Everyday Enviro with Elise - Low-waste travel and avoiding hotel consumables

Everyday Enviro with Elise - Low-waste travel and avoiding hotel consumables

By Elise Catterall  July 1st, 2019

Elise talks about how to avoid waste when traveling and how her relationship with hotel consumables has changed since she embarked on her low-waste journey.


I am on a trip as I write this and, as we all know, travelling comes with significant waste free challenges.  Some of the areas we have visited are certainly not as conscious of limiting single use plastics as at home (readily offering plastic carry bags, most of the fruit is wrapped in plastic, sometimes layers of plastic, plastic straws abound, etc).  I am trying very hard to avoid it – I came equiped with carry bags, keepcups, water bottles, straws and cutlery  - and I’m not doing too badly. 

This is the first extended trip I have taken since I have seriously and consciously began my low-waste efforts nearly two years ago, which means it is the first time I have stayed in hotels. And what an assault to the low waste senses it has been.

I’m sure it will seem incredibly naïve but, as hotels just hadn’t been on my radar for such a long time and I hadn’t really considered the crazy amount of waste and energy use that staying in them can involve, I was really taken aback.  I took an inventory – there were: complementary bottles of water with protective plastic wrapping, plastic wrapped slippers, the ubiquitous mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion and hand cream, little wrapped cakes of soap, little packs of cotton buds, dental floss wands, and nail files (which all not only came in little boxes, but also covered in plastic wrapping) several full size toothbrushes with teensy tubes of toothpastes, a disposable shaver with a tube of shaving cream, and my favourite, a shoe shine sponge, which would surely be completely unnecessary in this equatorial city.  Astounding.

In many cases, a large proportion of these would be replenished tomorrow if they were opened today. And that’s in one room of a hotel that probably boasts several hundred rooms, in one hotel in a city that probably boasts several hundred hotels.

Once upon a time, seeing a lovely array of toiletries in a beautiful hotel bathroom would have brought me immeasurable joy.  Now it makes the veins in my forehead pop out.  I remember staying in a uber-stylish hotel in Berlin once upon a time and feeling quite disappointed that their shampoo, conditioner and shower gel were dispensed from canisters on the wall.  What was I going to take home as my souvenir to collect dust in my bathroom cabinet?  How the tide has turned for me. Now I applaud that.

So this time, despite being confronted with all these mini goodies, I didn’t touch a single thing.  My carefully considered packing list meant I didn’t need to but also now I know how important it is to step away from the toiletries; this new me want wall dispensers in every hotel!  Time for some letter writing, I think!

See you next time! - Elise

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By Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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