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Saving the Fish… with Fish Waste: Interview with Lucy Hughes (MarinaTex)

At 23, Lucy Hughes — who recently graduated as product designer at the University of Sussex — is a few years older than climate activist (and current dance music star) Greta Thunberg. But these two young women clearly have something in common: within their generation, they belong to the inspiring group of people who are giving hope and mobilizing the rest of us to read, reflect, discuss, actively take part in climate-oriented initiatives and make changes to our everyday lives in order to help save our planet.

Lucy recently won the 2019 national James Dyson Award with her graduation project, which originated from a brilliant idea: use organic waste from the fishing industry to develop a kind of bioplastics, aptly called MarinaTex, that seems to tick all the boxes required to replace, in the not-too-distant future, a lot of the plastic we reluctantly use daily. Want to get a sneak peek? Check out the brief, gorgeous video below and tell us: isn’t she one of the coolest girls you’ve ever seen? We’ve been lucky enough to have a chat with her, and this is what she said.

Could you explain in a nutshell how Marinatex is made and what will its most useful applications be once it’s fully available?

MarinaTex is made using proteins from biological fishing waste. My project started off at a fishing processing plant: I went there, identified their waste stream and came away with a bag of skins, a bag of scales and other kinds of waste they have. I started to explore and I found it was actually the skins and scales that had the most potential combined with the protein. I experimented with organic binders and ended up using red algae, which is a common cooking ingredient, especially for vegetarian people.


Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

I carried out different experiments to work out the best combination of things that would allow me to create a tactile material. The whole production process is relatively low-tech — I made it in my kitchen! So it’s not going to need a big, scary industrial process. It uses temperatures below 100°C — while with plastics, you must reach at least 150°C, which makes that an energy-hungry process.

As for its applications, MarinaTex is completely biodegradable. This isn’t totally new, since biodegradable materials have been around quite a lot, but it’s also home-compostable, which means it degrades between 4 and 6 weeks in a hot-compost environment, in which temperatures range between 44°C and 79°C.

It’s also translucent, so its most impactful application would be to replace single-use plastics, from bakery bags to all sorts of packaging that have a window that allows people to see things before they buy them. Statistics on consumer behaviour have shown this to be important for people, so I don’t think companies are willing to give up that window.


Until MarinaTex makes its way to our shelves, is there any good enough alternative among the materials available for us to use in our kitchens and our homes in general? Each of them seems to have pros and (a lot of) cons…

There are some great products that help consumers to reduce plastic consumption in the home. A good example of this is Beeswax wraps. Other ways include switching back to the milkman to reuse glass bottles, switching to a wooden toothbrush and using natural sponges – as microfibres from plastic sponges end up in the waterways and then the ocean (this is also the case when washing clothing made from polyester, nylon, acrylic and polyamide).

Read More: The best eco-friendly alternatives to cling film

There has been a lot of interest in MarinaTex and all bioplastics, which seems to prove that society is ready for them — but unfortunately the options that are available for the moment don’t seem too satisfying yet. So what’s missing for us to be able to get to a plastic-free, zero-waste world? Anything we ordinary people can do to help speed up the process?

As for what’s missing, I think governments are being too slow to act. Especially the UK government — unfortunately we’re busy with other things at the moment, so everything else has kind of slipped down the agenda.

At the moment, when there aren’t as many alternatives on the market, possibly it all starts with behaviour change. So in the short term, while the right systems aren’t quite in place, you could perhaps consider not getting a coffee cup at a shop, but bringing your own.

As a consumer, you can change your choices too. It might take a little effort to make those changes, but if you think it’s worthwhile, you can do it. Personally, after working on this for a couple of years now, I’ve gotten to a point where I go into a shop and I kind of wince whenever I have to buy a bit of plastic. It’s a body reaction I get, and I think “Oh God!”, since I’m so aware of the damage this is doing.

Image by MMT from Pixabay

Also, we need to convince companies that they should look for long-term gains rather than being focused on short-term wins. And this is where as consumer, you have so much power. I think people always underestimate how much power they have.

I was at a talk at Sky yesterday, and their head of PR was on stage and she was saying: “This is what customers want, so this is what we’re going to do.” I don’t think we’re ever told that as customers, and it would help us to realize they’re actually listening to us. I’m a customer myself, and I do have a voice.

So what we can do to speed up the process is to make our voices be heard: contact the companies you think could improve and tell them what you think, because at the end of the day, how they make their money is through you, and that’s how they survive.

Speaking of the power we have as consumers, could you give us any examples of “good” consumer brands we could reward?

One of the leading brands in this field is Patagonia. They’ve got a really good repair & return scheme, but as an outdoor brand, they’ve also got lakes they’re protecting. I definitely always endorse their message.

Another useful thing can be just switching to Ecosia instead of Google as your search engine. For every search you do, they plant a tree.

A question from eco-‘s CEO David Douek: How sustainable are both MarinaTex and bioplastics in general, if you take the whole value chain into account?

Take bamboo socks, for instance. Great! Bamboo! But when you dig in, you see a lot of chemicals are used, and a lot of energy as well, to turn it into something that looks like a tissue. How sustainable is that? And how can we ordinary consumers distinguish genuinely sustainable options from the rest?

This is a really, really good question, and it doesn’t have an easy answer. Basically, each case is completely unique. It’s not like plastic, where there are these common processes that have been established over 70 years. At the moment, everything is at a quite early stage. And consumers don’t want to have to do that research, they want to be told: and if they’re told that something is sustainable, they shouldn’t be lied to, but unfortunately that’s a trend that’s already begun.

I think the best way to do it is just follow reputable sources of information — like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation — and look for companies and materials that have been endorsed by people who are doing the correct research.

Regarding MarinaTex and sustainability, this is my undergraduate project and I’m now looking to scale up and looking for the best way to commercialize it — and the starting point for me was: there is a problem and I want to solve it. I’m not a businesswoman who has seen an opportunity, I’m a designer that’s trying to solve a problem. So if it any point my product isn’t doing that, and it’s causing more harm than good, it means it’s not the correct solution — and I’m more than happy to reevaluate it, because that’s what I value.


Just as an example: considering how we look at the business model of a company, traditionally, you’ve made it if you go global. And a big part of me doesn’t know if that’s the right way to go. In my eyes, I’d actually quite like to go more local. For me, it’s less about finding materials from China and shipping them; I want to be able to create minimal impact and localized solutions.

I think for people like me, it’s about finding the right support networks, and the companies that are funding the right people and doing things the right way and not cutting corners — which means that it’s going to be a longer process.

One of these trustworthy companies, from my point of view, is Sky Ocean Ventures, an investment fund that works with Innovate UK; they vet different companies, and they have really good values at heart.

That is why I can’t say MarinaTex going to be available in a year. I don’t know what kind of challenges I will face, since every case is unique.

How did you come up with such a “poetic” solution – that is, to help save the fish in our oceans by turning waste material from the fish itself into an alternative to plastics? I’m wondering if you happened to grow up by the ocean for instance, since you live in Sussex.

I actually grew up in Twickenham, in Soutwest London. But I love diving, and as soon as I was old enough to dive, when I was 12 years old, I got my diving certificate. I think it was at that point that the ocean opened up to me — before then I was just looking at it from the surface level, because that’s what I could see, but as soon as I got underneath the waves, I could see how diverse and also how fragile it is.

I lived in the Bahamas for three months, I did some conservation work there, and we got to dive off places that weren’t tourist destinations; they were protected areas, and it was quite crazy to see what reefs should look like. It was a unique opportunity, and now when I dive while I’m on holiday, I see different reefs that have sort of been destroyed. I think having that contrast between what they should look like and what they do look like was a big eye-opener.

Image by x_blueberry_pie from Pixabay

In terms of the solution I’ve found through MarinaTex, I started off knowing I wanted to work with a waste product, because my values as a designer are kind of contradictory with my title as product designer. I came to the conclusion that it’s the products that are the problem… after spending 3-4 years training myself to design them. That didn’t sit well with me at all, and it made me think that everything I would design to solve certain kinds of problems would open up other problems.

If I wanted to make something, normally I would have to use plastics. You don’t really think about the material usually. It comes last. And that’s what didn’t sit well with me: I wanted to focus more on the materials and see if there was something else I could do — and I knew that if I did want to use no virgin material coming from the earth, I would need to work with a waste product.

My lecturer, Claire Potter, does a lot of work with the group called Ghost Gear to get rid of the fishing nets that have been left in the ocean, and she is a big circular economy advocate; she was doing a project with the guys of the fishing processing plant in New Haven, to review how much polystyrene they use, and she was designing a new modular concept for them, so she put us in touch.

Plastic was on my mind because in Brighton, where I live, we’re strongly in favour of cleaning up the oceans, and we have a lot of good initiatives going on — we have a beach, so there’s a lot of beach cleaning activities. So I always thought that was the big issue. We would go down to the beach with my friends and there was plastic all over — it’s not as obvious, because it’s a pebble beach, but it was something that was always close to our hearts.

Image by Matthias Groeneveld from Pixabay

Was it diving, then, that made you develop an interest in environment protection? And how did that eventually lead you to take the leap and turn it into your specialization and hopefully your profession?

With anything you want to protect in life, it always starts off with respect, love and joy. So I think diving definitely gave me that, and made me feel “Gosh, I need to protect this!”.

And then it was definitely being at university in Brighton, which as I said, is really ahead of the game in terms of sustainable and circular design, on a par with only one or two other universities in the UK.

Obviously I had that kind of passion for long, but what did it for me was learning about the issues, and learning about the role that design has to play in those issues and their solutions. I felt a bit powerless before then — but studying at university, I felt empowered. I felt that I was in the best position, and that designing out the problem was the best way I could help.

You already mentioned some of the ways this awareness shapes your daily life. Do you actually think eco-friendly or zero-waste in everything you do? How does this affect your social and family relationships?

It’s definitely changed the way I am. But I think it’s also about not setting too high expectations for yourself, and being kind to yourself in any type of behaviour change, whether that be exercise, or diet… This is just one of those things where if you set yourself too high of a pedestal, you end up letting yourself down. So it’s about making little changes here and there.

One of the biggest things I found really tough was trying to make my flatmates recycle properly. I didn’t want to cause any rifts, nor did I want to keep telling them off the whole time — so I ended up cleaning bits of their recycling stuff and not bringing it up.

All in all, I think little and often is the best way to go.

Apart from the things you already mentioned, do other things come to mind that each of us could do in our daily life to move closer to a zero-waste lifestyle?

Something I do daily is, I can’t remember the last time I bought a plastic water bottle, because I always carry a bottle in my bag. I think that’s something that’s quite achievable. I also always carry a tote bag, in case I want to take something from a shop.

Image by RikaC from Pixabay

You can also put your vegetables in that bag. For example, I was in Carrefour in France last month, and they have those plastic bags you put your vegetables in; I had taken my tote bag with me, and I put them all in it and stuck all the stickers with the weight and price of each onto the bag itself. I got a very funny look from the French lady, and she did have a look in the tote bag check I wasn’t stealing vegetables, but it worked.

It’s little things like that. Whenever I go to a coffee shop, I understand that carrying a coffee cup can sometimes be a bit messy or whatever, but I will just sit in. I will use a china cup. If I want a coffee, I’ll either avoid that, or I will allow myself the time to sit and have it that way, rather than in one of those plastic cups.

Since we’re approaching the end of the interview, are there any other messages you’d like to give our readers?

I think it’s important to say that plastic isn’t a bad material. It’s actually amazing, and it’s life-changing — even life-saving in some cases. I don’t want there to be this kind of hate toward plastic; the pressure should be focused towards how it’s used and why it’s used in those situations. For us as consumers, it’s all about high demand, and we want everything right now, and plastic in some ways is the best material for that. But I think it’s all about reassessing the product life cycle and finding the correct natural materials for the correct life cycle of the product. The product doesn’t end when the consumer is finished with it; it ends when it’s disposed of. Otherwise we’re just going to keep making things and piling them up, and that’s a completely unsustainable way to live.


Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

This makes one more question come to mind: does the plastic we throw in the proper recycling container actually get recycled? If so, why don’t we just keep using it and recycling it without feeling guilty about it — and use our time to persuade other people to always recycle, instead of going zero-waste?

In terms of recycling, only about 9% of plastic globally ends up being recycled. That is such a small percentage, even though everyone is trying to do good — all that plastic might not ever be recycled, so the best way to do it is to avoid using it.

It all depends on the different applications: in the medical industry, for instance, we need plastic, because it’s the best way to save lives, for it to be sanitary. But basically we’ve just got too plastic-happy, and we’ve got quite lazy as designers, and also lazy as consumers, and this is affecting our planet.

Even if we recycle, we should keep in mind that the different types of plastic can be recycled a different amount of times. Some of them can only be recycled one other time, others 6 or 7 times. This information hasn’t been conveyed to many people, it’s something that not many people know — but it means that if we want to use plastic, we need to be using those types of plastic that can be recycled multiple times.

It’s very hard to change other people’s behaviours. We’ve all shown it’s quite hard to change our own. So I think as an individual, you have the most amount of power to change your own decisions. You should share the message as much as you can, obviously. But I think the most efficient way is to change your own behaviours.

Time to close with the inevitable silly question: MarinaTex doesn’t actually smell like fish, does it?

No, it doesn’t! It’s completely odourless, and it’s definitely not fishy. In the early days, it was — so it took a number of experiments to get a formula that doesn’t smell like fish, which is good 🙂

(Interview conducted by Matteo Vegetti)

Toilet talk: 5 eco-friendly swaps to clean up your waste

The zero waste bathroom is a fine balance! Maintaining cleanliness and good hygiene while doing good for the environment is not always straightforward. 

But going eco doesn’t mean ditching the toilet for a well-dug hole and a few leaves either! 

Eco bathroom products that reduce landfill waste are thankfully popping up all over the place. This is excellent as up to 40% of landfill waste is from bathrooms, with nappies and feminine hygiene products being the worst offenders – they take 500 years to decompose.

Here are 5 simple swaps to instantly brighten the future and reduce waste.

The Plastic Free Toilet Brush

Cleaning away evidence left behind is not just good manners,  it’s also essential for toilet cleanliness

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

But does it have to be plastic? Nope. There are many toilet brush alternatives. Eco toilet brushes use sustainable materials, pollutant-free production methods and won’t end up in landfill. They’re also naturally a bit brown, which hides the stains.

Our favourite wooden toilet brush is the FineFun natural coconut fibre toilet brush, made from compostable, organic material. The design is great too, it reaches more places than the conventional brush.

