Here at Be Zero we're happy to share the stories and positive work of our Field Crew & Ambassador Program. Our Ambassadors act as lighthouses for the Be Zero Mission in their communities by sharing and inspiring ways to live simple and and low-waste lifestyles. Meet our newest Be Zero Ambassador, Ryanne Frazier (bios coming soon).
Ryanne backpacked through Ecuador on a low-waste mission and she shares her inspiration and tips for traveling with the zero waste mindset in South America! Check it out!
Zero Waste Ecuador: By Ryanne Frazier
Have you ever thought of how the zero-waste lifestyle could be applied while you’re on the road, backpacking, or traveling long term? With travel becoming an interest in many people’s lives, I believe it’s a topic worth discussing. Here is a look into the world of zero-waste backpacking through one of my favorite countries: Ecuador.
In a country that seems to have it all: Andean peaks, Amazon rainforest, indigenous markets, colonial towns, sun-drenched beaches, and famous chains of volcanic islands full of unique wildlife - how could Ecuadorians not want to protect such a diverse environment? Thankfully, the compassionate, and generous locals have made strides within the last decade to do so.
Areas such as Sustainable Rural Development, Reforestation, Water Resource Management, Ecosystem Protection and, the most impactful to the rainforest, Ecotourism, have lead Ecuador to where it is today in terms of environmental sustainability. With all of these categories being utterly important, implemented aspects of a zero-waste living structure was nonexistent. However, thankfully, that doesn’t make traveling waste free in Ecuador impossible!
With daily produce markets in the cities, and smaller family vendors in communities, fresh produce is easily accessible and incredibly inexpensive. Several of these markets, for example the market in Quito, sells unpackaged grains, beans, seafood, and meat products in addition to fruits and vegetables. Simply pack a few produce bags and 2-3 reusable containers in your pack and you’ll be prepared! If you choose to cook while you travel, make sure to book a hostel/hotel ahead of time that has a community kitchen with utensils provided. Lonely planet is a huge help for these purposes.
For those of you who want to completely immerse yourself in delicious Ecuadorian cuisine and spend a little extra money, make sure to pack your personal utensils, napkins and straws while eating at restaurants or street food vendors. Plastic utensils served at restaurants are rare, yet plastic straws and paper napkins are unavoidable unless you make a respectful request. To politely refuse a straw in Spanish, say, “sin paja por favor.” You will most likely get an interesting look, but they will understand.
Beyond the necessary zero-waste methods for the every day, there are many challenges that I came across. The cause for most of these was lack of preparation.
Here are a few possible issues that you could run into, and solutions to avoid them:
+ If you plan to hike a volcano, climb a mountain, or bike through the Andes, have enough reusable water bottles to provide at least 2 liters of liquid. If natural waterfalls, springs, or rivers pave the way of your trek, I recommend investing in a stainless steel LifeStraw. It can be found here: http://lifestraw.com/products/lifestraw-steel/.
+ Be sure to pack plenty of unpackaged snacks for any trek, climb, or remote journey. Fruit, veggies, and nut mixes can be found in the markets.
+ In terms of body products, be sure to pack enough, or bring your ingredients to make more until you arrive in an area where you can re-stock ingredients. I highly recommend planning in advance, and scoping out where these re-stocking destinations might be located, especially for long-term travelers. When worst comes to worst, coconut oil saves the day! If you’re able to find it in a glass container or in refillable bulk, it can be used for lotion, lip balm, deodorant, wound salve, shaving cream, conditioner, toothpaste, makeup remover, cooking, oil pulling, and a very light sunscreen (SPF 4). A stainless steel safety razor and EXTRA steel blades is a must!
+ For the ladies - Say no to tampons and cotton pads. You’ll have difficulty finding them in stores anyways. Traveling with my Lily Cup Compact has been a dream come true! It’s collapsible, you can’t beat that. It can be found here: https://www.intimina.com/en/lily_cups
Most importantly, don’t let the lack of being prepared prevent you from the opportunity to have amazing experiences!
In addition to the necessary information to successfully traveling throughout Ecuador waste free, I think discussing travel as a platform to positively make a difference in local communities is also important. If you’re interested in making a significant impact through traveling with a zero-waste purpose, I would suggest heading to the Ecuadorian coast.
While I was visiting Canoa Beach, Ecuador, I began a beach cleanup. There is a local, eco-friendly hotel, Bamboo, that briefly informs tourists of ways to help their local environment. For every bag of trash people bring, they offer a free cocktail. I think the idea is a reasonable starting incentive to have aid in keeping the beach clean, but it’s not nearly enough.
Being a conscious tourist in every country, not just Ecuador, is crucial. Evidence from uneducated tourists destroying the environment with trash can be witnessed all along the Ecuadorian coast. Garbage consumes the beaches near towns, mainly from visitors who don’t care, or don’t know. When high tide comes, all of this trash washes back into the ocean, becoming harmful to marine ecosystems and wildlife. Countries such as Ecuador, where there is an extensive amount of biodiversity that is in danger, is where we, as a global community, have the opportunity to make a massive impact.