Ways to Reduce your waste while Traveling

Happy new year y’all!

I hope that 2019 is off to a great start and you’re working hard on your new year’s resolutions. As you probably know, my major goal in 2019 is to reduce my consumption and be more minimalist in what I purchase. All of this fits into my goal of having a zero waste lifestyle in the new year.

Since I’m fortunate enough to travel so often, I thought that reducing my waste while away from home would be immediately helpful to the environment. So, I asked some bloggers to send me some of their favorite tips for reducing waste while traveling. 

Trust me, these tips will be so helpful for you when you’re preparing for your next trip!

Reduce your Paper Waste

Contribution from Jing 

Help reduce paper waste that eventually ends up in landfills by saving electronic copies of your travel documents in your phone instead of printing them. Nowadays, showing an electronic copy of your plane tickets, hotel bookings, boarding pass and tour vouchers is an acceptable method of showing proof of booking and eligibility.

Aside from reducing paper wastes for disposal, this practice will also save paper and printing ink usage. It is still advised, however, to carefully check verification procedures that apply to your travel documents. For example, e-visas often include instructions to have the document printed and shown at the immigration upon arrival at your country of destination.

Likewise, you can avoid generating paper wastes by taking only maps and brochures that you need. If you are traveling with your family or friends, consider sharing one map and brochure instead of each one taking one of these free items. An alternative to using printed maps is to download offline maps on your portable device and use this to navigate your way. I find Maps.Me to be a useful app. It allows one to navigate and view the maps even when offline.

Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Contribution from Jing 

Many of our activities while traveling cause emissions of greenhouse gases directly and indirectly. An example is when we burn gasoline as we use transportation to move from one place to another.

One way of minimizing your carbon footprint is to use public transportation instead of renting your own vehicle. One bus or train can move more people in one go. This translates to fewer individual cars on the road, less air pollution, less greenhouse gas emissions, and less fuel consumption. For shorter distances, why not rent a bike or explore the place on foot to make your travel
carbon emissions-free? Biking and walking are also great ways to keep fit, less expensive than other forms of travel and will give you a better appreciation of your surroundings.

My favorite mode of exploration when traveling is walking. Exploring on foot not only reduces your carbon footprint but also enables you to travel off the beaten track. I walked around the historic town of Georgetown, Penang, for instance, and discovered many street art installations that were not commonly found in available street art maps of Georgetown.

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Use Reusable Straws

Contribution from Demi 

Although only small in size, straws have a huge effect on our natural environment. Every year, millions more are needlessly thrown away. As a Dive Instructor, I have seen countless straws floating around the ocean, causing confusion and sometimes death for marine creatures. They can be mistaken for food, or even get stuck in animals eats and eyes.

I admit I like to drink with a straw, but I hate to pollute. To get around the problem I purchased a set of metal straws, which I always carry in my backpack. They come with a cute little bag and a cleaning brush. They are also a great conversation starter, and many people who perhaps don’t know the impact of straws being needlessly thrown aware quickly become converts to metal straws! It’s a small adjustment to make, and they are not heavy to carry, but you will really be making a difference in reducing your plastic waste whilst traveling. 

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Use a Portable Water Filter

Contribution by Audrey

It’s no secret plastic water bottles are bad for the environment. They float easily and travel huge distances along rivers, oceans, and streams. And they’re the most common type of pollution found on beaches around the world. Plastic bottles don’t break down, making things worse as they build up over time and hang around forever.

Tap water in many countries causes upset tummies and it can be difficult to access clean drinking when traveling on the road. For this reason, many travelers turn to bottled water as it’s clean and safe to drink. We’ve done this ourselves and were horrified to see the plastic bottles piling up in the corner of our hotel room.

Instead of clogging up the environment a better alternative is to use a portable water filter instead. They are a quick and convenient way to have clean drinking water wherever you go. And not only will you be doing your bit for the environment you’ll save money on bottled
water too.

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Use Reusable Utensils

Contribution by Ben 

One of the easiest ways to travel sustainably, especially for first-time travelers, is to reduce the amount of plastic you throw away. The best way to do that is to travel with a spork. This nifty innovation combines a fork, a spoon and usually a serrated edge to act as a knife.
Not only a compact and versatile travel tool, but it also helps reduce waste as a simple wash and it’s reusable. They are also great for camping and road trips as they take the role of three utensils while being lightweight.
If you’re looking to reduce your waste while on the road, traveling with a spork is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to help you travel sustainably.

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Support Recycling

Contribution from Chris and Ciska

Developed countries make recycling easy. While developing or underdeveloped countries are equally in need of recycling, they generally lack the infrastructure or initiatives to facilitate it.