Recycled Toilet Paper Rolls

Plastic-free toilet paper is easy (who wipes with plastic?) but sustainable or recycled toilet paper? That’s not so easy, especially on a budget.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Luckily we are becoming quite the experts in toilet paper and have a few tips to share.

First, bamboo. It’s sustainably harvested without killing the plant and grows at a phenomenal rate. As for splinters, don’t worry. Bamboo toilet paper, like The Cheeky Panda, is soft, anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic.

There are also great recycled options, including eco leaf toilet tissue made from UK recycled paper waste.

Check out our best eco friendly toilet paper guide for more eco options! 

Money-Saving Reusable Nappies

Image by Pamela Kiefer from Pixabay

Start early with the eco training with reusable nappies! They reduce the hundreds of disposable nappies sent to landfill with simple compostable liners. A 20 pack of the best reusable nappies will last from birth to big school.

Tots Bots is one of the best as their nappies grow with your baby! They’re also chemical free and easy to wash. In case you need extra help learning how to use reusable nappies (and how to wash reusable nappies conservatively), check out the full guide to washable nappies.

There are plenty of options to keep your baby dry and carbon footprint small!

Eco Toilet Cleaner

One of the most popular eco friendly toilet cleaners in the UK is Ecover(you’ve probably seen it in the supermarket and advertised on TV) and we love how short the ingredients list is. You can also buy 5 litre refills of eco toilet bowl cleaner to save waste further.

Another way to join the zero-waste toilet cleaner brigade is to create your own! Most eco friendly toilet cleaner recipes use a strong acidic element (vinegar, lemon juice etc.) and essential oils to clean and chase away odours. You can also sprinkle baking powder and scrub to lift stubborn stains.

Image by Monfocus from Pixabay

Alternatives to Pads and Tampons

Disposable tampons, pads and applicators create 200,000 tonnes of waste per year… for just 85g of menstrual blood per cycle. That’s less than a teacups worth of natural human waste and a shockingly high amount of single-use plastic waste!

Menstrual cups are just one natural alternative to tampons, along with period pants, reusable pads and sponges. The cups can take a few tries but once you’re accustomed to it you’re saving a lifetime of waste!

Image by PatriciaMoraleda from Pixabay

Check out the OrganiCup to start with – it has 3 sizes and holds 3x what a single tampon can.

Your eco bathroom is within reach! Don’t forget to recycle packaging your eco bathroom products arrive in and lock the door when you’re spending quality time with your new purchases…

Eliminating the Idea of Waste: Interview with Stephen Clarke (TerraCycle)

TerraCycle, a US-based recycling company on a mission to “eliminate the idea of waste”, has been so successful in recycling hard-to-recycle waste that it has grown into the global leader in the field. Today, it operates in over 20 countries, offering several innovative recycling programs to 80+ million people. We had a chance to talk to Stephen Clarke, Head of Communications – TerraCycle Europe.

(Recorded on April 1, 2019)

Photo by TerraCycle

Could you explain in a nutshell what your company does and how you help people adopt an eco-friendlier lifestyle?

Founded in 2001, TerraCycle is the world’s leader in the collection and reuse of non-recyclable post-consumer waste.

TerraCycle works with well over one hundred major brands in twenty-one countries across the globe to collect used packaging and products that would otherwise be destined for landfills. It repurposes that waste into new eco-friendly materials and products that are available online and through major retailers.

The waste is collected through TerraCycle’s National recycling programmes, which are free fundraisers that pay schools, charities and non-profits for every piece of waste they collect and return.

TerraCycle launched in the UK in September 2009 (its first market in Europe) and today operates in 12 European markets (UK, ROI, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Sweden and Denmark). 

In the UK, it currently runs collection programmes for cracker biscuit and cake wrappers, crisp, nuts, pretzels and popcorn packets, baby food pouches, Pringles cans, writing instruments, air and home care waste, toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes, Aqua Optima water filters, pet food packaging, contact lenses, personal care and beauty products / packaging, Tassimo & L’OR coffee pod / TDISC waste and cigarette waste. 

Photo by TerraCycle

To date in the UK, TerraCycle’s programmes have diverted over 57 million items of packaging waste from landfill (around the weight of a jumbo jet) while earning over £744,000 for schools, charities and non-profit organisations. 

Which of your products or services are especially appreciated by customers and communities?

In the UK (as in most of our 12 European markets), we have a network of public access public drop off locations on most of the free recycling programmes we offer. 

To give you a few examples:

We have a number of fairly new programmes for FMCG products such as crisp packets (sponsored by Walkers), biscuit, cracker and cake wrappers (sponsored by McVitie’s), the nuts, popcorn, crisps and pretzels recycling programme (sponsored by KP Snacks), the Pet Food Packaging programme (sponsored by Whiskas & James Wellbeloved) and the Colgate Oral Care Recycling Programme.

Some of the recycling programmes are targeted at / more popular with specific types of groups / locations – for example the BIC Writing Instrument Recycling Programme is mainly participated on by schools who act as BIC Community Champions so local communities can all drop their used writing instruments off to them. 

Lots of parents of young children and nurseries and playgroups act as the drop offs for the EllaCycle programme for baby food pouches.  The Acuvue sponsored Contact Lens Recycle Scheme has 650 Boots Optician stores and lots of independent opticians acting as public drop offs.

What’s the first, most actionable advice you’d give to our users to help them advance in their journey towards zero-waste?

Make sure you know the types of waste that your council can and can’t recycle.  Putting the wrong materials into your home recycling box / bin causes contamination and can mean that some of the correct waste will ultimately end up in landfill.  A quick call to your council or Google search will tell you all you need to know.

Then, for a growing list of items that you can’t recycle with your council there are now free recycling programmes with TerraCycle – everything from coffee pods, to contact lenses to crisp packets and even cigarette waste. 

So check out www.terracycle.co.uk to find your nearest public drop off location, if there isn’t one close to you then consider setting up your own one or on some of the programmes you can sign up as a private collector.


And what’s the second advice? 🙂

Stay away from anything designed for a single-use – instead purchase higher quality, more durable items that will last many years: rechargeable batteries, woven tote bags or bags for life instead of plastic grocery bags, metal cutlery and ceramic dishware, refillable water bottles – wherever you can make the switch, go durable.

Keep an eye out for excessive product packaging as well, and choose products from brands that limit their use of packaging as much as possible. It’s not uncommon to see products in as many as two, three, even four layers of packaging where only one (or none!) would have sufficed.

For instance, instead of shrink-wrapped produce and pre-packaged supermarket convenience foods, go local and buy loose produce from a nearby farmer’s market. Better yet, buy your basic cooking staples in bulk and make more home-cooked meals.


Photo by nrd on Unsplash

Read more:Learning how to start a zero-waste lifestyle now could save the future“.

Could you explain to our users how they could start to “upcycle” their waste, even in countries with less developed up/recycling facilities than in the US?

Complacency abounds in our consumption-driven society. Why fix or reuse something you own when it can be endlessly replaced at little cost? Learn to fix what you own and fight that urge to toss broken products into the trash.

If you need to replace something altogether, go the reuse route by buying second hand: Craigslist, charity shops, The Freecycle Network, Etsy and word-of-mouth are all great ways to get your hands on lightly used products at little or no cost.

(Interview conducted by Matteo Vegetti)

Aquaculture: An Industry in Search of Sustainability

Aquaculture is defined as the controlled production of aquatic species.

That industry is an important economic activity in the production of foods and living organisms intended for repopulation and ornamentation. Nowadays more than half the food of aquatic origin consumed in the world come from aquatic farms.

Seahorses farm in Hawaii. These seahorses are cultivated to repopulate some areas of the sea and for sale for aquariums (avoiding thus overfishing).

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) estimates that before 2030, more than 65% of aquatic foods will come from aquaculture. Thereby, that industry is considered as an activity that contributes to the efficient use of natural resources, food safety and economic growth, with a limited and controllable impact over the environment.

The negative environmental impacts that could result from that activity, such as the variation of water quality, or the deterioration of the seabed, can be handled and minimized through a good knowledge of different processes, a responsible management and the right localization of the farms.

Mackerel larvas cultivation tanks

Thereby, that industry could reach a sustainable production of aquatic products by applying various strategies that can contribute to the conservation of the planet.

Sustainability is a concept that aims to provide a long-term livable environment for everybody, and its development encompasses 3 fundamental components:  conservation of the environment, economic health and social equality.

Aquaculture fulfills all of them.

However, that industry still isn’t very famous as our society is rooted in the consumption of products from traditional fishing. Few know that cultivated fishes come from wild progenitors, without any genetical modification, feeding on high quality nutrients. And few know that their breeding lasts between one and three years before they reach their commercial size.

Mackerel fish in a bucket before being moved to a new cultivation tank

Reducing the Impact On the Environment

One of the main problems of that young practice is that fishes and crustaceans are fed on diets full of proteins and oils, coming from flour and wild fish oil, which implies fishing for low economical value fishes.

In other words, fishes are produced from other fishes.

Another aspect to highlight is the chemical interaction with the aquatic environment, caused by the discharge of organic matter coming from the stool of the cultivated organisms, and by the possible waste from therapeutic products or non-ingested food. 

In both cases, we are currently looking for a way to fix these problems.

Flour and wild fish oil are being replaced by proteins and vegetable fatty acids, such as soy and palm, which gave good results.

Rotifers culture (living food for mackerels)

As for the discharge of nutrients and other pharmaceutical products in the aquatic environment, the problem can be minimized by placing the aquatic facilities in places that have the right depth and currents, in order to have a very localized possible negative impact.

Regarding therapeutic waste, antibiotics are being replaced by autovaccines.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that the breeding of aquatic species it not all about “negative aspects in process of solution”. Some important aspects for the population are being unnoticed by the consumers as aquaculture remains an unknown practice.

Mackerel larva

Food safety is a standard in aquaculture as the fishes raised in that industry are free of any parasites that can cause zoonosis, such as the anisakis. Hence these parasites won’t reach your plate.

Moreover, thanks to exhaustive controls during the whole breeding fattening, killing and manufacturing process, the final products are absolutely healthy.

Miriam measuring the size of a mackerel larva

Therefore, next time you’re in the supermarket, we recommend you to give a chance to marine food cultivated in farms. No only they are, or are trying hard to be, eco-friendly, but they are also of excellent quality and really healthy for the consumer.


This is a guest post by Miriam Viader Guerrero.

She has a degree in Biology from the University of the Balearic Islands and soon a Master of Science, with orientation in Aquaculture, from the Center for Biological Research of the Northwest

Suffering From Eco-anxiety? Embrace it! Here is Why…

During the last decade, a new condition started to popup on the web: eco-anxiety.

Type it on Google Search, it’s everywhere… and reliable sources such as Vogue and the NYTimes are talking about it.

Yet, up to this day, there isn’t any official definition for it.

What’s not on Wikipedia isn’t real, right?

Image by Wokandapix on Pixabay

Joke aside, Good therapy gives us a good (unofficial) definition for it.

“Eco-anxiety refers to anxiety or worry about the ecological threats facing the earth. Eco-anxiety is not considered to be a mental health concern. Rather, it is seen as a typical reaction to the growing awareness of the problems that can result from climate change and other global threats.”

If you recognize yourself in these lines, rest assure… at least you’re far from being alone.

And solutions exist,  you’ll see a few of them further in this post.

(Spoiler alert: your anxiety is the solution)

Climate Change, Your Mental Health is at Risk

Most of the focus around climate change has been related to its effects on the environment and on people’s physical health.

But studies are revealing that mental health is also at risk here.

That mental health risk can appear at different levels.

It can be direct consequences of a natural disaster, such as PTSD from living a traumatic experience. Or it can be the constant fear of possible natural disasters when living in an area at risk.

Image by terimakasih0 on Pixabay

It could also be due to longer-term, slower consequences of climate changes and pollution, such as the ones impacting agriculture or the livability of an area. Prolonged drought, food shortage or water contamination are only a few examples of the slow poison that can affect our health.

But there is another danger to our mental health that can reach everybody, even those living in “safe areas”.

This evil (let’s name it as such), is the anxiety linked to our guilt and lack of power when it comes to have an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Meet “The Green Guilt”

That side of eco-anxiety is what many call “the green guilt”.

The sad thing is that this evil seems to haunt the most eco-friendly individuals amongst us.

The ones that know what we and the earth are facing.

The eco-warriors that actually do something to change the trend and bring humanity back on the right path.

Image by KELLEPICS on Pixabay

It all goes back to the saying “ignorance is bliss”.

Many agree on the fact that the more intelligent you are, or the more knowledge you have, the more you are prone to anxiety. And that also applies to our environment.

The difference with the environmental situation is that you don’t need to be intelligent to understand what’s coming, or rather what’s already in front of you.

It’s more about denial.

People emotionally disassociate from the suffering they inflict on the environment.

Image by Comfreak on Pixabay

In other words, they deliberately choose to be “ignorant”.

Hence, they have no reason to be anxious. But that’s the easy and coward solution.

Fortunately, many people refuse to take that shortcut and fight for a cleaner world.

Unfortunately, their knowledge of the alarming situation and their individual intents to change it are very likely to make them feel powerless against so much waste, pollution… global indifference.

A Fight Worth Fighting?

The daily life of an eco-conscious person is a real challenge that can feel like a battle lost in advance.

The more you learn and look for eco-solutions, the more you notice pollution is everywhere and the more you feel like you’re drowning…


Photo by Nate Nessman on Unsplash

Obstacles are everywhere:

  • You may not be able to afford some eco-friendly alternatives
  • You give your best to organize a zero-waste dinner and your friend brings plastic cups
  • You order a green alternative you can finally afford and you receive it in 2 layers of plastic packaging
  • Some money-driven business or politician just took an unethical decision and you can’t do anything about it
  • You forgot your reusable shopping bag at home and beat yourself up because you have no choice but buy a new one at the shop
  • Your kid came back from school with plastic waste, again
  • Another species of animal just disappeared
  • You just learned that that fabric you thought was eco-friendly is actually obtained through chemical manufacturing
  • Some friends already see you as the “annoying hippie activist” of the group

So many reasons to feel anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated or even lonely in your fight. And the media are constantly there to remind us how bad the situation is.

Embrance Your Anxiety

Don’t give up. History is full of turnaround success stories.

Take Reddit, a platform used by many to spread the green word. When it launched, it was as empty as a ghost town and the founders had to create fake profiles and discussions to give it a bit of life. Now, it’s one of the most active platforms ever, with more than 550 million active users.

Time and perseverance, it’s what it takes. And changing the lifestyle of the whole world population will need a lot of it.

Image by fxxu on Pixabay

Would you not like to be a pillar of the greatest comeback story in the history: the recovery of our planet?

As for your eco-anxiety, don’t fear it, don’t let it turn into depression. But embrace it!  

