By Amanda Waddle
On June 28th my family and I went on our summer vacation to England and Scotland and because we are working towards zero waste daily, we also wanted to create the smallest amount of waste during our travels. When you start a zero waste journey whether at home or when traveling planning is a must. My husband and I began planning this trip months in advance and we kept zero waste in mind with all of our decisions. I was also fortunate enough to speak to and hear a presentation from Jo Hendrickx, Founder and CEO of Travel Without Plastic. She told me about the ReFill app, which we used and said that with a little planning our trip can be nearly zero waste except during the plane ride and she was correct.
We flew Virgin Atlantic from Orlando to London and then from Glasgow to Orlando. During each 8-hour flight we were offered 2 meals, 2 snacks and at least 3 times we were offered something to drink. All of the meals and drinks involved single-use plastics, including plastic cups, plastic flatware and snacks/food enclosed inside of plastic. The airline industry is aware of the waste produced in flight and there are some airlines working to reduce their waste. By bringing our water bottles and filling them right before we boarded the plane, we were able to avoid using any single-use plastic cups. We refused several items offered but we did contribute to waste on both flights we occupied by accepting the main meal on each flight. Virgin Atlantic did mention sustainability and asks passengers to reuse their plastic cup but beyond that there wasn’t much in the way of reduction of waste or reusable items. I decided to write them a letter and communicate some suggestions that the airline can do to reduce waste and I encourage you to do the same. If you find yourself in a situation where there’s more waste than necessary, please reach out to the company or manufacturer and let them know.
Our trip began with two days in London. In London we ate at restaurants that used durable/reusable plates/cups/silverware and also refilled our water bottles at restaurants along our travels. This allowed us to stay hydrated and avoid waste. We packed travel bottles of shampoo and conditioner (Plaine Products) and bar soap and we were able to avoid single-use hotel shampoos and soaps. Our hotel was in a somewhat residential area and one street over there was an open-air market selling local, fresh unpackaged fruits and vegetables. We were excited to use our own reusable bag (ChicoBag; see picture of most used travel items) to buy some local healthy unpackaged food for our adventures.
London was over in a blink of an eye and then we found ourselves on an overnight train to Scotland called the Caledonian Sleeper. This was a pretty exciting way to get from London to Edinburgh and offered very small bunk bed room with a shower/toilet combination bathroom. We woke up and made our way to the dining car where we were pleased to use durable silverware/plates/bowls for our breakfast.
Scotland is an amazing country with lots of natural areas, wildlife, and history. Stirling, Scotland is home to Zero Waste Scotland where they are working towards a more sustainable country through better recycling (Scotland does a great job to keep their recyclables separated), food waste prevention, a bottle return program, reuse store certification and promoting a circular economy. I was able to sit down with a few individuals from Zero Waste Scotland and received some great information about their Revolve program where they certify reuse stores for cleanliness and quality. Zero Waste Scotland’s great work is based on their research department’s many surveys. I was very grateful for their time and the information they shared.
We visited 13 cities in Scotland and spent most of our time in the highland area out in nature or in small towns. It was nice to get out of the big, crowded cities of London and Edinburgh. We visited several chapels, cathedrals, hiked through Cairngorm National Park, visited waterfall and went to northeast Scotland to visit a cliff dwelling bird colony. Through all of these adventures we kept sustainability and low waste as a top priority. During these 5 days in Scotland we practiced the same zero waste standard of practice: we filled up our water bottles regularly including using the ReFill app, ate at restaurants that used real/durable/reusable plates/cups/silverware, used our reusable bag with any purchases and avoided single-use plastics. We did buy a scone at a few places and took it to go and it was given to us in a small paper bag. If you ever make it to Scotland, be sure to indulge in their scones, they are amazing. A note on souvenirs. We bought very few souvenirs and when I or my girls wanted something (my husband is anti-souvenir and bought nothing), we thought hard about if we actually needed it or just wanted it. I did buy a washcloth from the Buckingham Palace giftshop and a tea towel from Rosslyn Chapel. The girls each bought a pen and we kept a few British coins as souvenirs. As a family we took over 1000 pictures and tried our best to be in the moment often going over what we did that day right before bed.
While in Aviemore, we stayed at an AirBnB where there was a washing machine. We brought Dizolve Eco-strips (formerly Dizolve.com, now they are sold through tru.earth, still a Canadian based company) in a water proof container in anticipation of a doing laundry. These small and light weight laundry strips are easy to use and great for travel. Our most used zero waste travel items were the small packable reusable bag, our water bottles and a couple of small wash clothes (see most used travel items picture). Our last night in Glasgow was in a Travelodge where they had refillable shampoo and conditioner containers attached to the wall in the shower, which we were happy to see.
Our sustainability efforts continued as we were able offset our carbon through We Are Neutral, a local non-profit who offers carbon offsets for events, travel and every day life. We provided our itinerary to We Are Neutral to calculate the offset for this trip including our drive from Gainesville to Orlando and back, our flight from Orlando to London and then from Glasgow to Orlando, our train travel and our expected driving through the highlands of Scotland. We were happy to offset our carbon and happy to add this to our trip.
Traveling with the goal of zero waste is possible with some planning and with the mindset of taking a few reusable items that will allow for refusing single-use items and being a waste reduction hero.