Choose Zero Waste Outing for this 2021
By Aditi Subba
Social distancing and isolation has tested even the best of all introverts! So while scientists are busy creating vaccines and the world is slowly trying to go with the new normal of living with the pandemic, we are desperately waiting to be anywhere that isn’t our house. Summer is just around the corner and we are dying to make it up to the year that was lost. As we all were locked inside our houses, nature had time to take a breath from all the anthropogenic disturbances. There was less pollution in the air, wildlife got out on the streets with less human crowds and natural settings remained tranquil without day-trippers leaving their trash behind.
With many countries lifting various bans, people have started going back to the olden days and everyone has seemed to slowly adapt to living with the pandemic. People are travelling the forest areas for recreation and leaving behind their inorganic waste without much remorse for the planet. Waste has hence suddenly doubled in many natural settings, troubling wildlife and the health of the forests. If you are wondering what you could do to minimize your picnic trash, here are seven ways that could help in cutting down waste when you go outing this summer:
1. Pack Your Own Food
All the lavishing packed food you find in the mart can be very tempting to bring with you while going for an outing. However, while they are convenient and practical, they create more waste in the environment if you don’t dump them properly. Hence, if it is feasible, pack the leftovers at home in a container or take the opportunity to create new recipes and share it with your friends. Although it might not be as convenient as chucking a bag of Kurkure or Oreos in your bag, it will definitely make your outing more charming and help you cut down on waste too.
2. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)
If packing your own food isn’t an option, try an alternative where you create as little waste as possible. It’s no longer cool to carry a plastic bag with all your single-use plastic groceries when you are going for a trip in the woods. Instead, take all your food in a tote or a reusable bag that can be useful not only for your outing but also for shopping groceries as well. These bags can be easily bought in markets or ordered online. Furthermore, once you have finished your food, you can always dump the plastic wastes in the totes and bring it back with you for proper disposal.
3. Get over Plastic Cups
Let’s face it, you don’t really need plastic cups anymore to enjoy your drinks in the outdoors. If accessible, you can always take cups you already own. If not, there are alternative options like tumblers and stainless steel travel mugs that are easily available in the market. Tumblers and travel mugs are even more practical as they can be reused anywhere, indoors or outdoors. They even come with lids, making them a far better option than plastic cups. You might find them more expensive than the plastic and paper cups when you first buy them, but think of it as a one-time investment that will come in handy for the long run. In fact, if you count the number of plastic cups you buy for every outing, your travel mugs will end up being far cheaper!
4. Say No To Straws
Did you know that around 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches? These non-degradable plastic products break into even-smaller plastic particles, releasing chemicals into the soil, air, and water, that are harmful to animals, plants, people, and the environment. So, why not say no to straws and gulp your drinks in the old-fashioned way. But if you really like to take your drinks through straws, get yourself a nice metal or bamboo straw that has become quite popular in the market these days. They are durable and give you the satisfaction of drinking from a straw!
5. Reuse Cutleries and Bottles
Reusable containers, water bottles, and cutleries are some of the best ways to beat waste while spending your time outdoors. Instead of plastic water bottles, try taking your own drinking bottle and replace plastic cutleries with the cutleries from your own kitchen. If washing them outdoors can be a problem, consider taking biodegradable plates and cutleries made out of leaves that can be bought from the market. Although it can be a little bit expensive than the usual plastic equipment, considering how much damage plastic does to the environment and wildlife, it makes more sense to try an alternative and play a small part in conserving the environment.
6. Compost What You Can
Any organic leftovers from your food can be composted. So if you have a compost bin in your home, put your leftover food in a reusable container and bring it back home. Not every human food is degradable in the wild. So while your fruit peels might decay in the forest, you might consider bringing your leftovers that might be harmful to the wild animals if ingested.
7. Leave Nothing Behind
Once you enjoy the wilderness, make sure you LEAVE NO TRACE of your visit behind. It’s extremely essential that you leave your picnic spot exactly as you found it so you don’t disturb the natural habitat and the wildlife of the area. With masks becoming a daily necessity in our lives today, be careful you don’t drop them in the wilderness. The masks clutter the forest areas and pose a huge threat to the wildlife, not to forget they disturb the tranquility of the wilderness too. Make sure you properly utilize litter bins of the area and be a responsible citizen of the planet.
Whether you are seriously planning to change your lifestyle into sustainable living or simply want to play a small part in global environmental conservation, it is always good to know what options are there in minimizing your waste. This doesn’t mean you go on an unchecked shopping spree buying fancy products that brands themselves as ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘sustainable,’ after all, over-consumption doesn’t help at all in sustainability. But if purchasing one tote bag could save ten plastic bags that you might’ve bought, or if one metal straw could save you from buying plastic straws to enjoy your drink, then it is always a good idea to shop wisely for long-term purposes. Because sustainable living isn’t to live frugally, but rather smartly!
Aditi Subba is a conservationist, interested in human-nature dynamics and the global practices of nature conservation by different communities.