A common advice given to anxious people is to embrace the power of their anxiety. Anxiety is not something that goes away, the best one can do is learn how to deal with it and take advantage of it.

For example, a consequence of anxiety is the constant thinking of what will go wrong in the future, preventing you to enjoy the present.

As you tend to live in the future, use it to plan ahead so that you can do the best you can in terms of sustainability.

Image by skeeze on Pixabay

Another aspect of anxiety is the unnecessary worry about small things that won’t matter in the long run.

Let’s take the example of ordering a so-called green alternative that you finally received packed in two layers of plastic.

How annoying is that right?

But instead of feeling bad about it, contact the provider and tell him about the situation. He might listen to you. If not, spread the word about it.

Your actions may provide thousands of people to fall in the trap.  

We have to put an end to that green guilt. If someone should feel guilty, it’s the ones that are not doing anything to improve the situation.


Thereby, to everyone reading these lines, please:

  • Don’t stop making small changes in your life.
  • See your mistakes and the ones of others as a path to improvement.
  • Cheer up with every small win.
  • Feeling you can’t reach your green goals? Lower your expectations and progress step by step.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people, offline and online.
  • Share your experiences (positive and negative). You will see that you’re really not alone.
  • Remember, every small step counts. It’s a journey and you’re contributing to make this world a better place.

Looking for places to share your experiences? You can start by dropping us a comment 😉

Clothing Fabrics: How Sustainable Is Your Wardrobe?

Ever wondered what are the clothes in your wardrobe actually made of? And how sustainable are they?

These annoying care labels… most of us cut them directly after the purchase. They are irritating and it just sounds like it’s written in a foreign language.

I mean, what is “viscose” anyway? It doesn’t sound like something I want to be in contact with my skin.

Is that right?

In this fast-fashion era, shopping for eco-friendly clothes isn’t easy, especially when you’re not sure whether a fabric is really sustainable or not.

And finding green alternatives is even more complicated when you don’t know what fabrics you should be looking for.

But after reading this guide, you’ll look at that care tag differently and you’ll know how eco-friendly is that amazing dress you saw on that Instagrammer’s feed.

Bonus: At the end of this guide, you’ll find a short list of clothes made from some of the most sustainable fabrics.

The structure of this guide

In the clothing industry, most fabrics can be grouped into 3 big families.

On one side, we have the clothes made from natural fibres and on the other side, we have the clothes made from man-made fibres, which can be split into regenerated fibres and synthetic fibres.  

Thereby, this guide is structured the same way.

For most products, the assessment of eco-friendliness must be made considering the entire product life cycle. From the extraction of raw materials until the disposal of the product.

Clothes are no exception.

That’s why, in this comparison, we don’t only focus on whether a fabric is biodegradable or easy to recycle. Instead, we also take into consideration factors like the use of chemicals and pesticides, the amount of water needed for the raw material or the impact on wildlife and the workers.

Let’s jump right in.

Fabrics Made from Natural Fibres

Natural fibres need the less explanation, their name is pretty much self-explanatory.

They are the fibres that grow naturally and they come either from plants (cellulose), either from animals (proteins).

They are not man-made.

By definition, theses fibres are biodegradable and compostable. Meaning that they should be the most sustainable solution.

Unfortunately, we’ll see that it’s not always the case.

Traditional Silk

Silk is a protein based fibre made with the excretion from the bombyx mori caterpillar, aka the silkworm.

It takes up to 2500 silkworms to produce a single pound of raw silk. That’s why silkworms need to be cultivated, in order to obtain enough silk for the production of clothes. This is called sericulture, or silk farming.

That’s also why silk is so luxurious and expensive.

Photo by Lan Pham on Unsplash

The main problem with sericulture is that the silkworm is killed in the process of collecting the silk. Indeed, silk filaments are collected by immersing the cocoon in hot water to get rid of the sericin that cement the filaments. And that process also kills the worm inside the cocoon.

Despite that ethical problem, silk is a highly renewable resource. One single silkworm can lay up to 500 eggs.

Also, silkworms feed on leaves from mulberry trees, which doesn’t need pesticides and fertilizers to grow. However, as so many silkworms are needed to produce a small amount of silk, it also takes many mulberry trees to feed them.

Finally, silk isn’t a local resource. Silk farms are mostly located in India and China where chemicals can be used to clean the silk.

Wild silk

Wild silk is the ethical solution to killing silkworms.


As suggested in the name, silk is collected from wild silkworms, after they hatch from their cocoon. No sericulture and no killing involved.

The main downside of wild silk is the quality. It’s rougher than traditional silk, less strong and its structure isn’t uniform.

This results in a less premium and luxurious silk.

Too bad.

Traditional Cotton

Cotton is everywhere.

It’s the most widespread profitable non-food crop in the world and it covers around 95% of the world’s natural textile fibre demand.

That’s a shame…

It may be a biodegradable natural fibre, but its current production method is far prom being sustainable. Demand has to be met and that “requires” unethical methods.

Photo by Trisha Downing on Unsplash

The main problem with cotton is the tremendous quantity of water required for its production. Take a t-shirt from your wardrobe. It can take up to 29.000 litres of water to produce the 1 kilogram of cotton your t-shirt is made of. That’s the amount of water a healthy person would drink in 27 years…

Cotton is not only very thirsty, its conventional farming process also involves loads of agrochemicals to make it grow faster. 25% of all insecticides used every year come from cotton producers.

This is a major threat not only for the soil, wildlife and freshwater ecosystems, but also for the health of the workers and people living in the farming area.

And let’s not talk about the allergic skin reactions that all these chemicals can cause on the end-user.

Organic Cotton

Being biodegradable, cotton can still be a great eco-friendly fabric… as long as the right production method is used.

This is what farmers are trying to achieve with organic cotton.

Photo by Marianne Krohn on Unsplash

Organic cotton is a more sustainable alternative to conventional cotton. It is done by using growing methods that have a low impact on the environment and that provide safe working conditions.

Which means no chemicals and GMO are used and the cotton is handpicked rather than machine-picked.

Being handpicked, organic cotton will also be purer, softer and stronger than regular cotton. Hence, we get a more durable product.

To reduce water consumption, organic farmers are using a soil rotation system in order to maintain soil fertility (traditional cotton grows on the same soil). That way, nutrients retain water longer and less irrigation is required.

Organic cotton is also hypoallergenic. No chemical dyes and whiteners are used in the manufacturing of organic cotton. They resort to safer, natural alternatives that prevent skin allergies.

The “downside” of this ethical and eco-friendly process? Premium organic cotton also means premium price. But the earth, the workers and your skins will thank you… big time!

Linen (Flax)

Linen is not only a great fabric for summer, it is also one of the best eco-friendly fabrics on the market.

Made from the fibres of the flax plant, linen is often compared to cotton, being both natural plant fibers. But ultimately, linen is stronger and more durable than cotton. It’s actually considered to be the world’s strongest natural fibre.

Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels

Known for its capacity to absorb moisture without holding bacterias, linen is also organic, recyclable and biodegradable (when untreated obviously).

But it’s main advantage over cotton and other fabrics is how eco-friendly its growing process is. It grows naturally, without chemicals, and doesn’t need more water than rain can provide. To take the example of cotton again, linen needs 60% less water to grow.  

Sad thing about linen is its general adoption. It remains somehow a premium product and represents only 1% of global textile consumption. It is mostly used for bed linens, towels or napkins.


Hemp, this scratchy, ugly, brown fabric…


Hemp is way more than that and can actually be soft and beautiful.

Did you know that hemp is part of the family of cannabis plants? Meaning that not only it is a densely and fast growing plant, but it is also very little water-demanding.

Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash

Hemp doesn’t need any chemicals and fertilizers to grow and as it is naturally pest resistant, no pesticides are used.

In fact, growing hemp is actually beneficial to the soil, the same way a forest is. Hemp plants have strong and deep roots that prevent the soil from erosion and remove toxins.

Aesthetically speaking, today’s technology allow to turn hemp fibres into linen-like fabric while keeping its properties. It can also be blended with cotton for a softer feel.

In addition of being very eco-friendly to grow and manufacture, hemp makes a very durable (better than cotton), biodegradable and healthy fabric.

It is comfortable, hypoallergenic, breathable, protects from UV and absorbs moisture.

What’s not to love with hemp?


Wool is a tricky one.

Environmentally-friendly speaking, wool is not a bad student. Obtained from the hair of the sheeps, it is entirely natural, renewable and doesn’t need any chemical to produce.

Photo by Irene Chan on Unsplash

The only considerable environmental downside is the methane released by the sheeps and the water they need to drink. Imagine the amount of methane and water it represents in a country like New-Zealand and its 45 000 000 sheeps…

But the real problem here is rather ethical.

Sadly, investigations from organisms such as PETA are showing that cruelty towards sheeps is almost a standard in the industry. Sheeps are often beaten, kicked or even killed for their wool by heartless workers.

Photo by Jose Francisco Morales on Unsplash

And no need to go far to witness that barbarity. It happens here in the UK as well.  

Then, make sure the wool is taken from well-treated sheeps before buying wool clothes.

Fabrics Made From Regenerated Fibres

Both regenerated and synthetic fibres are man-made, but regenerated fibres have the particularity to be made from cellulose (such as wood pulp).

What does it mean in terms of sustainability?

Cellulose is an organic and natural compound, which means that when unblended with synthetics or not dyed with chemicals, fabrics made of that compound are biodegradable and compostable.

Be careful though, as many clothes use a blend solution of regenerated fibres (or natural fibres) with synthetics for better resistance or reduced cost.

Once again, read the tag.

Moreover, as explained below, many regenerated fibres are source unethically and involve harmful chemicals in the manufacturing process.

Viscose (Rayon)

Depending on where you’re from this fabric could be referred to as viscose or rayon (which is actually often used as a generic name for regenerated fibres).

Viscose is a low-cost, mass-produced fabric made from the wood pulp of fast growing trees and plants, before being dissolved in a chemical solution and then turned into yarn.


When first created, it revolutionized the fashion industry as this versatile fabric allowed to create good-looking and smooth fashionable clothes at an affordable price. It’s a cheap similar looking alternative to silk, somehow.

But as expected, this lower cost translates in poorer fabric quality and thereby, lower durability.

Due to being a biodegradable fibre based from renewable plants, it is often considered as an eco-friendly fabric and a better alternative to synthetics.

It is the case, but only to some extents.

As mentioned earlier, the wood pulp is dissolved into a chemical solution during the manufacturing process. This is a mandatory step to make the fabric strong enough to handle regular wearing and washing.

Unfortunately, this process is highly polluting and releases a big amount of chemicals into the air and water, some of them being a dangerous threats to the workers and closeby inhabitants. Around 50% of the hazardous waste can’t be reused and ends up in the environment.   

Photo by Changing Markets Foundation

In addition to that, much of the viscose used by famous clothing brands appears to be sourced from unethical viscose factories in India, China and Indonesia. These factories have low standards regarding pollution and they extract most of the wood pulp from endangered forests, contributing to deforestation.

Finally, it feels like the harm done to forests is for nothing as around 70% of the tree is wasted during the wood pulp “extraction”. Quite a waste in comparison with hemp, where the remainings of the plant can be used for other purposes.

Good news is that some efforts are made to get more eco-friendly viscose. Brands start to source viscose from ethical factories and viscose is increasingly being manufactured using the lyocell process (see further in this post) in order to reduce waste.


Modal came as a solution to some of the durability issues of viscose.

It is made of cellulose from beech trees and has a texture similar to silk and cotton. Its extra softness, its resistance to wear and washing temperatures, and its capacity to absorb water make it a popular fabric for activewear and underwear.


Modal and most regenerated fibres have a really similar manufacturing process to viscose (described above) and thereby they tend to share some flaws, such as the chemical processing.

However, some big companies like Tencel developed solutions with low environmental impact.

In this case, the manufacturing process of Modal is done in closed loop, which means that the water and the majority of the chemicals used are captured and can be reused. They also source Modal fibres of beech wood from sustainable forests around Austria.

Unfortunately, Tencel isn’t the only provider of Modal fibres on the market and many retailers source their Modal from cheaper and less transparent (understand way less eco-friendly) providers that face the same accusations as the ones listed in the Viscose chapter.

Lyocell (mostly Tencel)

That fibre, made from cellulose of eucalyptus trees gives a fabric with a very similar texture to viscose or modal fabric. But being a more uniforme fibre, lyocell fabrics generally offer better breathability and moisture absorption.   


The main producer of Lyocell is Tencel and for that reason, lyocell is often referred to as Tencel.

Tencel uses the same closed loop manufacturing process as for its Modal fabric and logically goes by the same sustainability standards (renewable energy, recycled water, sustainable wood sources…).

Even though Tencel produces both lyocell and modal in a sustainable way, there is still a major difference between these two fibres, in terms of eco-friendliness. Once again, the manufacturing process differs.

Instead of using caustic soda to dissolve the plants, Tencel’s lyocell process uses NMMO, a non-toxic, organic compound. And thanks to the closed loop process, that solvent can be reused at a 99% recovery rate.  

Which makes Tencel’s lyocell the most eco-friendly fibres of the three regenerated fibres cited so far.

Acetate and Triacetate

We won’t go far in the description of these two fibres. For the history, acetate is the first man-made fabric and the first one using cellulose.

Acetate and Triacetate are used as cheap substitute to silk as they are similar in appearance.

But the similarities end here.

Acetate fabric is not durable at all and for that reason, it’s mostly used for short-term wear or occasional wear. It also doesn’t handle heat and extra wash care is required.

Triacetate is basically the evolution of acetate. It’s more durable, easier to take care of and more heat resistant. However, it is still a relatively weak fabric and it shares the same sustainability flaws as its little brother.

Same as for the other regenerated fibres, acetate and triacetate are made from cellulose. Yet again, the problem lies in the manufacturing process.

They undergo extensive chemical process during the manufacturing and some of these chemicals are highly toxic and hazardous, such as caustic soda and sulphuric acid. That manufacturing process also requires a lot of resources, including water.

Compared to viscose, acetate fabrics are less durable and as (or even more) chemical extensive.


This is also a tricky one. Is bamboo fabric really sustainable?

When you read bamboo on the tag of some clothes, don’t stop there thinking it’s automatically green.

Because it will most likely not be the case.


It all comes down to the manufacturing process.

Your greenest option is bamboo linen. That natural bamboo is obtained mechanically, without the use of chemicals.

That’s great, but the result is far from the soft fabric you’d like on your skin. Coupled to the fact that the manufacturing process is expensive and labor intensive, you won’t see it often in the market. That’s why we didn’t include bamboo linen in the natural fabrics section.

