Tag Archives: travel

Zero Waste Travel

One of the things I love about travel is the feeling of freedom and how you realise that you can actually live without most of the stuff you own.  But making sure you actually leave a small footprint behind you when you go home is even more important.  I’m sure there are other ways to travel zero waste by hiking cross country and camping, or staying at youth hostels with shared kitchens, etc.  But I’m in my 30’s and I have  a young child.  And I like to be comfortable.  So I’m going to share what works for us.

Where to Stay

When we first book a holiday, as soon as the flights are confirmed, we go onto the AirBnB website (click here to save £25 or $31 on your first booking), check out the reviews and rent an apartment in the location where we are planning to travel. In the past we have also used VRBO and Home Away websites as well.  We find this is the most comfortable, cost effective and low waste way for us to travel. By having our own private apartment we can pack light (taking one carry on suitcase each) and travel with a capsule wardrobe that we can wash every few days in the washing machine at the flat. Most Airbnb apartments provide washing powder but we bring a gentle and ecologically friendly one with us. We also shop at the local supermarket and farmer’s markets, buying organic, healthy foods in as low waste packaging as possible, and then cook our own healthy meals. We’ll usually go out for restaurant lunches during the day, but we sometimes also prepare packed lunches to take with us for day trips. We can afford to have the option to do that when we’re saving on the costs of expensive breakfasts and dinners by eating at the apartment.  Another way in which renting an apartment is more zero waste-friendly than staying in a hotel is because you will be able to use the recycling and composting services available to residents, rather than having to throw your apple cores or empty glass jars in the garbage knowing they will needlessly go to landfill.  You can also bring any composting or recycling waste you accumulate throughout the day back to the apartment (such as lunch leftovers or plastic water bottles in case you get caught out and are desperate for a drink – it happens) and put it in the correct bin.

This was our view from our alfresco dining table on our private balcony from our last holiday rental…not many restaurants can boast a view like this:

OLOL Zero Waste Travel Amalfi Italy

What to Pack

No matter how long the holiday, we allow ourselves one carry on suitcase each.  Not only is travelling light easier, but its cheaper too, as we can easily use public transport and can often walk to our apartment from the train station, avoiding taking taxis.  My toiletries kit is usually filled with reusable silicon GoToobs filled with my homemade toiletries or those dispensed from larger containers at home.  You may also note that I mention a mason jar.  Bear with me.  At home I use a separate glass water bottle and a glass coffee mug which I take with me everywhere I go.  But when I travel, my space is limited so a mason jar provides a universal solution.  You can fill it with water and its a water bottle.  Its heat resistant so you can pour tea or coffee into it, so its also your coffee mug.  It also makes a great snack jar for trail mix.  I pack one reusable shopping bag which folds down really tiny and a couple of the reusable produce bags, for buying fruits, breads, etc at the market.  A sandwich box might be useful here if you want to buy berries or cheeses.  The rest of the time you can use it for, you know, carrying around your sandwich.  And finally I take half a dozen organic cotton muslins which can multi task as napkins, handkerchiefs, for wrapping your sandwich up inside its sandwich box (instead of cling film) or for wrapping up baked goods bought at the market so to avoid having to take a paper or plastic bag.  Then you can clean them in the washing machine at your apartment and they dry quickly, ready to take out and use again.

Here’s an example of what my suitcase contents look like:

  • Capsule wardrobe (I won’t go into detail as obviously what I wear depends on the season and destination, but I keep it pretty simple.)
  • Toiletries kit (GoToobs filled with shampoo, homemade toothpaste, homemade deodorant, body lotion and homemade aftersun gel.  Eye cream.  Face oil.  Bamboo toothbrush.  Possibly sun protection cream, if required.  Razor.  Makeup bag.  My 10 ‘first aid’ essential oils kit.)
  • Mason jar
  • Sandwich box
  • Reusable shopping bag & produce bags
  • Clipper tea bags (because finding organic tea in unbleached bags is near impossible!)
  • 6 organic cotton muslin squares (yes, like the ones for your baby!)
  • iPad (for movies, emails and day trip planning)
  • Book (I can’t help it…I’m not a Kindle girl.  I love a good real book when I travel!)


