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My Best Attempt at Zero Waste Travel

The beauty of traveling; Seeing new cities, being immersed in a new culture, speaking a different language, adventuring the new terrain, making sweet memories and resting whenever and wherever. The downside; trash and waste. This was my best attempt so far at Zero Waste Travel as my husband and I went to Costa Rica and Nicaragua for 2 weeks.

5 Tips for Zero Waste Travel

  1. Bags. Bring lots of bags! They are so useful when it comes to staying organized and reducing our waste. A definite bonus is that they are light weight and don’t take up too much room when not full versus glass jars that zero wasters love so much. Grocery/food bags, backpacks/luggage, wet swimsuit bag, dirty laundry bag, toiletry bag, vitamin bags, beach bag and bags in bags.
  2. DIY toiletries. Pack and plan toiletries meticulously. As you can see in the photo, this is the largest and heaviest part. First aid kit and essential oils are a must, you never know what weird ailments you may encounter and in a waste, financial and safety perspective it’s better to carry your own. We used essential oils for bug repellent and relaxing. Our bath and body products we brought were: DIY lotion bar, shampoo bar, general bar soap, DIY sunscreen in bar, face and regular form, facial oil, aloe gel, DIY tooth powder, DIY Deodorant, bamboo toothbrush, compostable floss, menstrual cup (I LOVE) and minimal, natural, plastic-free makeup.
  3. Dish and laundry washing materials. Yes, BYO- liquid soap, scrubber, dish (if you want) and little cloth for wiping or drying items. This is not a MUST but it saved us from having to use plastic based sponges and chemical dish soaps at the AirBnB’s.
  4. BYO food necessities. Salt, Pepper, cooking oil, cloth/reusable coffee filter. This can reduce your food trash. You wont have to buy these when your there, if you like cooking when traveling, it’s cheaper and easiest on your digestive system as it adjusts to different food. We did glass containers even though they are heavy, we managed fine since we only did carry on and so they were small travel size containers.
  5. Every day Zero Waste Essentials. This is different for everyone, but generally it’s the reusable water bottle, straws, coffee container, travel sporks/utensils and cloth napkins. These are not just limited to travel but for home and on-the-go as well.

Areas we still had trouble with:

  • Composting/kitchens scraps. Some of the cities had organic collections and recycling and some more remote areas just had trash bins. The best whole tropical fruit have the most scraps i.e pineapple, mango, mamon, coconut. There is a chance that iguanas went trash digging and ate it up. I love nature.
  • Paper napkins at restaurants. This was probably due to the slight language barrier and/or we forgot our cloth ones (doi!).
  • No bulk stores. Grocery stores had unwrapped produce but for dry goods we collected and brought our thin plastic home to recycle from our groceries.
  • Total fail was a boogie board we bought…and broke. I know, it was foam and we suck, but we had fun and us eco-nerds need a break sometime 🙂 Next time we’re at the beach we’ll buy a good quality one and bring it, rent or buy a used one at a surf shop.

Now are you dying to here about Costa Rica and Nicaragua?

We road tripped central, Nicoya and north pacific in Costa Rica and drove, bussed and walked across border to Nicaragua where we stayed in Popoyo about an hour and a half drive in and on the coast. We used AirBnB, MyTanFeet and HappyCow like crazy. In general, it was amazing, the perfect balance between relaxing and adventure. We had lots of beach time resting, reading, walking and swimming (black, white and everything in-between colored sand!). We enjoyed the jungle plants, afternoon rain and nighttime lightening. The animal life is awesome; lots of monkeys, iguanas, sloths, crabs, lizards and birds. They are definitely advancing in the eco-friendly game, probably more in some parts than in some parts of the US.

Some practical tips:

  • Be prepared to speak and learn some Spanish
  • Mosquitoes/bugs are ruthless so really bring a concentrated essential oil blend and clothes to cover up.
  • Tourism activities in Costa Rica are very easy to come by but there are still some secluded and rural areas. Don’t be afraid to say ‘No Gracias’ to people offering guided tours, paid parking or taxis.
  • Prices can be high, we saved on food by packing protein bars, protein powder and snacks like cookies, nuts, dried fruit and cereal.
  • Roads can be dirt/gravel and bumpy, Rent a 4×4.
  • Nicaragua was way more inexpensive but more rural- a perfect surfers or adventures paradise.
  • Stay overnight at Ometepe, Nicaragua.
  • Do your research, it might take time and be tedious but the more you do in advance they smoother your trip will be.
  • Temperatures can be very warm so wear hats and either be a swimmer or book a place with AC.

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