So how are most bamboo clothes made?

You may have guessed it: through the viscose process. Thereby, bamboo viscose also goes through that chemical and not eco manufacturing process described in the viscose chapter.  

Moreover, there is no proof that bamboo fabric keeps bamboo’s natural qualities once it went through the chemical process.

There are some manufacturers offering bamboo fabric made by using the lyocell process though. However, few brands are actually using that bamboo lyocell.  


Meet the vegan cashmere.

There is a lot to like in soy fabric. In addition to be non-animal based, it is also easier to care than cashmere.

In terms of sustainability, it isn’t as straight forward.

The great thing about soy fabric is that it’s made from the waste of the processing of soy oil byproducts (such as tofu).

It’s basically taking organic waste and turning it into a great fabric. Thereby it is also biodegradable and compostable.

Photo by the United Soybean Board

It is soft, lightweight, wrinkle resistant and machine washable. And it is also moisture absorbent, breathable, UV resistant and anti bacterial. A great durable option for activewear.

However, the first ecological problem comes again with the manufacturing process. In order to become a fabric the plant needs to undergo a chemical process. The process is similar to lyocell’s as it uses a closed loop system that allows to capture the chemicals and reuse them.

The issue here is that the process requires the use of formaldehyde, a harmful irritant classified as a possible human carcinogen. It remains unclear if the final wearer is exposed to that chemical. But let’s not forget the workers…

The next issue is the source of the soy crops as the global soy industries heavily relies on GMO crops, which require a big amount of pesticides and water to grow. Soy production is also guilty of deforestation and habitat destruction in the rainforest, where much of the soy is coming from.

We might argue that being made from the waste of the byproducts of these crops undermines that last issue. But the real solution is to look for organically grown soy, which is not always easy as it is a really expensive process. Hence the success of GMO soy.

Fabrics Made From Synthetic Fibres

Synthetic fibres are the second man-made category of fibres used for clothes. Unlike regenerated fibres, they are entirely obtained through a chemical process, usually from byproducts of petroleum or natural gas.

They are extremely popular in clothing, especially amongst cheaper brands.

But how sustainable are they?


Let’s start with the most famous one.

Polyester is the king of the fashion industry market.

And that’s a king we’d like to see overthrown…

In terms of convenience, it’s a great fabric. There is a reason why it’s the king. It is very durable, resistant to stretch, easy to wash and it dries fast. It is also mildew resistant and that’s its main advantage over natural fibres.


Sustainability speaking, it must be one of the worst fabrics though.

No need to go into details of what chemicals it is made of, polyester is a polymer and the fabric is basically plastic. The most common kind of polyester is also made of petroleum, one of the world’s biggest pollutant.

Useless to say that polyester isn’t biodegradable. They are also hard (understand expensive) to recycle.

Unlike natural fabrics (including regenerated fibres), polyester can’t be dyed using a natural process. It needs a stronger and chemical dye, which is difficult to treat and doesn’t really decompose. These dyes are dangerous to human, and especially to the workers.


These toxic dyes are also guilty of causing several environmental problems as they often end up in the water streams around the factories.

Finally, the manufacturing process. Again, we won’t go into details. In a few words, polyester is really thirsty. A large amount of water is required to cool down the manufacturing process.

On the bright side, more and more brands are starting to use polyester made from recycled plastic bottles as an alternative. It’s a better option, but it is still not biodegradable, it still involves chemical dyes and the health issue unfortunately remains.


Nylon is particularly used for items that need the ability to stretch and come back to normal without loosing their shapes, such as tights, underwears and activewear. It is also durable, resistant to tear, to sunlight and to water.


However, nylon is also really bad to breath and has low moisture absorbency. To overcome these disadvantages, it is often blended with other fabrics.

Nylon is a polymer mostly made from coal and petroleum. Again it’s a kind of plastic and it shares the same sustainability threats as polyester.

But in addition to that, its manufacturing is energy intensive and also creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is around 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  

Again, there is a bright side.

More and more brands start to adopt nylon made of recycled plastic (mostly from the ugly fishing nets polluting our oceans). That recycled nylon, such as Econyl is also made in a closed loop, in order to considerably use less energy and reduce waste and gas emissions.


Acrylic is the synthetic cousin of wool.

That fibre is soft and bulky, making it a cosy option for warm clothes and garments. It does tend to loose its shape over time though, unlike wool.


Again, acrylic is derived from petroleum, making it difficult to recycle and not biodegradable.

But the most controversial element of that fibre is that it is made from polyacrylonitrile, a plastic known for being carcinogen. It is proven that workers in acrylic factories are considerably more inclined to develop cancer.

What are the risks for the wearer?

Finally, the manufacturing of acrylic is also a highly energy intensive process.

Elastomerics (Elastane/Spandex)

Depending on where you live, that fibre can be named spandex, elastane or by elastomeric, its generic name. It is also often tagged as Lycra, Cordura and Supplex (which are actually 3 brands of elastomeric)

Want to know what these last 3 brands have in common?

Their producer: Invista, a filiale of the unfamous Koch industries.

If you don’t know them, just remember this: Koch industries generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouses gas a year. Which rank them amongst the top 30 polluters of America’s air, water and climate.

Elastane is another non eco-friendly polymer that requires many chemicals to manufacture in an energy intensive process. It is obviously not biodegradable.


The particularity of elastane is that it can be stretched up to 500% without breaking and then get back to its initial shape. That feature is something that is not possible to achieve with natural fibres yet, and that’s why elastane is a “necessary evil” in clothes that are susceptible to wear and tear.

That’s also for that reason that elastane is present even in eco-friendly clothing that requires that elasticity.

Photo by Simon Connellan on Unsplash

Good news is, it’s never used alone as a fabric and only a small amount is necessary. Elastane fibres are always blended with other fibres (organic cotton for example) to create a final stretchy fabric.

What now?

We hope you’re still wearing clothes after reading this guide.

The fashion industry is clearly a big mess. Even the fabrics that sound eco-friendly are hiding some dark secrets.

But at least now you know.

What’s really to remember here is that nowadays, which such huge demand and under the limits of current technologies, shopping sustainably is not really about getting 100% green clothes.

Photo by Artificial Photography on Unsplash

Ranking the most sustainable fabrics would be more informative than useful. That would lead you to spend a huge amount of time and money into seeking the sustainable graal.

Obviously, if you have the means, go for it.

Instead, we can only encourage you to make as sustainable and healthy choices as possible.

  • Try to avoid these harmful chemical fabrics such as acrylic or polyester.
  • When shopping for sustainable alternatives, be careful of greenwashing. Bamboo isn’t always as green as it sounds.
  • Same goes for wool and cotton, make sure it comes from ethical and organic sources.
  • You don’t have to ban cheaper brands. Take Inditex (the group owning Zara and Oysho), they actually offer some eco-friendly clothes made from Tencel or organic cotton for example.
  • Sometimes, spending a little more can get you more durable clothes. See it as a small inversion.

That concludes this guide, we hope it helps you to see clearer in that fashion mess.

We haven’t listed all the fabrics here as we mostly focused on the popular options that you will actually find in a shop.

It isn’t a sustainable fabrics guide either, but more an assessment of the sustainability of these popular fabrics.

However, if you have a green fabric you’d like us to share, please let us know in the comments!

Time to build your sustainable wardrobe!

Here is some inspiration…

20 Illustrations That Will Enrage Your Green Mind

We all know something has gone seriously wrong in our world.

Ocean pollution, deforestation, climate change, overfishing, littering… we could list as many man-caused environmental problems as there are letters in the alphabet.


An Ocean of plastic.

It is said that 95% of the ocean remains unexplored, which means amazing discoveries are still possible.

How exciting!

But will there still be something left to discover?

Experts say that if we don’t work to stop biodiversity’s decline, the world’s ocean will be empty of fish by 2048. Thanks overfishing, pollution and climate change…


A shorter time-frame? By 2025, there could be more than 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish in the ocean. As the saying goes, there is plenty of fi… plastic in the ocean.


Take straws.

Even though they represent only 0.025% of the 8 million tons of plastic that pollute the ocean, getting rid of them is easy and doesn’t require a big change of behaviour.

So, why are more than 500 million straws used every day, in the US alone?


But if the main target of awareness campaigns only represents such a small percentage of ocean pollution, where does all that nasty trash come from?


Did you say plastic bottles?


According to a study from The Ocean Cleanup, almost most of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (world’s largest floating trash island) come from abandoned fishing nets and gear.

And this is a double-edge knife. This abandoned “ghost gear” keeps trapping and killing marine wildlife.

ghost-fishing-pollutionIllustration by Ed Dingli


Whether industrial, from households or individual, is nothing but an act of laziness and ignorance.

An act of laziness that has not only an environmental, but also an economic cost.


People need to understand that with littering comes consequences. It affects plants and animals but also tourism and safety. Littered streets and surroundings tend to be abandoned, by both tourists and locals.

Nobody enjoys having a Sunday walk in a waste ground…

Most litter that isn’t picked up in the street by birds and animals ends up carried by wind and rain into rivers and drains that lead to… the ocean. Yes, disposing of an “innocent” single piece of trash in a street that is dirty anyway causes more harm that it seems. You might as well throw your trash directly to the ocean.

That’s why governments allocate a huge budget in cleaning up that mess. And you know what it means right? Yes, as a good taxpayer, you pay for the litter of the others.

By the way, did you know that cigarette butts make about half of the litter on the street? And contrary to popular belief, they don’t decompose in a few days… bur rather 10 years.

Our planet doesn’t need an haircut…

Forests, lungs of our planet, home for billions of people and animals… are under attack. Every year, we are destroying the equivalent of 27 soccer fields every minute.


Half the size of England… gone.

The main cause of deforestation is agriculture. Farmers burn or cut down trees to make more room for crops and livestock.


Are the farmers guilty? Or rather the hungry bellies of a growing population?

The second cause is logging. A huge amount of trees are cut down for producing palm oil and paper and wood items.


Or for building illegal roads to access remote forests or for providing new houses to that growing population.

And the victims are numerous.

The main victims are obviously the forests, but the tropical rainforests are hit the most. They may be completely gone within less than 100 years.

By destroying forests, we are also destroying the home of millions of endangered species. And most won’t survive that disaster.


Finally, some may not care about such events that take place thousands of kilometres away. But deforestation also plays a big role in global warming.

Trees are kind of a carbon sink, they absorb the greenhouse gases that would normally reach the atmosphere. But when trees are cut down, it reduces the amount of carbon absorbed, and dead trees also release carbon dioxide into the air.



Speaking of global warming.

It is proven than human activities are changing the natural greenhouse and thus warming the planet.

Causes are numerous, but burning fossil fuels, deforestation and farming are the most impactful.

It’s time to start thinking: What’s the future we want our children to live in?

But let’s stick to the present, because the thing is: future is already happening!

The greenhouse effect is warming our planet, the ocean included. Which leads to an increasing sea level due to melting glaciers and icy surfaces. While humanity still remains safe from that event, we can’t say the same for polar bears.

Sea ice is their natural habitat and hunting ground. The increasing loss of their habitat forces them to travel further to hunt and many die from hunger or drowning.

It shouldn’t be their job to adapt…

Humanity needs to start thinking and focusing on what really matters.

Who’s the real danger after all?


The World’s First Zero-Waste Adventure: Interview with Court Whelan (Natural Habitat)

Natural Habitat is planning the first zero-waste adventure ever organised. It’ll take place in Yellowstone park. As first guest of our new eco-interview-series, we’ve spoken with Court Whelan, director of sustainability and conservation travel initiatives of Natural Habitat, to learn more about this adventure and how zero-waste and travelling can live together.

(Recorded on December 3, 2018)


Photo by Natural Habitat

This interview was so interesting that we couldn’t even consider making it shorter. Have a look at the following index to get an idea of the covered topics… and let’s dive right in!



Where did the idea of your zero-waste adventure originated from?

We like to view ourselves as one of the most sustainable travel companies out there. We are constantly trying to raise the bar on conservation, sustainability and so on. That goes for how things are done on our trips, in our office, for the education we provide to our guests before, during and after our adventures… Therefore, the idea of zero-waste originated from a company culture that is very immersed in conservation and sustainability.

We’re constantly thinking, “How do we make not just our company, but the whole industry better and more sustainable?”. This is why 11 years ago we did an “industry first” by becoming the first carbon-neutral travel company —back in 2007, at a timewhen carbon neutrality wasn’t really talked about and wasn’t very well known.

In this spirit, what we’re trying to do with this trip is make a huge change in the industry, an initiative that’s going to turn heads and get people thinking about something that’s a very big problem today, which is our waste stream and all that’s related to it.

We knew this was going to be a huge challenge, but also a great opportunity.


What does “zero-waste trip” mean?

The fortunate thing is that, since we are the first travel company in the world doing this, we have the ability to define what “zero-waste trip” means. In doing this, we’re holding ourselves to a very high standard: our definition is “diverting 99,9% of all waste from landfill over the course of the trip.”

We know there are going to be little bits here and there that we won’t know what to do with — we can’t get to 100%, since the technology is not really there yet — but our vision is that at the end of this trip, we’ll have one small jar containing all the trash, meaning all the stuff that couldn’t be recycled, composted or Terracycled (more on this right below). And that’s going to be a great visual of what we could do to change things: 14 travelers, 1 national Park, 4 cities, 7 days, 2 expedition leaders = 1 small jar, everything else will have been taken care of.


Background Photo by Natural Habitat

During the course of the trip, we’ll recycle everything we can. Plus, as I mentioned, we’re working with a company called TerraCycle that specializes in recycling things that are currently harder to recycle, like candy bar wrappers, chip wrappers, all plastics that you cannot put into the normal recycling containers, will go into their special Terracycle box.

Composting is also essential: after every meal they have with us, we’re expecting travelers to scrape their trash into a compost bin, or to compost it back into the earth.

A lot of it comes down to refusing stuff. At the end of the day, something has to be made to be recycled; it’s better to not make it in the first place, so refusing things like plastic straws, single-use cups and the like is a big part of it.

That’s where education comes in. We have to learn ourselves, then teach our travelers what and how can be refused, and what are the proper techniques to do that, like refusing it before you get it — if you get a glass with a plastic straw already in it, it doesn’t matter if you use it or not, it’s there and it’s gonna get thrown away if you don’t have it, so we’ll have to be very diligent with not using stuff.

The same goes for food and compost. That’s a bit more delicate in the travel industry: you don’t want to be shortchanging people food, which is their “body fuel” to hike and walk around, but I think people will have to be a little more deliberate about it. If you’re not particularly hungry, why don’t you share a plate between you and your friend?