Its easy to get caught up while on holiday and buy loads of stuff you’ll wonder what to do with when you get home.  You don’t need to buy anything to bring home though.  Some people like to bring home their train tickets and flight stubs to glue into their journals.  My husband loves to buy the tackiest, most gaudy resin magnet he can find and that is his single souvenir from each trip.  I don’t entirely approve of this, as these horrible bits of resin will be probably languishing in a landfill long after we’re dead and gone.  (Surely no one will want to inherit them!)  But it brings him joy, so I have to have a somewhat balanced perspective when it comes to these things.  As for me, I make these ‘memory jars’ filled with sand, pebbles, shells and sea glass from each of our beach holidays.  I reuse the plastic ziplock bag they make you use at airport security to put your liquid toiletries in by using it to store collected beach treasures and a bit of sand or pebbles.  Then, when I get home I put the contents of the bag into an old glass jam jar and add a luggage tag noting the date and location of the holiday for the contents of each jar.  I keep them in my secretary desk and each time I open it, I smile, remembering how happy each holiday made me.

OLOL Memory Jars Zero Waste

Traveling with Children

Traveling with children can be actually really zero waste-friendly.  By staying in a rented apartment or house, rather than a hotel, you can continue to use your homemade wipes and cloth nappies because you can machine wash them as often as you need to.  Its much easier to prepare your child’s snacks and meals in a real kitchen with fresh ingredients from the market or supermarket, rather than constantly having to buy expensive packaged and potentially unhealthy snacks on-the-go.

I hope you find some of these tips useful in helping you to have a zero waste holiday…or at least to help you reduce some of the waste you might normally create when on holiday.  Being able to travel is a wonderful experience in life, but it is so important to keep our planet as clean and beautiful as we can so our children and grandchildren can experience it in the same way that we have.  What about you?  Do you have any great zero waste holiday tips to share with me in the comments below?



The Dance of the Morning Commute

After nearly a decade of living in London, I think its safe to call myself a Londoner now.

I make that rude and fed-up-sounding ‘tsk’ noise as I try to pass people who are walking too slowly in front of me – with the matching aggressive body language and irritated exhalation as I march past.

There’s the ‘don’t mess with me’ face as I walk down the street – to be fair I think I’ve always had that one.

I can also hold my own in the usual rugby scrum to get into the tube as it pulls alongside the platform.

Then there’s the commuter cross.  That’s what I call when two or more commuters appear as if they’re set for a head on collision, but without adjusting pace or losing nerve, they glide past each other with precision perfect timing. With a slight hesitation of even half a second, there would be a bashing of arms or catching of feet followed by the domino effect of the commuters behind all crashing into each other.  But true London commuters never make such a rookie tourist error.

If you want to see the commuter cross at its glorious ballet-like apex, make a rush hour visit to the interchange at Bank Station where the Waterloo & City Line travelator connects with the commuting tunnel leading from the London Underground gates towards exits 8 & 9.  (Stop at the snack bar for one of their giant glazed donuts – I’m pretty sure they’re a million calories and fried in lard.)  Its actually almost beautiful, as the dozens of commuters heading to the exits simultaneously diagonally criss-cross paths with the commuters exiting the travelator in the opposite direction – all gliding past each other – rushed but calm.

And then some salesman from Ipswich ploughs in with their wheelie suitcase and screws the whole thing up.


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Images borrowed from Railway Technology and Times Live.


After spending 30 minutes arguing in Barcelona Sants train station about which mode of public transport to use to get to our hotel, we gave in and took a taxi.  Which always feels like cheating.  But I won’t lie – it was nice.  We arrived at our hotel, where a lovely room awaited us with the marble bathrooms and hallways that you always find in continental European hotels.  Up on the top floor there was an ice cold swimming pool and lounging areas to take full advantage of the hot afternoon Catalan sun and the beautiful views over the rooftops of the city.  I cooled down my skin and temper with a dip and admired the view.

