more fun in the Philippines” after all. But what’s not so fun is the impact we often create as travelers.”

As travelers, we often have a sense of entitlement to services we pay for, but what is the true cost of not being mindful of our consumption and behavior when we visit these destinations?” said Jen Horn, a solo traveler, @nomadmanager, and founder of MUNI.

With water shortage and the lack of proper waste recovery and management systems in many of our island destinations, perhaps its high time we initiate the change and adjust our expectations. We are merely visitors and it is gracious for the locals (humans, animals and even plants) to open their home and share their culture with us. It seems fair that we act as courteous visitors, and aim to leave the place better than we found it.

Here are 6 ways to travel zero waste as shared by Dave, Jen, and other meetup attendees:

  1. Be conscious of your consumption of resources. Clean water is a difficult resource to come by in remote islands like Danjugan. Managing your use will go a long way in ensuring clean water will be accessible to others too.
  2. Leave no trace. A popular practice for mountaineers and environmentalists, this is a practice of taking home the trash you produce while traveling, especially in remote areas where garbage collection is difficult or non-existent.
  3. Avoid bringing disposables to begin with. Instead, tote reusables that are essential in saving money and the environment. To minimize the amount of waste you have to bring home with you, it would be best to not bring disposables to begin with. Reusable tumblers, mess kits, shopping bags are all essential for refilling clean water at trusted water sources, partaking of street food and taking snacks on your treks or travels, or doing supply runs at the local market.
  4. Pack your own toiletries and slippers and avoid taking home disposable, miniature hotel toiletries or using flimsy, disposable hotel slippers too. This is a highly wasteful part of the hospitality industry, and you can opt not to take part of it. You can also encourage accommodation owners to have bamboo toothbrushes instead vs. plastic (in US alone, 850 million toothbrushes are thrown away each year) and have refillable containers for their shampoo and liquid soap instead.
  5. Rethink travel brochures, pamphlets and maps. Avoid taking them all, as one may be good enough for your entire group, plus there’s Google, or better yet, get to know some locals who can take you to places and introduce you to other locals you won’t find in generic guide-books or that article on the Top 5 “Must-Go” Instagrammable Sights in X Destination.
  6. Support the local economy but reconsider your souvenir choices. Apart from steering clear of souvenirs that take away from natural resources that are difficult to renew, choose more meaningful, less generic, disposable items. You can choose to take home some of your favorite local delicacies (with your own container!), fresh fruits (this can be cheaper than in the city), or other unique finds that you will actually cherish, while saying no to all the unnecessary packaging.

At the end of the day, the best souvenirs to take away from our travels are really:

  • The stories of our adventures and discoveries
  • The connections we make with locals and fellow travelers
  • A better understanding of the impact we make in the places we visit before, during and after our travels
  • The desire to share a more responsible way of traveling with others by serving as an example ourselves

“We create impact before and beyond our travels. And so, our goal shouldn’t just be to travel responsibly but to live responsibly,” shared Jen.

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By being more mindful of our consumption and the waste we produce on a daily basis, we minimize the negative impact we unintentionally create in otherwise beautiful travel destinations – making it more possible to have a positive experience of a place when we visit in the future, but more importantly, helping the locals better preserve their home day-to-day.

[Editor’s note: Want to join our next MUNI Meetup? Save the date for the  MUNI Meetup on Zero Waste Ways in Business on November 11, 2017. Registration links will be up on or before October 15, 2017.

We’re also creating MUNI Travels, an exclusive, mindful travel experience through Negros Occidental in 2018. Majority of the trip will be spent on Danjugan Island, and also includes opportunities to connect you with other like-minded changemakers into social entrepreneurship, agriculture, tourism and so on. We’re still working on final details and registration, but in the meantime, sign up to MUNI Mail to get updates here.]

Related reads:
4 Ways To Create a Waste-free Travel Experience
The Cost of Convenience vs. Zero Waste Living
5 Tips on Cleaning and Composting for a Pest-free, Waste-free Home
Conscious Consumerism won’t save the world — not alone