We will actively be quantifying what we recycle, what we compost, terracycle or upcycle into new materials and what we have to throw away.

I think not using stuff in the first place might be one of the biggest lessons to come out of this trip: learn to do a little bit better without stuff.

In a lot of ways, we are a high-end/luxury travel company, we mostly cater to retirement-near folks who are willing to spend money and expect certain services and things in return: so we’re asking ourselves, how do you work with that sector of the industry and provide people everything they want, but find a way to curtail that back? That will be very interesting to see.


Photo by Natural Habitat

Are you also educating your business partners about this? For instance, I read you’re going to self-cater at least for a part of this trip to avoid those kinds of waste.

We are, absolutely. It comes back to our overall ethos as a company. We’ve been doing this for a while; we’ve never actually labeled something as “zero-waste”, but we’ve been working with our partners and getting them to be more sustainably-minded for a very long time now.

We’ve worked to reduce packaging for food, like all the food we fly into our camps in Botswana. And if we do have to use packaging, we use something that can be composted, recycled or reused multiple times. For instance, we will buy a cooler that can last for 15 years instead of constantly using styrofoam. These are things we’ve been doing for a while.

Fortunately, we have a headstart on some of that, we have the dialogue open with our partners —our operators, our hotels, the camps we’re using. We’re just going to be upping it consistently.

This is going to be one of the big benefits of this trip. This time, it’s going to be 14 travelers: that’s just a drop in the bucket, but it’s 4 different hotels. It’s Yellowstone, the United States’ first national park. It’s a camp. It’s a transportation company.


Photo by Natural Habitat

So we have our influence on all of them, and if we can show them how easy it is to do these things, think about how many visitors the Yellowstone National Park receives every year, 5 or 10 million; if there’s something they glean from this initiative, from the talks we’re going to give before, during and after the trip, that makes a really big difference. So I think the relationship with our partners on the field is a huge aspect of what we’re trying to do.

Going one step further, one of my big goals is to create a best practices document out of this trip, so we have a roadmap, complete with tools that we can blast out to the whole industry to show them how we did this, what were the challenges and the things we had to pay particular attention to, and how they can do it too — since we’re the first, but we don’t want to be the only.


Have you already thought of ways you can increase the visibility of what you’re doing during the trip, like talking to people in the park and so on?

We’re actually working on that now. There was a lot of work we had to do to get to this point, to make sure we send people the right information, to also be as zero-waste as possible before the trip, like making sure everything is electronic instead of printed on paper.

Now that we’re about 6 months away, we’re entering Phase 2, going into that kind of details and getting in touch with partners on the ground.

We do have a shortlist of people in mind. There are some non-profits which are not officially part of the national park but have a strong interest in its protection — one that comes to mind is the Yellowstone Forever foundation, I’m sure they’ll want to know about this initiative.


Photo by Yellowstone Forever

The hotels and the restaurants in these national parks are often owned by private concessions, so the government doesn’t actually run and operate them, but we want to reach out to them.

They will learn about it when we go through, we can certainly talk about it when we’re in line to get food, but we want to give them as much heads-up notice as possible, because they might say, “Oh, gosh! We want to jump on this bandwagon.”

I mean, it’s a trendy thing right now, and I want to capitalize on this zero-waste trend. Even if they can’t become zero-waste, they can adopt small practices, so we want to get the word out about that.

We’re actually open to suggestions from anyone about how we can do this better on the ground. They’ll be absolutely welcome.


Apart from your future partners for this trip, how is your relationship with other organizations working on zero-waste and environmental issues?

Being a conservation travel company, we’ve worked constantly since our inception, 30 years ago, to form friendships and business relationships with other organizations: we share best practices, we share ideas, we help each other…

Our strongest conservation and sustainability partner is certainly the World Wildlife Fund. We help each other in so many ways.


Photo by Natural Habitat

One of their big pillars of sustainability is the food cycle, from production to transportation to waste. Since they’re so passionate and knowledgeable about it, they’ll be very involved in this trip at that level.

Apart from this, we’re part of a number of different travel consortiums that focus on adventure travel and sustainability. Multiple times a year, the heads of several departments will meet with others around the country or the world to share policies, efforts, ideas, etc.

We have a long list on our website of smaller groups or organizations we’ve worked with to aid on direct conservation in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Galapagos Islands… We’re all trying to be the most eco-friendly we can possibly be, and learning from each other as well.

Besides, we actively donate philanthropic funding to various organizations, including the WWF. A smaller group within our organization called Nathab Philanthropy, which I also oversee, is our philanthropic arm outside of the WWF through which we provide small grassroots funding to smaller organizations worldwide, to aid in community welfare or direct conservation of wildlife or natural areas.


Photo by Natural Habitat

The New York Times wrote that “sustainable travel is not just about the environment”. Are you working on other aspects closely related to responsible tourism, like the relationship with animals or with local communities?

As it goes, the definition of ecotourism or conservation travel is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and promotes the welfare of local people.” The latter is a huge thing we focus on.

Our tours are focused on nature and wildlife. We’re going to see whale sharks off the Yucatan peninsula, we’re going to see monarch butterflies, lions and leopards, tigers and bears and all that: but in order to save them, you absolutely have to engage the local community.


Photo by Natural Habitat

What we try, more than anything, is to have an economic impact by leaving as much of our money as possible in the hands of local communities. That’s not donations, necessarily; that’s business.

We want to stay at a smaller family-run safari camp, or a boutique hotel, and we know that that money is going to stay in the community.

That is probably the biggest value of tourism: the economic impact. When you can show people that there are millions of tourism dollars coming into an area and being left there, it makes that area much more valuable alive than dead — much more valuable left pristine than chopped down for timber, or mined, or whatever.

It’s far better to keep that reef immaculate, with excellent snorkeling or diving opportunities, than to overfish it. Short term gain is great, you can cut down forests for wood, you can pollute rivers for mining, but the whole thing is that responsible tourism done right, when you make those local choices, shows locals that there’s a lot of money to be had.

If you don’t protect local people, you’re not engaging the most powerful force in the area. You can put up fences around the national parks and give people fines for entering them, but that’s never going to endear people to what they’re trying to protect.

These are the actual stakeholders we’re trying to make, the people living around national park, because you can only employ so many rangers and have so many national guards — if the local people aren’t on board with keeping the area pristine and protected, it’s never going to work.

Read More: “We can make a positive difference to the culture, wildlife and environments we visit on our travels, flip flops in hand”


And what about animals?

Our partnership with the World Wildlife Fund —which is really close now, we are their travel program and they are our conservation program — started because both organizations, about 15 years ago, were doing overlapping work in a lot of ways.

They had a full travel program with 20-30 people in the office, we had conservation programs and were doing research and work in that area.

So we got together and said, why don’t we partner and both do what we’re best at? We’re really good at travel, we’re decent with research and conservation, while you’re just the opposite, so why don’t we just take over those responsibilities from you and you take over the conservation stuff from us?

They are the boots on the ground, they are the ones who are saving wildlife and lobbying governments, creating policies, protecting national parks, reducing poaching, keeping forests intact and replanting forests… We support them on that mission.

We do a lot of stuff on our own too. When we’re out in the fields, we follow very ethical guidelines. A lot of this just comes naturally, because we hire only the best and most professional expedition leaders, who in many cases are biologists themselves.

So it turns out in the small things, like not getting too close to wildlife and not intruding an area, and of course not taking anything — we’d never remotely think of poaching or hunting ourselves!

We’re entrenched in keeping areas protected by default. We are the people who carry bags with us and pick up other people’s trash off the trail and bring it back – that’s another initiative we have, it’s called The Dirtbag Program: it’s like a river dry bag made of a thick canvas-like material we use to pick up the dirt we find.


Photo by Natural Habitat

And then of course, we’re entrusting the WWF to do so much of the day-to-day policy work, working with local governments and setting up protected areas, trading the rangers… And because we are their travel arm it feels like we’re doing that too, although they have full control over it.


You also offer safaris in places like Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, where literally hundreds of SUVs queue before sunrise to enter the park: by joining a safari in this type of locations, aren’t people actively contributing to the physical and noise damages caused to the park?

That’s the big question, and it’s a sensitive one. Travel is a carbon creator. The fact that we fly around the world is creating carbon emissions. By injecting ourselves into these ecosystems, we are becoming a presence for wildlife, whether the sound is impeding them or the trails that are being built affect them.

I come from an academic background of managing and understanding the impacts of ecotourism, and I can tell you there are a lot of studies out there that do measure things like sound and physical presence and trail erosion or creation.

Fortunately, those impacts are pretty minimal. Submarine testing, for instance, has a much bigger impact: the sounds that are created underwater and have been shown to affect whales aren’t coming from tourism, that’s a really small slice of the pie.

When you’re in these big national parks and there are so many vehicles, it’s obviously annoying — we get annoyed ourselves by them, shouldn’t animals be annoyed?


Photo by Natural Habitat

You know, they might be annoyed, but in terms of the metrics that biologists look at — things like, are they reproducing at normal rates? Are they feeding at normal rates? Are predator and prey densities in the same balance that we’ve been observing in the last 50-100 years? What is their reaction to sound, or to having a trail go across? — we find the impact is actually pretty minimal.

That being said, I realize we are a presence in these areas and in these ecosystems, but this goes back to what is probably one of the most initial debates on how to deal with protected areas.

One side says we need to protect 10% of the world, or 5%, or 1% as natural areas, like national parks: we need to set them aside, they need to live on their own and flourish and do their own things without humans getting involved. We don’t want any vehicles in there emitting smog and exhaust… Nothing.

The other side says, that’s great, we want to do that, but how do we build advocacy? How do we create animal and wildlife lovers, if we don’t get people in these areas to fall in love with wildlife?

Besides, one of the biggest issues we have today is the so-called “tragedy of the commons”. It’s climate change. It doesn’t matter if you have a large national park blocked off in northern Siberia that people can’t go into — it’s still susceptible to climate change.

This is a big part of the mission of the WWF. If you get people out into these natural areas, seeing a leopard or a tiger for the first time, swimming with whale sharks but doing so responsibly — of course, not impeding migration patterns or anything like that — you’re creating advocates, and these people are going to go on to help save these creatures.


Photo by Natural Habitat

They can do so in a variety of ways, whether it’s through direct fundraising or advocacy. Maybe they’re going to write their lawmaker and ask them to please pay attention to a new environmental bill. Maybe it’s the fact that these people are actually leaving money in this areas to promote conservation.

Going back to Yala National Park as an example: I’ve been there, I know the issue exactly. You have 10, 15, sometimes 30 vehicles around a single wildlife spotting and you wonder, is that how it’s meant to be in the world?

But you may also ask, what if we didn’t have that? How likely would it be for some foreign interest to look at that land and say, gosh, there’s a lot of oil under the surface, a lot of minerals, precious metals, there’s diamonds or rubies in a cave or underground — I’m going to pay 10 trillion dollars to buy up that land and turn it into a parking lot.

If someone wants to convert the value that is coming into Yala National Park, a value you can actually calculate, into something different than a natural area, all of a sudden the government can say: right now, it’s bringing in 50 million dollars a year in tourism, and that’s a value.

So the biggest thing tourism can do is create value for natural areas, and compare that value with other, deleterious processes like extractive processes, fishing, mining or whatever.

The perfect thing is for there to be a thousand humans on Earth and all the natural areas to be protected, and for wildlife to flourish. But the truth is that’s not how it is. The population is growing, people are needing places to live, they are needing food…


We have to fight tooth and nail to protect these areas. But if they don’t have any value, if there’s just a big government saying “Don’t go in there”, they’re not going to stay protected.

So even though that leopard is probably a bit annoyed by all the vehicles and all that, fortunately (a) it doesn’t go much more beyond annoyance, a lot of people are doing a lot of studies to make sure that its reproduction, its health and survivability are still intact, but (b) I’m afraid that leopard wouldn’t have a forest to live in anymore if it weren’t for all that.


What about the use of flights for your trips? I’ve read you rely on carbon offsetting to reduce your carbon footprint, compensating for the pollution caused by planes. Couldn’t internal flights at least be replaced with something else?

Flights do emit a fair amount of carbon; we’re doing the best we can to reduce that carbon footprint, and we’re also offsetting, so in theory we balance that.

Again, just like what we said about recycling and composting, it would be better if flights didn’t happen at all.

Some people love animals and wildlife, but they don’t travel because they don’t want to be a part of the problem of emitting carbon in the atmosphere, and I get that.

However, I do think it is absolutely worth the environmental cost to get people who have never gotten that spark ignited, that passion for wildlife, to get to these areas and see the wildlife and see what beauty there is in the world.


Photo by Natural Habitat

Some people are just tried-and-true nature lovers since birth, and they’ve already been converted: the big thing we’re trying to do is convert the vast majority of the world into having an appreciation for nature, the outdoors, pristine environments and so on.

You can’t really do that without flying. Boats are not a solution. Cars can be — the Yellowstone trip, for instance, will be entirely vehicle-based, in a very fuel-efficient vehicle.

So we’re doing everything we can on that front. Of course we’d love to see the day when we can have electric vehicles, not just for our trips but for all safaris. Unfortunately the technology is not quite there yet, but we’re pretty close. I honestly think that within the next decade, we’re going to start seeing electric safari trucks.

One of the big issues with being so far in the wilderness with electric vehicles is the maintenance required; if they break down and you’re in the middle of the Okavango Delta, you will not have the parts to fix a solar array of batteries and the like.


Photo by Wynand Uys on Unsplash

It’s rather prohibitive in terms of costs and materials, but I’ve been part of a think-tank recently on how we’re going to reshape this. Rest assured that when that technology becomes available and feasible, that will be our next “industry first”.

We’ve certainly experimented with things like vegetable-oil vehicles, we’ve had a couple in our fleet over the years, but again, it’s almost a safety concern when we’re so far and remote, since we intentionally get ourselves very far out there.

So right now we’re still using fuel vehicles, as most of the world is, but I’m watching Tesla and some other electric car companies very closely, and when there’s a company that is willing and able to take a bit of a hit on its bottom line to do the right thing, we’re the ones to do that.


How much interest have you witnessed from your customers for this kind of sustainable tourism? Have you found you need to educate travellers about this, or are they already one step ahead, stimulating you to tweak more and more aspects of your trips in order to make them more eco-friendly?

First, in every single evaluation that we ask our travellers to fill out after the trip, one item is “How can we make this more environmental-responsible?” — not because we’re not doing that enough, just because if we can ask that to 7,000 people a year, we’re going to get some really good ideas we never thought of before.

We’ve actively implemented a lot of those ideas coming from our customers, so they always have an ability to tell us what they see from their perspective, and that has helped greatly.