We travel by private yacht and only dispose of garbage at suitable onshore locations. We started our recycling support by buying a can crusher and keeping the crushed aluminum cans separate from the rest of the garbage.

Once ashore, we try to find a can recycling or collection point. There are a surprising number of these wherever we go! Even in a worst-case scenario, with the cans ending up in a landfill, the volume is meaningfully less. As the image shows, the crushed volume is roughly 16% of the original.

Not everybody can travel with a can crusher in their luggage, but everyone can support the environment by promoting recycling and responsible waste management, wherever they go. At the very least, try to reduce the volume of all garbage you dispose of – step on cans, tear up cereal boxes, flatten milk cartons and so forth. Also, don’t use or accept single use plastic items, such as plastic bags or plastic straws.

By refusing and recycling you will be able to be a responsible traveler.

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Avoid Fast Food

Contribution from Monique 

We all know how tiring travel can be: the flights at all hours, running to catch taxis, switching between hotels. When you finally make it to your destination, it can be tempting to just order some take-out and collapse into bed. But actually fast food can have a really negative impact on the environment.

Think of all the packaging that your take-out comes in, and how quickly that goes straight to the garbage. So, one of our travel goals is to spend less time eating fast food, and more time eating in at restaurants.

Although sometimes this can require more effort in terms of finding a place to eat, and getting ourselves out of the hotel, it really does offer better food and a chance to explore the local culture.

Fast food may seem cheaper, but is it really worth all that waste? Give me a beautiful restaurant any day! Restaurants can also make a difference in the lives of local people, when they source local ingredients and have social responsibility programs, making them an even greener option.

We found a great restaurant in Bali, Fair Warung Bale, that directly raised funds for local hospitals while employing at-risk young people. May your 2019 be waste-free and delicious!

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Bring a Reusable Bag

Contribution by Katherine

I always bring a reusable shopping bag whenever I’m out and traveling. I use it for trips to groceries and convenience stores and also for storing souvenirs and extra items that no longer fit inside my backpack. I find that having a reusable bag is a big step in reducing the use of plastic ones, which take years to degrade, especially in Southeast Asia where cashiers tend to hands the customer a plastic bag for everything – even small snacks or other items that can easily fit in your pocket or hand. With a reusable bag, I can save several plastics a day.

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Offset your Carbon Footprint 

Contributed by Me 

Reducing your carbon footprint is so important if we want to halt climate change, and taking long international flights abroad isn’t the best for having a low carbon footprint. 

Start by calculating your carbon footprint for your flight, car trip, or bus ride. Simply put in your origin location and your destination into the calculator and it will tell you how many tons of carbon your trip produced. Then, the calculator will suggest to you several different organizations that you can donate to that will take your funds to offset the CO2 used on your trip. 

Think of offsetting your carbon emissions as an seat upgrade on your trip! 

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New Year’s Resolution

It’s after Christmas, and it seems like every post I see on social media is about resolutions for the new year. Sure, it is great to see the ways that my friends and families want to improve their lives, but new year’s resolutions never seem to really work for me. The idea of just having 365 days to accomplish an abstract goal it just wildly overwhelming and I don’t know where to start.

However, I do like setting goals for myself and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with the follow through. So, I’m always in a weird predicament in terms of new year’s resolutions. 

This year, instead of trying to start a new habit, hobby, or something totally outside my typical daily life I’m going to work on solidifying the components of my zero waste lifestyle.

If you’ve been following along with The Color Gold, then you know that I’m a baby zero waster. I’ve begun my journey to reduce my waste, but I haven’t fully articulated how this lifestyle works in my everyday life. I’m guilty of having a coffee not in a reusable mug, drinking from plastic straws, and buying groceries wrapped in plastic.

Clearly, I’m not perfect. 

But I want to get better. And that’s what my new year’s resolution is about. Becoming more environmentally friendly, reducing my waste, and not buying things that I don’t need.

I also recognize that I don’t live in a perfect environment for being a zero waster. I’m entering the final semester of my undergraduate career this semester, in a tiny college town in the Midwest. Tiny––seriously! My town only has limited grocery stores (think Walmart and Hy-Vee). This makes zero wasting even more complicated.

As I’m graduating soon, I plan on having some atypical experiences in the coming year. I’ll probably have a graduation party for my family and friends, I’ll be packing up my college apartment and moving it back to my parent’s house after graduation. Then, in September I’ll be moving to another country to begin graduate school.

