This is an article from our upcoming zine slated for publication in 2017. Lonely Punk is a travel zine aimed at international punks who are interested in traveling, touring and exploring in SE Asia. Packed full of tips and tricks, as well as interviews with locals who host and foreigners who have been here before, we hope it makes your traveling experience better all around.
How to Minimize the Impact of Your Trip?
“There is no such thing as ‘away.’ When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.” –Annie Leonard
We all know that flying exacts a huge price on the planet. There’s not much you can do about that beside limit your yearly trips. However, once you land there are several things you can do to minimize the impact you will have on the environment here in SE Asia.
Indonesia is one of the plastic trash capitals of the world. In 2015 a local newspaper The Jakarta Post printed an article with the headline “Indonesia in State of Waste Emergency.” It’s an unfortunate fact that many of the beaches are covered in garbage and the waves lapping the shore contain more trash to be deposited or swept out further to injure or kill sea animals.
Here I want to give you a few tips to help reduce the amount of trash, particularly plastic, you personally produce while here. It will take a little more effort on your part, but it’s important to be conscientious of your long term impact on the places you’re visiting. There isn’t necessarily the infrastructure to support recycling and other programs that could significantly help in minimizing these issues.
Water: Bring a water bottle. Yes, it’s heavy when full, unwieldy, and takes up too much room in your pack. So does the one-liter one-use plastic bottles you would buy in a convenience store here. Thailand has water stations on the streets in many cities where you can fill up. In Singapore the water is potable, fill from the tap for free. In Indonesia most houses/collective spaces have 5 gallon containers (we confusedly just refer to them as ‘gallon’). It costs just over a dollar USD to buy a refill for the gallon. It’s not only cheaper to refill your own water bottle from it and buy a refill gallon for the house, it will greatly reduce your plastic consumption.
It’s also great to bring a drink container out with you if you plan to buy tea, coffee or juice. These are often packaged in plastic bags or cups even if you are drinking them there. I have a bottle for water and a bottle for tea I carry every day.
When showering in an Indonesian style mandi, make sure to fill the bucket before you soap up, that way you can rinse the soap from your arms first so when you reach in to refill the bucket, you don’t fill the mandi with dirty, soapy water which usually results in all the water needing to be dumped.
Straws: Just don’t do it. If you must, bring your own metal or bamboo straws.
Quick Bahasa Indonesia Lesson:
To ask someone to not give you a straw: “Gak usah pakai sedotan” (no need for a straw)
Food: Food is often wrapped in plastic, which is then wrapped in plastic. I typically bring my own container as well as a tote bag when I know I am planning on ordering food to go. Most houses will have storage containers you can borrow or better yet pack your own collapsible container. There are tons of these on the market for about $5-20 USD. These take up very little space or weight and can significantly reduce the amount of plastic you use while here.
Often if you order food to-go across the street from where you are staying or from a cart passing by, you can use their dishes and return them when you’re done. This is a normal practice specifically here in Indonesia. Check with locals in other countries to see if this is also the case there.
Many of the spaces you may stay in compost, check with the locals to see if they have a specific space where you can discard your organic waste.
Everyone loves a home cooked meal, and it’s usually fairly cheap. If you are vegan, vegetarian or have a dietary restriction it can be the easiest way to ensure you’re getting the meal that you want or need. Offer to go to the market (bring a tote bag!) with a local friend, offer to cook a meal, help with the preparation of a communal meal, it not only reduces trash but it’s a great way to contribute to the space you’re staying in. If you can, take the time to sit down at a warung instead of asking for food to go.
Quick Bahasa Indonesia Lesson:
When you go to a warung or place with your own container, bottle, or bag you can say: “Minta pakai ini, ya” (Please use this)
Beer/Alcohol Bottles: It’s easy as a traveler to leave a trail of bottles behind you. You’re on holiday after all. This can sometimes be a burden for collective spaces as they may not have a recycling center close or there are simply too many bottles to deal with. Often the places you buy beer from will allow you to return the bottles. Check with them when you make a purchase, and return the bottles the next time you want to buy a fresh round. There are also recycling centers that you can return all kinds of bottles to, whether beer or liquor. Check with locals for locations.
Tissue: Most restaurants and public bathrooms use thin tissues as napkins, I recommend bringing a small quick-dry towel or handkerchief to dry your hands or mop up sweat/wash your face after a long motorbike ride. These are also great if you get caught in an unexpected rain storm.
There’s no way around it, toilet paper is harmful to the environment. My best advice would be to do as locals do and get used to using water exclusively to clean your bum. As a friend once eloquently asked me “If you had sh*& on your hand, would you use tissue to wipe it off or water to rinse it off?” Of course if you have issues with yeast infections, bladder infections etc. you may not have any other option, in that case, make sure you dispose of the tissue in the garbage, and not the toilet. The plumbing in most of these countries is not equipped to handle the flushing of tissue or any other items.
Menstruation: I will forever advocate the menstrual cup. Not only are they zero waste, but in countries where there is nearly always water in the bathrooms, you can easily empty, rinse and reinsert. If menstrual cups are not your cup of tea, er, blood(?) bring either menstruation underwear or reusable cloth pads. There are no tampons available here and even if you bring them they may be difficult to dispose of.
Shopping: Another case of plastic wrapped in plastic wrapped in plastic. People might look at you a little strangely, but put those new purchases right into your backpack or tote bag.
It may seem like a lot, but with a little effort, you can reduce your contribution to the trash problem rampant in this part of the world.
Article Source: unrestcollective.wordpress.com