And regarding our clients in general, I would say they are often one step ahead. They tend to be the more eco-conscious people.

However, at the same time they’re often coming from worlds that are not science-based or conservation-based, they just have a strong interest in that world, so they see that we do have a firm commitment to sustainability and conservation by looking at our materials and our website.

We’ve done some studies, and that is actually one of the biggest things going for us, it’s because of that ethic that people really like what do.

But we also have the ability to teach them on so many levels beyond where they’re at, because they’re coming in with open eyes, with an interest and some knowledge, and it’s up to us to flush out that entire spectrum of knowledge, and that happens before, during and after every expedition.

Most of it is done by the expedition leader during the trip itself. We talk about very serious environmental issues, whether it’s palm oil when we go to Borneo or overfishing in Alaska, in Pacific areas… Any sort of environmental issue that’s there is front and center and we’re talking about it because we want people to know.


Photo by Natural Habitat

And it’s a two-way conversation. It’s not just us preaching to the people, it’s usually them asking more and more. And since as I said before we hire the best expedition leaders in the business, we’re able to share the current knowledge with them and tell them what they can do to help.

By the way, we get a lot of that information from the World Wildlife Fund, so you see how it’s all woven out.


Are there any other initiatives by your Team you’d like to tell us about?

 There are a lot of things going on across the board. The Green Team does things in-office and out-of-office; we’re tackling sustainable food now, it’s a big initiative that has come up since we launched the world’s first zero-waste adventure, and all 23 of us look around the table and realize this is going to be much more work than that trip. But that’s the kind of people we are, we shoot for the moon — we’re already very sustainable on the sustainable food front, but we’re taking a much more policy-based approach to it.


Photo by Natural Habitat

In-office, we’re looking at how we send materials out in terms of sustainable packaging. Those 7,000 travellers a year need to get information about their trips, and we do so in a very environmentally-responsible way.

We certainly encourage electronic documents and forms wherever and whenever possible. But when we do ship things to people, we use either compostable or recycled or upcycled boxes.

We have this cute little program called “The Ugly Box Program”: when we get a box, say, of backpacks or parkas, we’ll reuse that box, slap a big “recycled ugly box” sticker on it for our guests and say, “Hey, this box looks a little tattered, it’s a little bit damaged, it’s been around the world a couple of times, but we’re reusing it instead of just trashing it.

We’re also looking at eliminating plastic straws from all of our trips across the board. It’s an initiative we started a little over a year ago: I believe we’re now 80% compliant, and we’re aiming at being 100% compliant in the first quarter of 2019.

Besides, we’ve just launched the monarch butterfly scholarship grant. One of the trips we do is take people down to central Mexico where the large monarch butterlies migration takes place.

About 500 million butterflies from all over East and North America migrate down to Mexico over winter, they kind of hibernate in these groves of fur trees.


Photo by Alex Guillaume on Unsplash

And we’ve given away two trips to teachers in elementary or middle-schools in the US this year: they join us free of charge, we take care of their air fare and the trip itself and make it an educational experience for them.

I’ve studied monarch butterflies quite a bit in my career, and I’ve found these butterflies are often used as a teaching tool in elementary schools to teach all about science — biology, metamorphosis, ecosystems, conservation, the climate, geology and all that.

So I had this idea, since one of the most amazing facets of monarch butterflies is this migration, but most teachers will never have a way to go down there and see it — it’s just too expensive, or they can’t take the time off, they don’t know how to do it…

So we’re offering it for the very first time in 2019, on January 6: two teachers will join us, and hopefully they’ll spread the scientific knowledge they’ll gain from the trip from our scholarship grant.


One last question. Most of our users are ordinary people looking for products that help them live a more eco-friendly life. As someone who lives and breathes this kind of topics every day, what advice would you give to people who want to move towards a zero-waste lifestyle?

The first step is the easiest and the hardest at the same time, but I believe it’s the most impactful: it’s learning what you don’t need, and taking a very deliberate approach to refusing things, like plastic bags or excessive packaging.

That’s the first step, but at the same time you should be doing a lot of research with yourself: what companies are producing things that just have too much plastic, too much paper, too much whatever? Where do you see excess in life? And write to those companies. Tell people about them.

If you have that thought and you keep it to yourself, you’ll be just one person. But if you tell your friends, put it on social media and start telling these companies: “Listen, I want to buy your laundry detergent, but your packaging is too much, I want to buy it in bulk or in a different packaging”, all of a sudden it’s not just one person, it’s two people, it’s all of their friends. It’s 10, 20, 100 people reading and listening to what you produce. It creates what we call a “market trend”.

So if these companies hears from dozens and dozens of people that they don’t like that they’re serving their coffee in styrofoam cups, they’re going to do something about it. They don’t want to lose the business!

They might have to pay a little more money for compostable cups, or offer reusable cups if you sit in and have your coffee or tea in-store, but the more people are vocal about it, the more we’re going to change things.


Background Photo by Natural Habitat

So my advice is: do some research on your own and figure out what you can and cannot do without. And then, also identify how you can be more vocal and be a force for change by taking a bit of time out of your day to voice your opinion, because that’s how we’re all going to change.

Read More“Zero Waste is a journey, not a destination”

(Interview conducted by Matteo Vegetti)

The Complete Guide To Sustainable Travel

Everybody hates a tourist, right?
No one hates tourists more than the environment though.


It’s surprisingly ironic!

Tourists have the power to completely revitalise the environment.

We can make a positive difference to the culture, wildlife and environments we visit on our travels, flip flops in hand.

Here, in this super long but rewarding article, you can find out how.

Let’s dive right in:

Chap1 Chap2 Chap3 Chap4

Sustainable tourism, what on Earth is it?

An Intriguing Definition

Man hiking through the alps on an eco-tourism adventure

Photo by Jan-Niclas Aberle on Unsplash

The principles of sustainable tourism are simple when you break them down.

Tourism is travelling, sightseeing and all the other holiday activities you enjoy.

Sustainable means that it can continue – often indefinitely.

To have sustainable tourism is to go on holiday and partake in activities that support the locals and environment in a way that preserves and encourages them.

For example:

A sustainable and rather enjoyable tourism practice is for hotels to serve up seasonal food grown locally to guests.

This practice supports local farmers and encourages them to grow the native plants and foods that the local ecosystem needs.

The aim here is to enjoy the cuisine on holiday without causing damage.

There are so many hidden ways you can find and encourage sustainable tourism on your travels.

There’s no doubt about that.

Difference from eco-tourism

Eco-tourism – it sounds similar but there is a difference.

Sustainable tourism can apply to anything – from choosing an eco airline to eating at a local restaurant.


Photo by Lisheng Chang on Unsplash

Eco-tourism only really applies to natural areas.

It’s a small piece in the larger jigsaw puzzle of sustainable tourism.

The idea is simple.

It’s about travelling to untouched, natural locations and focusing on providing direct benefits to the environment and native people that live there.

Eco-tourism is a beautiful thing, but we don’t always fancy a hiking holiday through an area of natural beauty.

Sometimes we want theme parks. Sometimes we want bustling cities.

No problem.

That’s okay!

Sustainable tourism is ALWAYS an option.

Green travel is a journey, not a destination


Photo by Steven Van Loy on Unsplash

Travelling is a luxury.

Often a well-earned luxury.

And we’re not going to deny you that luxury…

Eco travels is about enjoying your luxury in an eco way.

Keep your footprint as small as possible.

The benefits of sustainable tourism to the environment are huge.

And not just for the planet.

Here’s why.

Sustainable tourism ensures that these travel luxuries will still be here for our kids to enjoy.

You see, travelling is always going to leave a mark on the planet.

Even the most green of eco holidays will leave a mark.

But that’s not the point.

The point is, it’s an opportunity.

“Leave the place better than you found it.”

Use your eco travels to make a difference.

Use your time on holiday to make that spent airplane energy worth it!

Watch out for greenwashing

chameleon metaphor for greenwashing eco travel

Photo by Anastasia Mezenina on Unsplash

Greenwashing is basically a con.

One that you should avoid at all costs at home and on eco holidays.

Companies, big and small, use green phrases to make them seem eco… when they’re not.

What does ”eco-lodge”, “all-natural” and “organic” even mean any more?

Greenwashing is just a marketing tactic to appeal to people who want to be more eco.

But you wouldn’t fall for that.

Would you?

Try our greenwashing checklist to tell the true eco-businesses from the fakes:

  1. They put tourists needs before the locals. Screw the environment!
  2. It’s all about unskilled voluntourism places that are too short to make a real difference.
  3. Can’t answer your questions about their eco policies.
  4. Or don’t have eco policies at all!
  5. Use “eco-friendly” when describing their business, but don’t have processes/statistics/facts to back it up.
  6. Have fake or paid for green certifications (discover the real ones below).

If they’re doing any of those, they’re greenwashing.

Avoid at all costs.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first decide where we’re heading on our eco holidays!

Planning your trip, making the right choices

Destination: Not Just Anywhere!

The most important decision.

Don’t just look for the nicest beaches.

Look for high ethical standards:

Environment protection.

Social welfare.

Human rights.

Animal welfare.


Costa Rica, Colombia and Uruguay are wonderfully exotic AND loved by the Ethical Traveler for 2018 eco travels!

colourful parrot you can find in Costa Rica eco holidays

Photo by Shannon Kunkle on Unsplash

Or stay closer to home…

Have you considered exploring your own country for your next weekend break?

France, Malta and the UK (yeah!) all rank in the top 6 nations in the Environmental Performance Index.

These countries are great for environmental health and ecosystem vitality.

Plus, you can get there by car!

We don’t need to tell you how bad airplane journeys are, do we?

There and back again

If you can’t avoid flying…

Biofuels are taking off!

Get it?

Joking aside, flying still remains the most pollution-creating way of travelling.

Airlines contribute 2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

But there are some silver linings to see from your airplane window.

If you’re on a direct flight, well done!

The more layovers on your journey, the more fuel wasted.

If you’re on a Boeing 787-9, Airbus A350-900 or A319, you’re on a fuel-efficient aircraft.

And if you’re travelling with a low-cost airline, like Ryanair, you just won the eco-lottery.

Ryanair eco friendly planes for sustainable travel

Photo by Lucas Davies on Unsplash

Even if it feels quite the opposite.

They’re one of the most eco-friendly airlines!

Unlike British Airways.

They burn 63% more fuel than eco-air-champions Norwegian Air…

Who are the most eco-friendly for Transatlantic flights.

Because sometimes you’re craving some far off tropical destination, and France just won’t cut it.

If you’re travelling a Transatlantic flight halfway around the world, all’s not lost.

Try these bonus tips for eco travels:

  • Buy carbon offset! Pay for the amount of carbon produced by your journey and that money will be sent to projects that reduce atmospheric carbon.
  • Stick to economy. More leg room = less passengers = higher fuel-per-person.
  • Lower your shades. Keep the sun out, keep the plane cool and save energy on AC!

And another trick to keep up your sleeve.

Find the most eco- flight with Alternative Airlines.

Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before Airplane Saddle is a reality!

Would you be happy to stand for the whole flight instead of sitting?

More people on a ‘standing only’ plane, lower fuel-per-person.

airplane saddle for green travel

Photo from Aviointeriors

If travelling by air is not necessary

Everything short of a space rocket is greener than flying!

For small groups, rent a small car.

Small cars are generally more eco than large cars (size does matter!)

Find a green renting car company, like Green Motion, or simply share a car.

In some countries car sharing remains a common, safe and efficient way to green travel.

For couples and solo travellers, trains beat cars!

Maybe not the Orient Express…

… but standard coaches and trains are far more eco- than flying.

Plus they’re comfortable, cheaper and sometimes have Wi-Fi. If you’re lucky.

It will take longer to get from A to B, but that’s just more time to enjoy the scenery, right?


Photo by Jayakumar Ananthan on Unsplash


Not the best for eco travels, but still better than flying.

A long, relaxing river cruise is a great way to green travel.

Especially if you’re crossing Asia, where huge rivers cross various countries!

Follow the steps of Rudyard Kipling and take the “Road to Mandalay“.

Here is an interesting chart on how the main modes of transport compare in terms of emissions (per passenger, per km travelled).


Green accommodation isn’t just camping!

Flying to a fantastic eco-country and staying in a careless hotel.

It just doesn’t make sense.

Avoid the excessively luxurious hotels.

Those excess luxuries aren’t needed.

Fresh towels every day is an eco-nightmare.

And that’s before we discuss the single use, plastic wrapped shower gel bottles.

Homestays and guest houses are cheaper and generally more eco!

Plus you’ll stay with the locals.

Experience a new culture.

Find hidden gems.

And get great advice on places to eat (or avoid)!

importance of sustainable tourism and the local workers you support

Photo by Kyryll Ushakov on Unsplash

Even in developing countries, guest houses are best.

Lower tourist-turnover makes them cleaner.

The owner of the property will likely be serving you…

Not some underpaid, overtired receptionist.

Furthermore, they’re cheaper and very easy to find.

Check out Ecobnb before Booking.com.

If a big hotel is your only option (it often is when you’re travelling with kids), use this checklist to decide:

  • No large gardens or golf courses – these require an absurd amount of water!
  • Eco-friendly policies are easy to find and proudly displayed on their website.
  • Seals of approval from green certifiers.
  • Details about the hotel sustainability manager (a very real job for truly eco-hotels).
  • Solar panels or other eco-energy suppliers powering the hotel.
  • Local, organic produce used in the hotel kitchen.
  • Employing local people – a great sustainable tourism policy.
  • Recycling bins – used by the hotel is good, but in your hotel room too is better.
  • More than just reusable towels – this should be a standard feature.
  • Show facts and proof, rather than “eco” and “natural” claims.

A truly eco-hotel will shout their eco policies loud and clear!

Look to Qbic and The Zetter for a great example of hotel waste and water management!

As for green certifiers,

Don’t fall for a scam!

Find hotels that are genuinely certified, not hotels that have paid for their seal of approval.

Famous (and real) green certifiers include:

Green Globe


Biosphere Tourism

Green Key

But with local certifiers too, it’s easy to get lost.

Check out the list of recognised standards that adhere to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

If a certifier is recognised by the GSTC, you know hotels that have the certification are meeting the 4 main criteria themes:

  • Effective sustainability planning
  • Maximising social and economic benefits for the local community
  • Enhancing cultural heritage
  • Reducing negative impacts to the environment.

Keep in mind: Having (or not) green certifiers isn’t always the absolute proof of the eco-friendliness of a hotel.

And we have 2 final eco-accommodation tips for you:

Head to Bookdifferent to see all the accommodation at your destination ranked for eco-friendliness.

