A Travel Diary Of A Zero Waster

Kate Hall

If looks could kill, I’d be dead by now.

Travelling as a ‘zero waster’ is a failsafe way to alienate yourself, put yourself in the most awkward situations, and endure death stares that could kill. It’s not easy. But it’s also hilarious when you think about it.

I’ve been travelling mindfully for around 16 months. I chose to reduce my footprint, because I believe a traveller exploring the wonders of our world without a thought or care of their waste and footprint  and, the biggest example of irony.

Not surprisingly, choosing to refuse straws, carry a reusable mug, boycott disposables, and say no to plastic bags, has its ups and downs.

zero waste travel

During my ‘zero waste travels’ (let’s say minimal waste as zero doesn’t exist), I’ve succeed and failed, utterly embarrassed myself, stood up for myself, been crushed down, impressed crowds, felt like giving up, made friends, lost friends, but ultimately left the world less scathed.

Most recently, I found myself in a Coles supermarket, in Port Douglas; the home base for trips to The Great Barrier Reef, The Daintree Forest, and the world’s largest reef system.

You’d think they’d be familiar with zero waste habits as one of the seven wonders of the natural world sits on their door step, but I was proven wrong. The next anecdote still makes me giggle- I wish you had been there.

zero waste travel
zero waste travel

It was my second trip to Coles, and I was gleefully smitten.

During the first trip, the manager assisted me in manually entering codes into the self-scanner checkout, to avoid placing huge plastic stickers on my BYO cotton bulk bin bags full of nuts, fruit, and plastic free chocolate goodies. But alas, this time, an anti-eco-warrior troll stopped me in my steps: also known as a grumpy Coles employee. As I innocently filled up my bags with dried apricots and almonds, the troll approached me, leaving her niceties and social skills behind.

“Weigh those, and put a sticker on them.”

I’m sorry, but I have been here once before angry troll. Just yesterday I spoke with a checkout operator, and had a successful plastic free shopping experience.

“Put them on the scales over there and print the sticker.”

I admire your persistence, plastic lover, but I’ve already been through this with someone only 24 hours ago. I know that I can manually add items at checkout; you can’t fool me.

At this point, the troll rolled her eyes more dramatically than even my younger sister, let out a “pffft”, and looked at me like she was going to strangle me with her apron chord. I walked on, head held high, adrenaline rushing through my veins.

Five points to Kate, zero points to the Coles sticker enthusiast.

Zero Waste Fail

To counter-balance this success, a straw was put in my drink a few days later. A plastic straw. It hurts to even say this out loud.

For years, I’ve avoided drinks that usually come with a straw, to eliminate the risk of one entering my life and ruining my straw free streak. I’ve sacrificed the most delicious smoothie experiences for the good of the planet (#firstworldproblems).

But I was obviously feeling adventurous on this horrid day, and ordered an iced chai. The words ‘no straw please’ left my lips, along with a detailed conversation about why I didn’t want the straw. We ended on a good note, so I thought. Still, a straw appeared, accompanied by a lovely smile on the waitress’ face… until she saw mine.


Shit happens.

While zero waste travel is the biggest oxymoron on the planet, it’s surprisingly fun to reduce your waste when travelling.

Perhaps it’s the competitiveness you’ll find in every inch of my body, or my overwhelming passion to keep this planet thriving. Regardless, it’s contagious, and increases the chances of your future grandchildren being able to enjoy travelling too.

Between sipping wine in my reusable cup on airplanes, carrying tea leaves with me to reject plastic based teabags, and wrapping my leftovers in used napkins, I’ve built quite the reputation for myself. In all situations, I have a choice whether to laugh or cry at my mistakes and death stares from the public. But every single time, I choose the first.

The Zero Waste Tools I Carry

Stojo Cup

Bamboo Reusable Spork

Drink Bottle

Metal Smoothie Straw

Produce Bags

Metal Leak Proof Lunch Box

Kate Hall

I live and breathe sustainable living and ethical fashion. This alternative way of consuming and existing dominates my every waking moment- and sometimes more. Ethical fashion and living are no longer my hobbies, it has become my mission... to change the future of fast fashion and the way we consume. My husband and I strive to live a zero-waste lifestyle, live at thrift stores, and always look to 'up-cycle' rather than throw out. Eco-living is not a choice for me, it's in my blood, and I am trying with all my power for it to be the new 'norm'.