In July 2019, Natural Habitat Adventures (Nat Hab) ran a zero-waste trip through Yellowstone National Park. The travelers on the week-long tour diverted 23 kilograms (50.9 pounds) of waste — 99% of all waste created on the trip — through reuse, recycling, TerraCycling, and composting. This comes to 1.9 kilograms (4.2 pounds) of waste per person over the course of the week. This is in comparison to the commonly quoted 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of waste created by the average American every day.
Waste generation is particularly tricky in the travel and tourism industry. The ability to travel is a luxury, and people often enjoy the opportunity to excess. Though an increasing number of travelers are aware of their environmental footprint, they don’t necessarily want to be told not to create waste or curb their consumption habits. Addressing this from the industry side, tour operators are taking action to create awareness among travelers and reduce their own waste. Nat Hab is the first tour company to specifically launch a zero-waste trip, but it’s certainly not the first to tackle the waste problem in its operations and tour offerings.
The Plastic Problem
Historically, travel companies bought into the convenience and peace of mind offered by water available in single-use plastic bottles, especially in places where water quality was suspect. Yet, the problem with this solution has become alarmingly clear: Approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic make their way into the ocean every single year. Many companies are now committed to reducing single-use plastic water bottles and items in their operations and on their tours, and they’re encouraging travelers to be part of the solution. “Guests are advised to carry bottles or hydration packs on their travels and refill them as they move from camp to camp,” said Vaibhav Kala of Aquaterra Adventures.