Then stop at TripAdvisor to see their GreenLeaders – a feature to see if the hotel has eco-friendly practices is more than welcome!

What are we doing today? Planning eco activities

Going on a tour

a tour that complies with the principles of sustainable tourism?

Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

You have 2 main choices.

Professional tour company, or independent local guide.

Both have unique advantages.

Starting with the pro tours, there are a few ways to check their eco-meters and avoid greenwashed companies:

  • Big companies leave a big online footprint. Research these companies on TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and Nomadic Matt – look out for comments about their eco policies, or lack of.
  • Check the International Ecotourism Society to see if they recognise the tour for responsible tourism practices.
  • Check if they employ local guides.
  • Join small tours – big tour groups create big noise disruptions, damage and waste.
  • Put the company on the spot. Ask them about their eco practices. What is their waste policy? Does the tour involve contact with wild animals?

For small, local guides, it’s a little trickier.

They might not have a website or a long list of online reviews.

But, you can always talk to them in person!
Quiz them about the tour to check their eco-consciousness.

With small, local tours you’ll find they’re more willing to adjust their tour for you.

Show them how it’s done eco-style!

You’ll be rewarded with an eco-tour that’s tailored to cover everything you expect without any of the eco-damaging practices.

Choose your activities wisely

Some activities will be more eco- than others… but here’s a list you should avoid at all costs!

Activities Involving Contact with Animals


Photo by Sander Wehkamp on Unsplash

  • Swimming with dolphins in pools. They may look happy, but any wild animal shouldn’t be held captive for our entertainment. For dolphin swimming experiences that are biodiversity and sustainable tourism approved, you’ll have to meet them (naturally) in the wild.
  • Riding elephants. Although they’re big, they’re not built for carrying human weights. To keep elephants docile, there’s a high chance it taken away from its family as a baby… or just beaten.
  • Meeting ‘friendly’ tigers. These wild animals are often drugged so they’re friendly and beaten into being docile. Tigers are dangerous natural predators that belong in the wild.
  • Hugging sloths and koalas. Not only will you be disturbing the koala’s sleeping habits and potentially stressing a heart-racing sloth to death with your hug, but microbes passed from humans can actually kill both these animals.
  • Coral reef tourism. Stepping on, and collecting, parts of a coral reef damage the environment. Tourists are huge contributors to coral reef destruction, even if they just want to swim with the fishes!
  • Other fun yet damaging animal activities to avoid: holding baby sea turtles, monkey dances, bull fighting, snake charming, pictures with lion cubs, swimming with pigs in the Bahamas, cage diving with sharks, seahorse fishing, bear parks, camel riding and even drinking coffee made from civets poop…

Activities That Objectify

biodiversity and sustainable tourism africa filming

Photo by David Condrey on Unsplash

  • Human safaris. It’s just wrong! Local communities are not attractions. It’s humiliating.
  • Slum tours. They claim to educate but what will you actually learn? What will the locals learn?
  • Remote tribe experiences. Besides objectifying the tribe, frequent contact with foreigners puts the natives at a high risk of of catching a disease.

Money-Driven Charitable Volunteering

Yes, it can be very bad!

Here’s why.

  • When you have to pay to take part, organisations start to get attracted to the profits they can make. This leads to:
    • Unskilled and unprepared volunteers who paid well being sent to projects… and not being able to offer any help, or even causing more problems than they solve.
    • Short volunteer placements (more paying volunteers = more profit) so volunteers don’t have time to develop skills and get work done.
  • Lack of communication. You build a brand new school for an area that desperately needed a water well.
  • In some communities, your free volunteering efforts are stealing jobs from local people.
  • And watch out for fake volunteering organisations! Did you hear about the fake orphanages?

Before you volunteer, do your research and only go for volunteer positions where your skills can really help the project.

Do they have a sustainable tourism policy?

Do they have a selection process?

Off the flip-flop beaten path

Famous places are famously un-eco.

Maya Beach, made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio and ‘The Beach’ film is now closed indefinitely to tourists.

80% of the coral surrounding this beach was destroyed by tourist boats visiting the beach every day.

And that’s before you see the war zone the beach had become, littered with waste and toxic sunscreen.

benefits of sustainable tourism to the environment are lost on this beach, covered with litter and toxic sunscreen

Photo by Federico Giampieri on Unsplash

Why go to famous places when you have to battle your way through the crowds for a glimpse of natural beauty?

Not-so-famous locations can be equally beautiful and far easier to enjoy without the other tourists.

The benefits of sustainable tourism to the environment extend to you too.

Travellers and beaches alike prefer to be without the crowds of tourists.

Let’s enjoy them before Chris Hemsworth sets foot there for his next movie.

Besides, where’s your spirit of adventure?

Adventurous spirits are quickly trampled by thousands of tourist sandals heading to famous locations.

Angkor is beautiful… if you enjoy queueing for a glimpse of the sunset over the Angkor Wat Temple.

Why not try the lesser known temples of Cambodia? What about Bagan in Myanmar?

Also, when visiting a famous stony beach or cave, take a look at the stones within reach.

Aren’t they smooth and lovely?

The simple act of a thousand tourists reaching out to touch a stone, or stack one on another, can drastically change the environment.

Finally, before booking your next trip or tour, think about destinations that actually need (and want) you.

leaving plastic bottles on beaches is a poor eco travel practice

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Before you leave…

Packing light and eco-friendly

pack light for your eco travel cycling

Photo by Muhammad Masood on Unsplash

The heavier your luggage is, the more fuel it takes to move it!

Pack light, compact and as little plastic as possible.

Your sustainable travel destination might not have a great waste management system.

Best to avoid creating waste as much as possible.

Home and away!

But don’t feel disheartened.

There are plenty of fun eco- holiday goodies to take with you:

It won’t be long before eco-clothes shopping can be done on the high street.

Adidas and Patagonia are just 2 mainstream clothes starting to go eco.

And something to remember while you’re on your sustainable travels,

Say no to straws!

Bartenders love to put a plastic straw and paper umbrella in a cocktail.

But the environment doesn’t love it so much.

The US alone creates enough straw waste to wrap the circumference of the Earth twice!

Give your home a break too


Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Switching everything off at the socket.

That’s the eco holidays basic that everyone should be doing.

Don’t forget the thermostat!

If you use up all your food (not wasting a morsel) you can turn off the fridge too!

Leave a note on the mailbox saying you’re on holiday and don’t need newspapers.

Sustainable tourism applies to everywhere – including your own house.

Once there, remember your manners

You are a guest, act like it!

Mind your footprint

The same rules at home apply on holiday.

Take showers, not baths.

And short showers, at that!

short showers are better on your eco holiday

Photo by Jorge Fernandez on Unsplash

Time your showers to match the rest of the hotel too.

Waiting for the cold water to heat up as it reaches your shower is wasteful!

Shower when the boilers are already pumping out hot water for other guests.

Early morning and evening are your shower prime times for instant hot water!

And air conditioning. Do you REALLY need it?

If it’s just too hot to sleep without some air cooling, ask for (or pack) an electric fan.

They use a lot less energy to power than air con (even modern eco air con).

They don’t release harmful gases into the environment either.

Still not feeling cool enough?

A damp towel over your forehead + electric fan = super cooling!

But don’t just focus on YOUR actions.

What are other people doing on your behalf?

Do you need your hotel room cleaned every day?

Are the staff leaving individually plastic wrapped chocolates on your bed every time they make it?

Are your towels so dirty that they just need to be changed every day?


Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

Let the hotel receptionist know about your sustainable travel requests, hang up the “do not disturb” sign, or just leave a polite note for housekeeping!

Leave a clean path behind you

If something breaks or can’t be recycled on holiday…

…bring it home!

This applies to electronic waste especially – safe recycling methods are rare in developing countries.

Use plastic wrap and paper waste to package up your souvenirs.

If your hotel or resort isn’t eco, or doesn’t offer recycling solutions:

Head for a walk around the block!

Green bins are usually recycling of some nature.

Use Google translate to work out if you can put your trash in them.

Psst. Now we’ve mentioned languages, here’s how to say “no straw please” on holiday!

France: pas de paille, s’il vous plaît

Italy: niente cannuccia, per favore

Spain: no pajita, por favor

Prepare yourself.

Cool language fact coming your way.

There are 11 ways to say “straw” in Spanish depending on your destination!

learn languages on your eco travels straw infographic

Photo by SpeakingLatino.com

If that doesn’t work, gesture wildly at the straws and shake your head!

plastic straws are a nightmare on eco holidays and green travel adventures

Photo by SWZL on Unsplash

Give back to local communities – it’s good for the soul!

Always be polite to your hosts!

Getting to know local tours and staying in guesthouses is very rewarding for you too.

You won’t find local knowledge and warming hospitality in many commercial hotels.

Even though you’re supporting these wonderful people and communities with the money you spend on holiday, you can (and should) take sustainable tourism a step further.

Try these tips to give something back:

Taste the country

Local places to eat are just so much better.

Vibrant food, passionate chefs and waiters…

All employed and supported by your visit.

Plus eco food!

Ingredients grown in the fields surrounding the restaurant.

That’s sustainable travelling food!

Local cuisine, using locally grown ingredients, has a smaller eco footprint.

Eating local is part of the green travel experience anyway.

Don’t be intimidated!

Make the effort to order in their language…

…you’ll be surprised at the warmth and gratitude you receive in response!

Keep McDonalds for your post-holiday hangover (or never!).

Buy souvenirs from local artisans

support local artisans Mexico sustainable tourism

Photo by Carlos Davila on Unsplash

Support biodiversity and sustainable tourism by supporting local people!

Not only are these beautiful, traditional souvenirs a little piece of an artisan’s soul.

But they’re supporting local tradesmen and keeping a tradition alive.

You might wonder how chopping down the native trees to make necklaces for tourists is eco…

But without a demand for the native trees and traditional craftsmen, fast-growing trees are planted and traditional skills are lost as the locals head further afield for work.

But don’t fall for a scam!

Have you ever bought a bracelet at your resort in Spain only to meet someone else who bought the exact same one in Italy?

Guilty as charged.

And don’t buy souvenirs that harm the environment.

Tusks, coral, shells, ivory and even leather (dog and cat leather can be deliberately mislabelled).

Offer an extra pair of hands

Volunteering is a great way to get to know people beyond the travel-business sphere.

You can learn a lot and help a lot!

Be careful of scams and money-driven companies, but don’t shy away from the chance to help if you can.

Learn the difference between volunteering and voluntourism.

Even if it’s just a romantic stroll down the beach at sunset (litter picking as you go)…

Volunteering can make your holiday that bit more rewarding.

Travel slow, it’s the holidays

cycling green travel

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Leave the cab for home

Go for the green alternatives.

Forget planes.

The views from an airplane are useless 90% of the journey anyway!

Walking, cycling, even public transport is more eco.

And the view can be phenomenal.

travelling by boat or train is better for eco holidays than planes

Photo by Mahkeo on Unsplash

Travelling alongside the locals is an opportunity to absorb the culture and pick up some travel tips.

Cabs, although better than planes, are not eco.

Who wants to get stuck in traffic trying to make small talk with a cab driver anyway?

And if you get lost, well, that’s just part of the adventure.

Live a little.

Travelling between cities and countries

Planes are convenient, yes that’s true.

But aren’t boats and trains just so much more fun?

Use night trains and buses for travelling long distances.

Or a boat if you can travel by water.

The Danube can take you all the way from Germany to the Black Sea, stopping at Austria, Hungary and Romania along the way.

Or just stay for longer in the same place!

With Booking.com and other green travel sites at your fingertips, cancelling a hotel and extending your stay elsewhere is remarkably simple – and it doesn’t have to cost you.

Mind the flora, the fauna & the locals

be careful when hiking on eco holidays

Photo by Danka & Peter on Unsplash

Pretty self explanatory, but here’s a quick sustainable tourism do’s and don’t’s list to remind you!


  • Choose sustainable travel destinations
  • Travel by train and coach on eco holidays where possible.
  • Stay in eco hotels and guesthouses.
  • Pack light and maintain your eco waste management abroad (or bring it home with you)
  • Eat at local places and get to know the locals.
  • Tour with local tour guides and ask for an eco/animal friendly tour.
  • Volunteer with legitimate and useful volunteer programs.
  • Stick to the path when hiking (don’t tread on endangered plants!)
  • Check the tides before kayaking so you don’t get caught on reefs (see below).
  • Read Lonely Planet to avoid cultural faux pas, e.g. dressing inappropriately in temples!
  • Check out the best travel blogs for inspiration and sustainable travel blogs (such as Just Leaving Footprints) for more green tips.


  • Throw all your eco practices out the window because you’re on holiday.
  • Create excess waste to “treat yourself”.
  • Try to catch turtles, fish and any other wild animal!
  • Step on coral reef.
  • Take starfish out of the water, even if you’re going to put them back.
  • Opt for unskilled voluntourism.
  • Get fresh towels and room cleaning when you don’t need it.
  • Buy scam or eco-damaging souvenirs.
  • Eat at McDonalds instead of local restaurants.
  • Be ignorant of the local culture and traditions.

These are just a few of the tiny things you should be aware of on holiday.

And one last thing.

Don’t worry too much if it goes wrong!

Living eco is not about being perfect first time.

It’s not always about sacrificing every comfort and luxury.

Even a few small changes to your family holiday schedule can make all the difference to the world.

Your efforts are appreciated.

Keep it up!

The Ultimate Guide to Zero-Waste

Zero-waste can be quite an overwhelming concept when you don’t know where and how to start.

This guide is one of the best ways to learn about this lifestyle. From the definition of the concept to the next steps to take once you’re a zero-waste at home pro!

If you want to get an introduction to this circular way of life, some tips, or if you just wonder why you should adopt it, then you will love this guide!

Let’s dive right in:



Going zero-waste: the meaning

Definition of the zero-waste lifestyle

You’re probably imagining that zero-waste is pretty self-explanatory, right?

It’s all about living your life without sending a scrap of plastic to landfill.

No waste produce allowed.

But zero-waste isn’t the strict eco-mission you think it is.

Zero-waste philosophy is more about living an eco- lifestyle.

Send as little as you can to landfill.

Reuse as much as possible.

Be eco- to the very core of your soul.

girl meditating thinking eco thoughts about zero-waste lifestyle

And hey, if one or two little scraps of plastic make it to the recycling bin, it’s not the end of the world.

“The most important thing with living zero waste is the intention. The intention to reduce our footprint, reduce our waste, and make the best choice we can with the time, resources and options available to us.”Lindsay, Treading My Own Path

Zero-waste living is a journey, not a destination.

After all, no one can truly live while creating 0 waste.