I also understand that even in a perfect environment living totally zero waste is next to impossible. We live in a society that it complacent on using single-use plastics for everyday products. I’m not going to change society. Just instead try and use products that are more sustainable. I’m not planning on becoming perfectly zero waste in 2019, just better than I am now. 

This doesn’t sound like a great time to start such a huge lifestyle change, but when is? Even though I’m going to be wildly busy, I still want 2019 to be about finding eco friendly products to do my part in saving our planet. 

I’m the kind of person that loves intricate planning, so here’s how I plan to accomplish my goal of reducing my consuption.  

My Plan

  1. Use up all of the non-zero waste products I own already before purchasing products that are more eco-friendly.
  2. Discover zero waste ways to pack up my apartment and move them across the country for graduate school. 
  3. Find new homes for old objects, such as clothing and kitchen supplies, that I no longer need. 
  4. Make a list of purchase of tangible items to evaluate how low waste they are.
  5. Start carrying my reusable mug with me everywhere just like I do my reusable water bottle. 
  6. Figure out how to recycle and compost while living in an apartment that doesn’t offer recycling or composting, and in a town with very few resources. 
  7. Find the best ways to travel while reducing my footprint.
  8. Pause before buying new products to find the best item in terms of eco-friendliness and cost.
  9. Learn how to throw an eco-friendly party for my graduation. 
  10. Regularly blog and post on Instagram to update how this process is going for me, and to adjust goals as I go along.

Want to join in?

It would be so fun if some of my readers wanted to go zero waste in 2019 too! Keep me updated on your journey to zero waste by using the hashtag #tcg_zerowaste

How to Build a Sustainable Closet

Is your closet overflowing with clothes? Do you always feel like you have nothing to wear? Do you want to start wearing eco-friendly pieces? Where do you start to build a sustainable closet?

Building a sustainable closet can sound overwhelming, but here are 6 tips in order to get you started on the path of building an eco-friendly and sustainable wardrobe. It’s also a great way to practice transitioning into your zero waste lifestyle.

sustainable wardrobe (clothing on hangers)

Why it matters

Each year more than 80 billion articles of clothing, which is up more than 400% from twenty years ago. With the rise in the production of clothing, humans are also discarding their clothes at alarming rates.

It has been suggested that the average American throws away more than 80 pounds of textiles each year.

The rise in textile waste can be contributed to the popularity of “fast fashion” stores like Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, and Primark. These stores, and many others, create low-quality products that are sold with the intention to only last a few months. After a few months, the clothes will literally fall apart or quickly go out of fashion.

Not only do these fast fast fashion companies contribute to insurmountable amounts of waste, they are also bad in terms of water pollution from their manufacturing process. Cotton is one of the most popular fibers in fast fashion, and needs a lot of water to grow. According to WWF, it can take 2,700 liters of water to produce a single cotton t-shirt (that’s the same amount of water that an average person drinks in two and a half years!).

How to build your sustainable closet

1. Take inventory of what’s presently in your closet––Take notes on what types of clothes you have in your closet, and which items you wear most often. Do you wear mostly jeans? Is their specialized attire that you have to wear to work each day? What sorts of colors do you wear? Ask yourself these kinds of questions to guide yourself on the next few steps. For this step, it may be helpful to ask an honest friend for help to tell you what really looks good on you and what doesn’t.

2. Decide what items you want to keep––Obviously, keep your favorite clothing items, even if they are fast fashion pieces. The item has already been purchased, so no need to toss it until it’s completely irreparable. When deciding what items to keep, remember that many items can be hemmed, sewn, and fixed! Just because something has a hole in it, that doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed and worn again! Ask yourself if you have any similar clothes in your closet. Do you really need them both?

3. Find a good home for the items that you don’t keep––If something totally doesn’t fit within your aesthetic or you just don’t see yourself wearing find a new home for it! Clothes can be donated to your friends, family, and charity shops or sold on sites like eBay, DePop, and Poshmark. Selling items isn’t the only way to repurpose unwanted clothing items. For example, unwanted shirts and be transformed into reusable fabric napkins.

4. Test out your cleansed wardrobe––Try wearing your cleaned out closet for a few weeks and see what items you’re still missing. When you decide what you need to round out your closet try hitting up secondhand shops to find whatever item you need.

sustainable wardrobe (tops)

5. Buy sustainably––If you can’t find an item second hand, buy from local sustainable brands. There are some really great brands out there that explain their sustainability efforts from start to finish. Some of my favorite are Everlane, PrAna, and LA-CA-USA. You can also download the app Good On You to learn a bit more behind the eco-friendly efforts of many clothing brands.

