Minimising pollution is everyone’s responsibility, even when travelling. There are a number of ways to travel sustainably and reduce your waste output while on holiday. Tourists can help local communities and the environment by following these steps to minimise the amount of waste they produce when travelling through Africa.
Avoid plastic when travelling
Travelling can be thirsty work. An estimated one million plastic bottles are purchased around the world every minute. Plastic water bottles constitute a large percentage of these sales. Tourists should avoid buying new plastic water bottles every time they visit a store.
Instead, purchase a metal bottle or bring your own reusable water bottle on holiday and carry it with you. Refill the bottle when you find a clean water source. Similarly, avoid using single-use plastic cutlery and cups. Most tour operators in Africa will be happy to supply metal cutlery and reusable drinking cups at your request.
Try not to drink from plastic straws at restaurants and cafés. Ask the waiter to leave the straw. Avoid using plastic grocery bags at supermarkets – most retailers in South Africa offer recyclable bags. You can also reuse shopping bags for multiple trips to the store.
The hotels, bed and breakfasts or hostels that you stay in are most likely to provide small shampoo containers in the bathroom. Try not to use these as they can easily end up in rivers and the ocean once discarded by the hotel. Pack your own soaps and shampoos instead.
In general, try to minimise your use of plastic products while travelling, especially single-use products that are discarded in high quantities. Many tour operators and hotels will be happy to help you minimise your waste where possible.
Support local shops and markets
One of the best ways to support the local community and reduce your waste is to shop at local stores or markets. The money you spend at these stores will go to the store owners, making a positive impact on their livelihoods.
Local stores and markets are also more likely to sell goods that are produced in the country that you are visiting. Foods are grown at nearby farms, clothing is likely to be made by the community members and the store owner’s families are often involved in producing the goods on sale. Try to spend your money in a variety of places to make a bigger impact on the local economy.
By supporting the local shops, you will get a far more authentic travelling experience and can get to meet some incredible people with amazing stories. African communities tend to produce goods and sell foods with a fraction of the waste produced. Oddly-shaped vegetables still go on sale and material offcuts are often reused to make other garments.
Opt to reduce your washing
Many hotels in South Africa offer the option for guests to reduce their linen washing. Towels won’t be washed every day unless they are left on the floor or in a wash basket. The same goes for bed linen. This helps to reduce water consumption and the use of cleaning detergents.
Opt-in for this offering if possible. You never wash your towels and bed linen every day at home, so it won’t hurt to reuse your towel and sheets for the duration of your stay at the hotel. In cities such as Cape Town, where water scarcity is an ongoing threat, the less washing you do, the better for the environment and the community.
Tourists who care about their home environment can use these tips to minimise their impact while travelling. Reducing waste should be a priority for all tourists. These ideas are relatively easy to implement and can also help the communities at your destination.
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