Going zero-waste: myths and misconceptions

  • Recycling = zero-waste.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Think about it.

How much energy and how many resources have gone into creating that plastic bottle?

No amount of recycling can get back the energy spent creating plastic, or suck back the toxins that have already leached into the environment.

  • And don’t forget time.

This isn’t an overnight lifestyle switch!

Maintaining a zero-waste home means changing the input, not just the output.

Shop differently.

Food packaging, cosmetics, even toilet cleaner.

How much waste has gone into producing these products?

Recycling the bottle isn’t enough.

Don’t buy the bottle in the first place!


Feeling daunted? Don’t.

  • There’s a big misconception that going zero-waste is socially awkward and near impossible with kids.

Don’t be afraid to take the plunge!

Kids can be your biggest supporters when you convince them of your eco-journey towards zero-waste.

“Often it’s children who spearhead the eco-friendliness of a family.” – Avital, The Parenting Junkie


Oh, and don’t forget your online support network of eco-warriors too. Eco- is behind you every step of the way.

  • You don’t need to be rich either.

Local farmers market too far away, or just too expensive?

Well, best start growing your own veg then.

Anything worth doing will require at least a little effort on your part.

Zero-waste isn’t about giving up at the first hurdle because “it’s just too inconvenient.”

The 5 R’s of a zero-waste lifestyle

Zero-waste philosophy is not a hipster trend.

There’s some real science and a structured way to go about creating a zero-waste home.

And this makes zero-waste totally accessible to everyone.

Busy mums. 9 to 5 workers. Shop-a-holics.

Follow these 5 R’s.

  • Refuse: step 1

Refuse to buy trash!

The first R is about refusing items (and packaging) that you just don’t need.


Do you really need another hat or is 1 sun hat and 1 wooly hat enough?

Pick up your apples in a brown bag, rather than a plastic one.

Better yet, take a reusable basket.

Goodbye to plastic freebies.

Say no to the plastic straw.

Hello to zero-plastic wrapped groceries.

Think of it like this.

If you refuse to buy waste in the first place, you won’t have to go to the trouble of recycling it!

And the planet says thanks too.

  • Reduce: step 2

Reduce your consumption of items that you do need.


You need to dry your clothes… but do you need a tumble dryer when a clothes horse does the trick for less energy?

Speaking about clothes… we all like to change up our wardrobe now and then. But how can we do so without frequently buying new clothes?

When you get tired of your clothes, just swap them!

When you need that special outfit for a special occasion, why not try renting it?

Then we come to reducing your clutter.

No matter how much you refuse useless “stuff” in the future…

… you’ve still probably got a lot more useless items at home than you realise.

Take a look in your closet, can you reduce the number of clothes you have?

Think about how often you actually wear each item. Once a year or less?

Take your clothes to the second-hand store, donate to charity or swap with friends for other items you genuinely need.

Why let your clothes go to waste in your closet, when someone else could be getting real use from them?

Even worse is the stuff that’s going to waste AND using energy.


The lava lamp that’s always on. The tap that drips. The outside light that’s on all night.

The alarm clock you haven’t used since Apple phones took over your life.

Do you need these?

Are they going to waste?

Wouldn’t it be better if they were given (or sold) to someone who could actually get use out of them?

Which leads us on to the next R.

  • Reuse: step 3

Gone are the days when reusing was just for kids who watched Blue Peter.

We don’t mean turning milk cartons into bird feeders.

Reusing often means purchasing items that are reusable.

Always head to the second-hand store before buying new!

Reuse, reuse and reuse.


Energy has only been spent once to make that footstool…

… but an endless number of people can benefit from using it by packing it off to the second-hand shop when you no longer need it.

Plus second-hand items are a little easier on your wallet!

Tea and coffee can be brewed with reusable silk tea bags and permanent mesh filters.

Use jars and containers instead of cling film.

Create quilts from old clothes or upcycle old jeans into shorts.

If it’s broke, fix it, don’t bin it.

If you want to take the reuse R to the next level, try this.

Only use items that can be reused indefinitely (or until they break beyond repair).

A glass jar always trumps a plastic tupperware container.

Glass can be recycled indefinitely too, without losing any structural integrity.

  • Recycle: step 4

Bet you’re sick of hearing about recycling.

Local councils nationwide have gone a bit crazy with the recycling trend.

And that’s really what it has become.

A trend.


Not many people realise that recycling should be the last (or second to last option) for disposable items.

Plastic can only be recycled 9 times, at most.

Each recycling loop requires energy too.

Recycling should be your go-to when all else fails.

If you just couldn’t refuse it. If you can’t reduce it or find it a happy owner.

If it’s broken beyond repair or if there’s no way you can reuse it.

Then consider recycling it.

Glass that’s been smashed. Plastic that’s warped out of shape and won’t go back.

These are the only consumables your recycling bin should see.

  • Rot?! : step 5

The final R.

Zero food waste is about reusing too.

Not like that!


Collect orange peels for making marmalade.

Chicken bones for broth.

Bananas that are a bit too brown for banana bread.

Reuse what would end up in your bin!

For those food items that just cannot be reused, add them to your compost heap.

Turn your waste into fertiliser for growing more food.


The last step is about rotting down whatever food waste you quite literally cannot stomach.

A worm tank is a great way for kids to get involved with the zero-waste living.

Fill a glass container with all your food waste and let the worms have it!

Plus, “if you don’t eat your veggies, the worms will eat your dessert” is a fantastic incentive for the kids at dinner time.


The genius creator of these zero-waste regulations is Bea Johnson.

Her comprehensive book, Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life, has everything you need to follow these 5 Rs in all aspects of your life.

Check out the previously used books before purchasing a brand new copy.

Your reusing efforts will make Bea proud.

Bea Johnson zero-waste food jars kitchen

Why should you go zero-waste?

Health and individual reasons

Obesity is on the rise.

Sorry to start on a downer, but it’s becoming the extremely large elephant in the room.

One huge thing that zero-waste starters notice is this:

When you purchase food items that aren’t wrapped in 10 layers of plastic,

When you’re trying to avoid foods that have been processed through machines that spend a lot of energy,

You’ll start buying unprocessed, natural foods.

Non GMO veggies.

Fruits grown without chemical fertilisers.

Flour, rice and beans purchased directly from the grower, cutting out the energy-wasting middleman.

It’s good for you and certainly better for the planet.

This is just one way that zero-waste is better for your health.


Many vegans, people with severe allergies from gluten to lactose, find that the zero-waste way of living agrees with them.

And let’s not forget mental health.

Money can’t buy happiness.

Experiences, journeys and hard work result in amazing rewards.

The purpose that zero-waste living will bring to your home is a kind of happiness that’s unbeatable.

Environmental Reasons

We live in a linear world.

The dodo is dead, and it’s not coming back.

We have limited time on this planet.

Limited resources.

Limited space.

Up until now, it’s not been a problem.

There’s always been just another acre of forest we can clear.


More oil to suck from the earth or another well to dig.

But by 2050 there will be 10 million people just like you. Each person needs all the resources you do.

How we wish this was just a brain teaser.

It’s reality.

Learning how to start a zero-waste lifestyle now could save the future.

Granted it all feels a bit too far away.

You can read about the deforestation in the Amazon rainforest…

But until it’s the trees in your own back garden that are being cut down, it’s hard to grasp the devastating impact.

Our environment needs protecting.

Zero-waste living is a solution that not only protects your immediate environment (finally a clutter free house!) but the rest of the world too.

How to start a zero-waste lifestyle?

A journey to zero-waste

“The zero waste lifestyle is not a life driven by guilt or impulse.” – Jane And Simple

Your journey should be driven by the reasons why zero waste is important.

Not by masses of guilt after seeing how much waste you really produce.

You need to get into the right mindset.

Take a look at the room you’re in. Which things do you really need?

Can you replace these items with zero-waste alternatives?

Can they be recycled?

Can I buy this in bulk?

Start by assessing your home, then apply the same mindset when you’re out shopping.


There will be days when you need a pep talk.

When you give in and buy a disposable razor.

When you forget to take your tote bags to the supermarket.

When the smell of fresh coffee lures you into Starbucks.

Don’t give up!

Zero-waste pattern making takes time.

No one is perfect…

If we were, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place!

Stop looking at zero-waste living as if it’s a burden.

“It’s not about being perfect, it’s about making changes, no matter how small they are. Do what works for you and you’ll find you’re constantly growing and improving. Zero waste doesn’t happen over night, but the willingness to start, does!” – Kate, eco boost


It’s an opportunity to take control of your life and the impact you have on this planet.

Wondering how to start a zero-waste lifestyle without losing your mind?

Try these tips…

Zero-waste grocery shopping

Credit where credit is due.

Big name supermarkets are trying to make an effort.

Brown bags have replaced plastic ones in the fruit and veg aisle.

Carrier bags are hidden away from the temptation to buy them.


If you’re serious about zero-waste, avoid the supermarkets!

How far have those apples travelled in a lorry?

Where were those strawberries grown?

There are many hidden ways your local supermarket has created waste.

Instead, head to:

  • Farmers markets
  • Local butchers
  • Wholesalers
  • Local growers and farmers

Take jars, containers and bags with you!


Zero-waste kitchen

So, you’ve got your zero-waste ingredients… Now it’s time to get cooking!

Cuisine is irrelevant, it’s all in the method.

Store herbs and dry ingredients in glass jars.

Make your own pasta.


Cook with non-stick pans (no oil needed).

Reuse the pasta water for your pasta sauces or just use it to water the plants.

Zero-food waste means not wasting a single drop.

…even out of the kitchen.

Take tap water to work in a reusable water bottle.

Make your own crisps from baked sliced potato.

Seal the kid’s lunches with reusable beeswax wrap. There are plenty of cling film eco-alternatives!
And of course, food waste is the key part of the 5th R.

What’s not eaten by you will be used to grow even more delicious veggies.

Zero-waste bathroom

Toilet roll.

Surely we can’t replace this with zero-waste products?

Actually, we can.

It all depends how far you want to take it.

Take a leaf out of Bea’s book and use moss.

Or quite literally take a page from Bea’s book.

Or one of our favourites, recycled toilet paper.

We can’t all go au naturel for toilet paper, but we can make some changes.



It’s time to get your eco- face on.

Charcoal is great for your pores and even better as eyeliner.

Beetroot juice is a fantastic dye for your lips (combine with shea butter for a lip balm).

Shampoo? Try mashing half an avocado, honey, egg whites and banana.

Add a dash of soy milk for consistency.

Toothpaste, cleaning products, cotton pads.

There are zero-waste alternatives for everything.

Other home swaps

Craving a takeaway?

Want to take home the rest of your meal from the restaurant to stop it going to waste?

Take your lunch boxes with you.

Try wooden toothbrushes instead of plastic ones.

Swap paper towels for tea towels.

Pssst. Dark colours hide stains well.

And let’s not forget your friends, colleagues and family.

Just in case they haven’t heard about your zero-waste adventures.

Try the innertube wallet as a gift.

Or recycled business cards for the office.

Zero-waste on the go kit

It’s 6am.

You’re at the airport.

And you’re desperately looking for food that fits your zero-waste regime.

If only you had an on the go kit.

Creating a zero-waste kit is the best way to ensure you don’t break your zero waste pattern making when it feels like the entire world is set against you.

Things to add to your basic, every-day kit:

  • Canvas or tote bag,
  • Extra cotton bags for impromptu zero-waste shopping,
  • Reusable water bottle,
  • Food containers (try glass jars for soups and salads, or compartmented lunch boxes for sandwiches and snacks),
  • Reusable cutlery and straws,
  • Cloth napkins and handkerchiefs.

zero-waste-kitchen-jar-sala- lunch

The work edition.

Keep this under your desk or in the car.

The travel edition.

Take a look at Vaho’s canvas bags – their extra large sizes are perfect for zero-waste travelling.

  • Clothes made from recycled material,
  • Recycled rubber flip flops,
  • Reusable cosmetics and makeup wipes,
  • Homemade sun cream,
  • Solar-powered phone/camera charger.

Adjust these kits to suit your zero-waste needs.

Stash one in the car, at the office, under the sink…

Remember the first R, only buy what you will actually use in your travel kits!

natural canvas bag zero-waste alternatives to plastic

What’s next?

Getting involved

Meet like minded people.

Swap zero-waste lifestyle tips.

Save the planet.

It’s all in a day’s work, really.

Once you’re the master of your own eco-household, look to the community.

Join that Facebook group.

Or start your own zero-waste group in your county.

In the UK, each person throws away five times their own body weight in waste per year.

It’s about time that zero-waste went mainstream.


Try Facebook, Reddit and Quora for UK based zero-wasters!

Create awareness. Talk to people around you about your zero-waste, its benefits, but also difficulties.

Share this article with your friends who may be interested in zero-waste too.

Let’s make sure no one has to travel the zero-waste journey alone.

Zero-waste holidays

Holidays are a time to relax.

Let go.

Enjoy yourself.

Create lots of waste?

We think not.

There are plenty of ways to reduce waste on holiday.

Make it a challenge.

A round-trip flight from New York to San Francisco emits approximately 0.9 metric tons of CO2… per person.

25% of airplane pollution is emitted during take-off and landing.

Pick non-stop flights.

Or better yet, fly half way and drive the rest.

Can you save as much pollution as was emitted by the plane journey during your holiday by taking walking tours and cycling routes?

The festive season

Christmas crackers, stockings and, of course, Christmas trees.

Oh, and a lot of waste.

Like every other time of the year, there are zero-waste alternatives available.

Try wrapping presents in newspaper, or reusable gift bags.

Decorate the tree (that can be planted in the back garden in January) with edible ornaments, handmade by the kids.

Make your own gifts, or buy tickets for experiences instead of more plastic toys.

zero-waste christmas gift pinecone natural

After all, the festive spirit is about taking part.

Christmas can’t be bought in a box!

The future of the zero-waste lifestyle

Fingers-crossed… The future should be bright.

Powered by energy-saving light-bulbs, naturally.

The truth is, no matter how much effort you put into maintaining a zero-waste lifestyle, big brands and companies will still create waste.

Or will they?

The 5p carrier bag charge, the uproar at Starbucks’ paper cup waste…

The world is becoming more eco-conscious.

The future can be dictated by us consumers.

Make a stance. Show your support for eco-businesses.

Let the mass waste-producing companies know your thoughts.

You haven’t heard the last of us zero-wasters.

zero-waste lifestyle friends environment wind turbines landscape


As we head into the future, it’s good to be prepared with more zero-waste tips, ideas, products and businesses to buy from. If you’re interested in any of the topics and products covered in this super long but (hopefully) rewarding article, put your email address in below! We’ll send you an update whenever there’s news.