6. Follow through––Now it’s time to take care of your clothes. Follow the cleaning instructions on the labels and repair items as necessary. Try and repair these items before you buy new or secondhand.

sustainable wardrobe (denim)

By following these simple instructions you’ll save lots of money that would have otherwise been spent on fast fashion. Instead, you’ll have invested in a wardrobe that will last for years, and you’ll feel good about your clothing purchases.

What are some of your favorite eco-friendly tips for maintaining a sustainable wardrobe?

How to Reduce Holiday Consumption

It’s finally here, one of the best times of the year––the holiday season! I love spending time with my friends and family, sipping on hot cocoa (or a turmeric latte), and buying gifts for those that I love. I love helping my mom decorate the house for Christmas on Black Friday. And most of all, I love sampling all of the tasty food at all of the parties I go to.

It truly is such a magical season!

But with the joys of the season, comes a lot of atypical consumption. From take-out boxes from holiday dinners out, to packages from online purchases, and all of that wrapping paper! The unnecessary waste does add up!

However, it doesn’t have to!

Obviously, everyone lives in different environments with different options for accessibility of zero and low waste options, so don’t feel bad about not being totally zero waste! We don’t live in a plastic-free world, and for many of us, it’s simply impossible to get through the holidays without at least a little plastic consumption. Each person doing there best is really all that we can do, isn’t it?

Here are some of my favorite tips to reduce your holiday consumption this year:

1. Shop in Store

Sure, online shopping is great. Ordering Amazon orders from the comfort of your favorite pajamas is one of the best inventions of the twenty-first century. However, it’s totally wasteful. Consider all of the excessive boxes and packaging that are shipped with your favorite online orders. An easy fix is going to your favorite shopping center to buy all of your holiday goodies.

Sometimes ordering online is totally necessary, I get it. Instead of ordering several smaller orders with only one or two items, consider buying just one order with all of the items you’ll need for the holiday season.

You can use the box it’s shipped in to wrap one of your gifts, or recycle it too!

2. And bring your own shopping bags with you

While you’re out shopping, make sure that you bring your own shopping bags from home! Whether you’re buying groceries for the holiday feast or gifts for that special someone reusable cloth grocery bags or tote bags are a great choice.

3. Bring your own take-out boxes to restaurants and family dinners

The holiday season is a time for more leftovers than can be managed. Help yourself out by bringing your own Tupperware to any holiday events or dinners out. This will help you reduce plastic waste from restaurants or cut down on the amount of food waste from your family events.

As an added tip, consider re-portion your leftovers into single serve containers once you get home, and even label them with the date if you have time. This will help you make sure you eat the treats before they go bad!

reduce holiday consumption the color gold

4. Reuse wrapping paper or put gifts in reusable bags

Wrap your holiday presents in old newspaper or old paper grocery bags, both of which are easily recyclable. Another option is to reuse any gift bags that you already have laying around. I don’t know about you all, but my mom has a ton of old Christmas bags in our attic, which are just begging to be reused!

Consider wrapping your gift in a reusable cloth grocery or produce bag to give a special bonus gift!

reusable straw the color gold

5. Choose gifts wisely

When making your Christmas gifts list this year, consider buying eco-friendly gifts to your friends and family. Choose either gifts that are manufactured in an environmentally friendly way or gifts that will encourage their new owner to adopt eco-friendly tendencies. Also, take into consideration what the person you’re giving a gift to actually needs. Think about the sort of things that they could incorporate into their lifestyle rather than tossing into the closet.

Some great options are reusable straws and mugs, plastic-free soap and shampoo, and consciously made clothing, such as by the brand Everlane.

6. Send e-cards instead of physical cards

Let’s be honest, we all love receiving ‘fun’ things in the mail (i.e. not bills). However, sending tens of cards out to your family and friends is really wasteful. Consider sending e-cards to those who are usually on your Christmas card list. Or better yet, call everyone on your list to check in and see how they’re doing for more of a personal touch.

7. Use cloth tablecloths and napkins at your holiday dinner

Throughout the holiday season, my family and friends have so many get-togethers. From Friendsgiving, to regular Thanksgiving, to Christmas morning breakfast, and to Christmas dinner with the whole family, it seems like there are so many options where it would be easier to use paper plates and plastic cutlery. Sure, it may be easier to use these single-use items, but it’s definitely worse for the environment.

If you can’t provide reusable plates and cutlery for the party, feel free to bring your own individual plate and fork to the party. This way, you’ll at least be able to reduce your own personal waste, which is still a big win!

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