Bar Lobo

Tapas at Bar Lobo

In the evening we dressed and went to Bar Lobo, which was soon to become our favourite tapas bar in the city, and proceeded to heavily over-order a spread of gambas, tortilla, patatas bravas, whitefish, andalusian style squid and avocado salad, amongst other local delicacies which I cannot even remember now.  I sipped on a small glass of the local cava while Luke sampled the local beer.

That was October 2011 and its now nearing the end of January 2012.  The Catalan sun feels like it was an awfully long time ago and its the middle of a cold English winter; without the charm of snow or even the odd comforts of a torential rain.  It’s going to be an expensive year for us – new house, new mortgage and a wedding – so it may be an awfully long time before we’re seen rambling down Las Ramblas again, or lustily eyeing up the produce at La Boqueria; but tonight  – here in Bermondsey, under the shadow of The Shard and with the chill of the wind off the Thames beating against the windows – you will find a small homage to our favourite European city.  We will eat tortilla.  We will fry gambas in sinful amounts of olive oil, garlic & chili.  We will do our utmost best to bring down the surplus squid population – vile creatures, but oh so tasty.  And we will sip the honey-herbed-appley bubbles of an excellent cava.

Mint Tea & Oranges

Moroccan Oranges
Moroccan Oranges

It was well over 35 degrees Celsius and our pink English skin was only now, after 3 days in Agadir, beginning to take on a golden tan. We had planned to walk to the top of the hill to visit Souk El Had, but instead, after a mere 5 minutes of slowly sweating & shuffling at a snail’s pace, Luke decided we were taking a taxi. We were dropped off by gate 9, as the concierge at the hotel had recommended to us. I think he was afraid we’d be dropped off by the butchery halls otherwise, and run away in terror.

By this point I had already grown accustomed to being served silver pots of mint tea by the pool all day long, and large glasses of freshly pressed-to-order orange juice with my breakfast. In the evenings, before dinner, Luke and I would meet on the terrace and have a gin & tonic with a small silver platter of pistachios or the black dried Moroccan olives that smell of petrol and perfume.  I was deeply falling in love with the food of this country.  The fish was fresh and plentiful and cooked beautifully.  The tables and tables of mezze at lunch and dinner had much to do with the demise of my diet.  And what’s not to love about somewhere that serves madeleines at breakfast? I was eating the best of North Africa and the best of France in one heavenly beachside location.

We had finished looking at the touristy part of the souk and by now I was getting a bit bored of alleyway after alleyway of  shops selling argan oil, kaftans and gaudy leatherwork.  I looked up from playing with the new silver bangle Luke had bought me a few moments earlier, and the small crowded alleyway suddenly opened up into a bright and sunlit food hall. I almost stopped breathing for a moment. I think it was the closest I will ever come to seeing what Les Halles in Paris would have been like before it was demolished and turned into a trendy shopping centre.

My Poolside Spot for Enjoying Mint Tea
Mint Tea on the Terrace

For those of you who, like me, make a beeline for the food markets when you travel, you will be accustomed to the sickening pong of rotting food that generally hits you from at least one corner of the market. It’s normally where cabbage leaves and bits of turnip go to die and are scavenged upon by scabby feral cats and stray dogs. But the smell was absent. The first smell that hits you is of the glorious mountains of fresh mint. Along the edges of the market hall, towering arrangements of gleaming olive mosaics in polished agate shades sparkled in the sunlight and piles of mysterious red, orange, yellow and brown spices delicately scented the air.

We walked back down the hill to the hotel that afternoon, drawn in by the smell of salt and the slight ocean breeze off the Atlantic.  We knew a plate of pistachios and chilled bottle of rose awaited us on the terrace, but we were in no rush; calm from the soporific effects of too much afternoon sun and pacified by the smell of mint for tea and a mountain of oranges.