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Is Travelling and Producing Less Waste Possible? Part Two: Our Experience

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Before the Flight

  • We packed drink bottles, cups and reusable bags in our hand luggage.
  • Filled one bottle with water, enough to get us by until we had to go through security.
  • After security we filled the water bottles up before getting on the flight.

We went through 5 airports on our trip and each of them had a water dispenser on the other side of security. In fact, the ones in Indonesia had a counter on them to let people know how many single use plastic bottles they’d saved from going to landfill. I forgot to snap a picture but the amount was over 200000 bottles in Denpasar and I believe 250000 in Jakarta. That’s in two airports alone and I am not sure how long that particular water dispenser had been there. Imagine the impact we could make if we all did this?!

During the Flight

  • We used our coffee cups for our drinks, both hot and cold and rinsed these out in the bathroom in between. The cups were great for our daughters because they had lids. This meant I didn’t need to worry so much about them spilling a drink on the plane. From personal experience a wet lap on a long haul flight isn’t fun!
  • There was a bottle of water in each seat pocket when we got on the plane. I politely handed mine back to the flight attendant, my daughters and husband chose to drink theirs despite us having our own. The temptation of freebies is too much to decline at times, which I have been guilty of in the past!
  • We were offered a little bag with socks, an eye mask and ear plugs. My daughters were too excited to say no to this. So much so that they ended up with 3 of these each (we were offered one on each leg of our flight). They realised by the last flight that they didn’t need another set so declined. They used the socks and eye mask on the flight and during our trip, and the little zip bags to carry things in like toiletries, essential oils, lip balms etc, one was also used as a coin purse. We have since returned home and have 2 packs that have not been opened and that are sitting in their room. My daughter said to me, “Mummy we did end up with too many of these didn’t we?” I agreed and said that next time maybe we only need to get one, if any at all. The fact that my daughter acknowledged this shows she has gained the insight I had hoped. Maybe, just maybe they’ll be able to decline the free offering next time!

Bali and Japan without buying bottled water

  • Not once did we buy bottled water in Bali. I was prepared to boil some water each night before bed if needed for the next day. This wasn’t necessary though. Our villa had a big filtered water dispenser and I am told that most hotels in Bali have these too.
  • The tap water in Japan was safe to drink. On one occasion we bought a bottle of water when we couldn’t find anywhere to refill ours. One bottle of water in four weeks for a family of four was pretty good I thought.

Other Experiences in Japan : Travelling in a Campervan

Vending Machines

  • These were everywhere in Japan! When you’re out walking in freezing temperatures, and there’s a vending machine offering warm hot chocolate, coffee or tea, what would you do? We are only human right?
  • There were recycling bins next to each vending machine. We tried our best to avoid the drinks in plastic and buy the ones in cans instead. When we opted for the drinks in bottles, we reused them to store water. Served us well for our morning cuppa when we were in the campervan.
  • Once the novelty of the vending machines wore off we decided to buy hot chocolate, tea and coffee to make ourselves in the van. It not only meant we were using less bottles or cans, but it was also a lot cheaper.

Eating Out and Takeaway

  • Chopsticks were single use in many restaurants. We ended up reusing them in our campervan for times when we cooked for ourselves. By the end of the trip, we had bought our own. I will indeed travel with them if we were to go again!
  • Single use wet napkins came wrapped in plastic and were often used in restaurants or given with takeaway items! It was hard to decline because we didn’t speak the language and they often didn’t offer another alternative.
  • Some restaurants did serve hot towels to use before and after your meal which was lovely.
  • Many restaurants and eating places actually had a sink to use which we only noticed towards the end of our trip. We utilized this when it was available.
  • Street food markets were amazing – an experience that is a must in Japan! But, we created a lot of waste when we tried something from each stall on one of our days! The food is often served on a single use plate, plastic bowl, or container ready to hand out. Takeaway food was often individually wrapped, instead of just putting it all in one paper bag.
  • If I had a container with me we could have avoided the packaging when we bought takeaway or street food. I don’t really know if carrying containers on a full day out is practical with a family but something I will try next time. I have seen ones that fold down which may be good for travelling when you’re tight for space.

Shopping

  • We shopped and cooked many nights to stick within our budget, making good use of our reusable shopping bags and produce bags and our wraps for leftovers.
  • It’s pretty tricky to shop plastic free with minimal waste when you’re in Japan and on the go! Everything is wrapped in plastic! Fresh fruit and vegetables were pricey. It was actually more affordable to buy pre packed vegetables and salad, which is something I never do at home!
  • We shopped in 7 eleven and Family Mart most of the time because of the convenience. We were on the road a lot and only in one place for no more than 2 nights.
  • 7 Eleven and Family Mart are like mini supermarkets in Japan and so convenient. They have sushi, fresh pre packed meals, pre packed veg and salad, meats, snacks and much more. When we stopped there we had the added bonus of using their toilet facilities which was great while we were in the campervan. Shopping here though meant we created a lot of plastic waste!
  • We did go to a local supermarket on 2 occasions and noticed that a lot of stuff was packaged in plastic anyway. The only difference was that you could buy loose fruit and veg.
  • Most souvenirs we bought were meticulously wrapped. The Japanese love to make things look nice and wrap things individually. On many occasions I wanted to tell them not to worry about wrapping it, but I let it go, instead enjoying the experience of another part of their culture.
  • We bought way too many souvenirs for our daughters and for family and friends. This is one habit we didn’t manage to shake when we were away. But will endeavour to change this for our next trip.

Bathroom/Toilets

  • We took our own toiletries with us, declining any new free toiletries from anywhere. This was new for me as I’d usually make the most of those little free bottles haha! Ironically enough I packed small bottles of moisturiser and hair products that I’ve had for years from hotels etc to use up while we were away! On our return I still hadn’t used them all and that was after 4 weeks away!
  • Not all bathrooms had soap (we did stay in some remote places) so I carried a small bottle which I had reused and filled it up with liquid hand wash.
  • I saw the ladies in Japan using a face washer to dry their hands after using the bathroom. I adopted this while we were away as there was often no dryer or paper towel, unless you were in a busy area.
  • We went to an Onsen on a couple of occasions to shower while we were travelling around in the campervan. This experience is a must if you ask me! You feel a million dollars when you come out with glowing, soft skin. It was such a great feeling. Once you get over the fact that you have to get nude (yes I did say nude!), you start to relax and enjoy the hot baths and the benefits it brings. Each Onsen we visited had their own soaps, shampoo, conditioner to shower with before using the baths and other hair care and skin products to use afterwards. No single use bottles in sight which was great!

So there you have it, a little idea of the wins and challenges we came across as a family travelling and trying our best to produce as little waste as possible. Some days I felt like we succeeded and other days I wished we could have done more. However, I was quite proud of what we did achieve, and how mindful we were of the waste we were creating. Something I had never given a second thought to on previous holidays. I believe it’s important to celebrate the wins when you’re on this journey and just keep on going.

So, Is Travelling and Producing Less Waste Possible?

Yes it is definitely possible. However, instead of a few people aiming for perfection, wouldn’t it be better if more people thought about reducing their impact? You can do this quite simply by carrying the following 3 basic items when you travel:

  • Reusable Water Bottle
  • Reusable Cup for the plane and outings
  • Reusable Shopping and Produce Bags

Imagine the impact we could make if everyone in the world adopted this as the ‘norm’  when they travelled. Let’s change those numbers of single use items we just simply throw away without a thought and carry our reusables!

Part Three coming soon, and I promise it wont be an essay like this one! Haha!

Until next time take care

Kerrie

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