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Zero Waste Travel

The quandary of travel: travel, and you contribute to one of the largest sources of waste and greenhouse gas emissions there is. Don’t travel and you miss the majesty of our magnificent planet and all the people and cultures it is home to. The hypermobility of this new age is both a curse and a boon, but the single most glaring paradox we’ve been struggling with is our desire to visit places without a heavy burden of accompanying guilt.

Let’s face it, if you travel (unless by foot or a human powered machine) it’s almost impossible to go zero waste. Still, as a responsible traveller there are things you can do. We caught up with Sahar Mansoor, a zero waste lifestyle practitioner from Bangalore whose personal and home care brand Bare Necessities champions waste-free living. Sahar’s incredibly attuned to her actions and their consequences, and so we hit her up on ways to soften our carbon footprint.

“I’ve been entirely waste-free since 2015”, Sahar told us. She recalled working with a solar energy company on energy interventions for under served communities, the job that reinforced her desire to work for the environment. “It was there that I was really confronted by the social justice angle”, she said, and coupled with her first introduction to a zero-waste lifestyle via Bea Johnson, a leading voice in the zero waste movement, led to the establishment of her own brand. While Sahar maintains that going zero-waste is actually quite attainable, she does state that one has to want to make the change first. “When you’re home in an area you’re familiar with, it’s simpler to be waste free, but that may not be the case when you’re travelling”, she said, something we’re familiar with.

Her top tips on sticking to it even when away:

Download Bulk, Bea Johnson’s zero waste home app, which is crowd sourced where you can track stores that sell in bulk sans all the wasteful packaging. It’s one resource that really helps!

Carry your own personal products when you travel (many of which you can find on my website www.barenecessities.in that are package-free and come in reusable glass containers) instead of using stuff you find at hotels that are always packaged in plastic.

Visit the library before a journey instead of buying new books or download them on an app or your Kindle.

Forgo using earphones provided by airlines which are packaged in plastic and require resources to clean and package them again; carry your own instead.

Carry your own mug, water bottle, spoon, straw, fork, handkerchiefs, and reusable totes or shopping bags.

Switch to bamboo toothbrushes especially if you can find them in your local market.

Visit places like Buffalo Back Collective, an organic store in Bangalore that works directly with farmers and sources all their produce package-free. You can visit them and pick a basket to take what you want in cloth bags or your own containers.

Ladies, opt for menstrual cups over sanitary napkins to reduce what goes into our landfills.

Shop local while travelling (farmer’s markets are my favourite).

Carry your own mason jar / recycled glass jar (multi-purpose, a mason jar can be used for water, coffee, toiletries, and even waste).

Get a PDF of your ticket on your cell phone as opposed to printing it out.

Opt for reusable luggage tags, or make your own upcycled version at home ahead of time.

Photo credit: Neel Bhupathi

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